Writings by Dale C. Clarke (a novel in progress)

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Faerie

1 PROLOGUE

 

Before the creation of Eld only three entities existed in our ether ‑‑ the essences Ylf, Hume and Dwr. They stopped their travels here, and created the dimension (or plane) of Eld. They peopled it with a race of beings we call Gods, then, after millennia of watching their perfect creations do perfect things and lead perfect lives, they tired and went elsewhere to play. Perfection, after all, isn't the most exciting thing to observe. In leaving, they left the Gods of Eld to their own devices. The deserted Gods, each having been granted the power of creation, joined to build a single world for diversion. In this world they planned to prototype flora and fauna.

-0-

The deities christened this first world ‑‑ dimension and land ‑‑ Faerie. They also built the first city in the land which they peopled and called Faerie; after the land. The creators took advantage of hindsight and instilled in their creatures enough random flaws to make them unpredictable and therefore interesting ‑‑ even to the Gods.

Feeling, affection, passion and sentiment were haphazardly combined from the dimension of zealous emotions and added to each being's sentience in varying strengths. Some of the creatures they created had mixes from the emotional plane which caused the sentience they achieved to be self centered and sinister. This malignancy in the populace was devastating to the innocents and counter to the designs of the Gods. When the city of Faerie was designed, therefore, the creators took a step to protect the innocents and promote the growth of good. They created Topan, a separate world for the forces of evil, to which they migrated the malicious, the cruel, the heartless, the bestial; all ungodly beings ‑‑ for the Gods themselves were good. These evil beings preyed on each other for a while but soon reached a standoff and the beasts sought easier victims. The black‑hearted filtered back through the access‑way the gods had built to migrate to the world of evil they had now devastated. Chaos ensued as the misshapen warriors and wizards flowed back. The distraught leaders of the good beings who peopled Faerie, where the access portals exited, beseeched the Gods to somehow end the destructive flood between Topan and Faerie. With an artistic touch, the creators complied. They fashioned a bastion of milky white gem‑stone to shelter the portal. A magical gate they created to ensure the exile of Black, the generic name used in Faerie for evil controlled the access-way. The creators used white, the presence of all colors of light, to banish Black, which is appropriately defined as the absence of light. The gate, known as the Gate of White, was guarded by the three supreme creatures in Faerie; one from each of the three main races in the land. They lived in the Hold of White and were titled as Keepers. Special advantage was given to each Keeper. Powerful magics were bestowed on the Ylf Keeper Wizard to maintain the barrier gate. Magical armor was conceived and given life and powers which could be used only by the Human Keeper King and the dwarven Keeper Warrior ‑‑ a sword of fire to the king and a living axe to the warrior Faerie would support their every need, as bees do their queen and they, in turn, Kept the gate.

Three other portals which led to other dimensional worlds the Gods created and protected by lesser magics. These were placed, one in each racial sector of the capital, to be protected by that race. The Gate of Yellow was dwarven to hold, Blue was the gate for Ylves, and the Hold of Humans housed the Gate of Red. Like the Gate of White, each was housed in a Gemstone bastion, a hold, in which lived the Liege of the responsible race, and he defended the gate.

The gem hues vividly showed the representative racial blood color of the inhabitant race. The members of each race created their dwellings around the hold of their leader and intermixed where they met as all the land within the main walls was occupied. The town then grew and expanded along roads pushed into the surrounding lands by each group. The only problems in the land were with the scattered groups of evildoers who returned before the Gods had ended the flood with the gates and an occasional dragon. These remained from an ancient and lengthy exodus that may be told at another time. The evildoers were slowly destroyed but, like a virus, seemed to re‑emerge periodically.

This then, is Faerie in general terms ‑‑ described as one might describe electricity to an Aborigine in the Outback of Australia. The heathen must study the basics at length before he can possibly understand it fully but he will know enough to recognize the glow of a light bulb.

 

2 TROUBLE IN WHITE

 

Synopsis Only -- This section chronicles the death of the three leaders of White. This section occurs just prior to the attack on the Red Hold in the actual chronology of the tale. The White Wizard is killed by the psionic White King (created by Bylyll) which then vanishes. The blue dragonnette attempted to stop his new masters attacker but too late ‑‑ it flees from the hold. The death of the Wizard of White kills the magic of the Gate and the black hellhounds destroy everyone in the White Hold killing the Warrior of White and the Real King of White as they vainly attempt to get to the Fire Sword of White. It was stolen by the psionic do in the wizard and lies by the Gate. to attack the Red Hold. The White Hold, magically, closes and seals itself.

 

3 BREECH IN HELL

 

Bells were tolling in alarm from all four holds. The White Gate had, apparently, been attacked first and closed. How had the black warriors entered into the land, the ancient dwarf wondered. Mytrx leaned heavily on his golden battle-axe, bleeding from several wounds. He had defended the Red Gate and had held this hall against unreasonable odds; but this attack was not reasonable in any sense. No one had believed such an attack possible.

The wounded warrior recalled the legend of the beginning of the city. His great grandfather, Ldrvl, Lord Perand and Xylyll, the ylf wizard, at the side of their offended Gods, had driven out the Black Wizards. The Gods had then imprisoned them and their evil servants in the foul world the evil wizards themselves had spawned. Jealous of the power of the Gods and led by the Black Wizard, the evil magisters had fashioned a world of their own in another dimension. Their evil desires had so warped their concepts and values that grotesqurie was beauty and chaos was law, at least in their eyes. Their creations reflected that which they found pleasing. All manner of ghouls, hellhounds, ogres and other monsters resulted, each one seemingly more hideous than the last. Power hungry, the evil magisters did not wish to share the universe with the creatures of Faerie. The Wizards attacked Faerie from their hidden dimension using an army of their newly created monsters in an attempt to destroy all good. This aggression so angered the Gods, that they utterly devastated the evil Wizards dimension. After which, they closed all access to Faerie as well as removing the links to the elemental planes from the evil black region. Since all magic requires these links the locks between dimensions altered and weakened the Black Wizard's powers. After the links were closed, the Deities imprisoned all the evil usurpers in the hell the errant conjurer had created. The Gods then combined all the material links between all dimensions and Faerie and Created the 'Gates of color' so that the evil Wizards could not return. The Gates excluded the black region. The Keepers

of White were empowered to tend them. The positions were granted to the three mortal leaders and their heirs as a reward for standing by their Gods. Tonight the Gates must have failed, thought the pensive warrior.

Oh, for some good dwarven armor, he thought, but there had been no time ‑‑ he had dressed for socializing ‑‑ thank the gods for 'DwrThorne'. The lusting axe trembled in anticipation of more battle.

"Wizard, cease your hurried note taking", he said to the tall thin figure hunched in the corner over his magic tome. "The moment those beasts scrape their fetid dead from the top of the stair they'll be on us again." The blue robed figure did not respond; unless more rapid scrawling can be counted as a response.

"Do my words fall on deaf ears?", he growled, "Crank up one of your nasty magics to defend us or summon a demon to aid us; ‑‑‑ Do something besides write in that cursed book".

"They come wizard!", he added shouldering his golden battle axe and limping toward the smashed door to the hall. His golden mail shirt and yellow leather garment were not for battle, he thought. They would have been beautiful if they weren't covered with the gray-black gore spattered there from the chopping foray he had ended moments before. He had piled the black beasts bodies deep enough to block the one entry to this room.

Sounds of armed warriors cautiously approaching could now be heard from the hall.

Reaching the doorway, he shouted, "Come forth you spawn of hell. Let the Warrior of Yellow spill your juices and dice your deformed bodies for your accursed Gods!"

Two large black figures in heavy armor leapt, as if pushed, from the hall. The dwarf's axe snapped the broadsword held by the first and, with the follow through of the stroke, divided him in half at the waist. The second was avoiding the thrashing parts of his fallen comrade as the second swing of the spinning death machine descended on his helm. It was split through, down to the breast plate. The dwarf had to kick the second victim off his lodged blade. The butchered carcasses tumbled, flopping and clanking, down the stair.

"Send me more!", he shouted at the top of his lungs and shrieked the blood curdling dwarven battle cry. Silence was his answer, for the moment at least.

He stroked the humming blade of his axe soothingly. It had sent more than a score of the filthy slaves of the dark regions to meet their maker this day; most in the first attack. They were not so rash now, he thought, loosing a sigh of momentary relaxation. He wondered nervously what the beasties were about now.

As if in answer, a quarrel zinged past the ruined door and smashed into the stone wall. The shaft disintegrated, leaving the head buried deeply in the shattered stone.

I can not fight a crossbowman with an axe, he thought.

"Wizard!", he hissed, without looking away from the door, "Get your scrawny hind parts over here, now!"

Like a shadow from a lamp just lighted, the blue robed ylf appeared at the warrior's right hand .

"I am done with my 'scrawling' Mytrx, my stumpy friend.", the magician sneered, "Is there some small service I may render you?"

"A crankbowman.", he stated, spreading his hands to indicate to the wizard that he was helpless armed only with an axe.

"You are in luck dwarf.", he chuckled. "His, however,", jerking his thumb toward the hall, "is about to run out!" The magister opened his tome, "Evil to evil as dust to dust - Quantum hazzum", he read. He raised his hand, which momentarily disappeared up to the wrist, and plucked a small blue light from the air. With his free hand he pointed at the floor before the door. The light he held flickered out and reappeared by the door where he pointed. It dimmed slightly and crept quickly up both jams to the keystone, framing the entry. A thin glowing haze of blue filmed the doorway covering it like the transparent lid of a serpent's eye.

"That bowman's next shot will curl his own toes.", tittered the ylf to the tired dwarf.

He had not completed his conjuring a moment too soon. The 'swack' of a bowstring announced the delivery of another missile. It vaporized with a hiss as it struck the blue shrouded opening, leaving a slightly darker spot. The spot glowed more brightly and hummed as it welled into a fierce light. With a shriek like lightning striking, it drew a bright line into the hall, retracing the arrow's flight. A resounding explosion and a flash emanated from the room below.

Cupping his hand to his ear, the wizard sniggered, "I dearly love the boom at the end of that one." With his eyes still closed, as if in passion, he continued, "He never knew what cooked him. Its too bad I can only catch that spell once in a while. By the way", he added, "that magic haze will kill the next couple of things through that door. Then the defense is up to you and your axe!"

"Did you magic the Red Lord away?", asked the dwarf, still contemplating the doorway.

"Yes, he went to disable the Red Gate and close up the doors to the gate house.", he said. "He will reappear shortly; that is, if the still lives", he added, as he removed a short bloodstained stave from his bag. He also produced a small silver dagger from beneath the folds of his cloak.

"Here, let me nick you for a drop of your golden blood.", he said, moving toward the warrior.

"If you wish to forfeit your life, you will, ylf!", he growled, stepping back and poising the axe defensively. "What mischief are you about that begs my blood?"

"It is the wish of Kelleh, the Red Lord,", the said, nicking his own finger, "that I conjure a stave of vengeance." He dipped the center of the stave in the blue tinted blood that welled from the small cut. "See this red stain.", showing the dwarf the stave, "'Tis Kelleh's own blood." "I have magiced this wood to summon liquid ruby‑glass from a far plane, in quantity to fill this entire hold, should we all, whose blood it bears, die."

"Ah, drowning, a fitting death for those black rats of hell.", he said approvingly, "I will put my blood to that! No cutting though,", he said, probing at a gash in his forearm, "I have one or two from those black beasties already."

The wizard dipped the stick in the yellow fluid that began to trickle down the warrior's wrist as he squeezed the wound. With a blue crackle of his forefinger the old ylf then closed and healed the wound. All that remained of the gash was a reddish welt.

"My thanks for the healing magister.", growled the dwarf, "Can you cure these others so they won't drip." He gestured to his several other wounds.

The old ylf did as requested. Then, with several words taken from Eld days, he tossed the enchanted stave to the center of the room.

"Let us pray that stick is never needed.", he muttered to no one in particular.

There was a blue flash at the doorway and three skulking ghouls turned to dust that settled to the floor. The protective blue haze was gone.

"The show is yours now my stumpy friend.", said the ylf good naturedly, as he retreated to his corner again and began to chant softly.

The black region's warriors, forced from the hall by the crushing mass ascending behind them, flowed like a dark morass from the archway. The leading group carried heavy war shields, in anticipation of the deadly Dwarven blade, already notorious in their ranks. They came armed with long halberds, as well, to try and skewer the berserking yellow menace before his axe found their fragile parts. Their dark canine features were twisted into fanged grins in anticipation of the slaughter of this arch‑nemesis under the sheer weight of their numbers.

The dwarf, spinning like a child's top, swung his gleaming axe in a wide swath below their advancing shields. He cleaved pike shafts and appendages with equal ease. The first row went down like wheat before a well-honed scythe. With a quick reverse, he punctured the helm of another with the spike on the back of his weapon. The pike stuck fast as the beast slumped. With a dwarven curse, he spun his full bulk into the metal-banded haft of the axe in an attempt to extricate it from his victim. A watchful black pike man interrupted his swirl. He stabbed his long halberd spike at the low unarmored underarm of the dwarf as he strained to free the trapped weapon. The yellow warrior seemed to freeze for a moment, lifted gingerly to his toe tips in an apparent effort to lessen the pain written on his craggy brow, and then slowly sagged toward the stones. Yellow froth, at his lips, accompanied his next labored exhalation and he dropped to his knees, mortally wounded. His lips formed the name of his god but no sound issued forth.

"Mytrx, my valiant brave friend, your god has heard you !", thundered a new voice, "You shall be avenged!".

The sudden silence accompanying the ending of the struggle at the door had turned all ears from the sizzling ethereal return of the Red Lord. He now stood majestically in shining red plate armor at the left of his jewel encrusted throne. In his hand gleamed a two‑handed broad sword that shone with a red light which exhibited the life it enjoyed. It throbbed with the berserk desire to drive

life from evil, nor was it long denied.

Half score of the black warriors in the room died where they stood, with an unissued shout of victory torn from their tongues. The one or two attackers in the doorway who escaped with their lives knew fear. The unarmored dwarf, though ferocious, had only been a momentary impediment to their onslaught in comparison to what now faced them.

The Red Lord advanced to the door in three blade strokes. His ruby shaft flashed almost scarlet as it fed upon the death of evil. Black weapons clattered, clashed and shattered against the red mythril plate worn by Kelleh, the vanquished beasts swung their last futile blows.

Their desperate attempts were wasted. No weapon wielded by any mortal, save the one carried for the Gods by his father, Eamon, Keeper of White, could best Kelleh's armor.

The Gods, who created all, had supplied magic and sorcery to the Ylf magisters of Eld as part of a supreme protection from evil. The art of crafting and tempering armor using this Ylven magic, the Gods gave to the Dwarven armorers of Eld. The red armor and sword had been fashioned by the Dwarven master armorer Drytll under the golden mountains of their God, Dwr. For the millennium since its crafting, it has magically fit all the Lords of Red.

The onyx flood from the hall ceased, replaced quickly by the sound of conjuring chants from the dark and malevolent hall. "Aylyzn, do you know that sorcerous tongue?", Kelleh asked the wizard. Unanswered, he glanced around to find the ylf bent over the prostrate dwarf he had tugged and dragged from under the carrion by the door. Silence from a plainly heard question was an answer in itself. It told Kelleh that the Wizard of Blue was deep in another dimension seeking the means of resurrection for Mytrx, the Warrior of Yellow.

Wisps of smoke, like floating anthracite dust, issued from the direction of the alien chants in the hall below. The wisps twisted and twined like serpents dancing to some slow unseen instrument. A cloud began to coalesce in the entryway.

"I fear there is great ill afoot!", he said slowly, his strong voice echoing hollowly inside his helm. He tested the consistency of the cloud with his sword, 'Red Vengeance', and found sparks and metallic flashes his response.

Kelleh knew that to interrupt a spell being cast sometimes released on the caster and all around him the indescribable powers the conjurer was evoking. The way things looked, he was glad he had transported his young son to safety through the red gate before he had disabled it and secured the gate house door with the token the ylf had given him. He had left his only son in the hands of the Gods of Faerie, in Erin, shielded only by the folds of his own war cloak.

The cloud enlarged and thickened as Kelleh moved back to try to protect his helplessly involved magister from the fate the vapor surely held. He reflected on the conjured gaseous spells Aylyzn had called up before. All had been deadly, to be used offensively on the subject of the magic poison.

Ah!, but wait, thought the Lord, Aylyzn always maintained contact with the cloud to control it. He, was one of the most powerful wizards of the land. Surely no other magister could control a gas without contact, if Aylyzn could not.

The evil vapor now obscured more than half the throne room ‑ he must act now, he thought, desperately.

If he could kill the magic user at the far end of the cloud without releasing whatever evil it was he was evoking, they might have a chance. Without hesitation, the Lord sheathed 'Vengeance', who throbbed violently in protest, and grasped the pike halberd that had slain the dwarf. He charged toward the doorway into the forbidding cloud holding his breath. His eyes, as soon as he entered the cloud, were useless. Either the gas had blinded him or the darkness was complete in the cloud.

 

With a clash of armor, he crashed into the stone jamb of the door. He viciously thrust the long lance shaft he had snatched through the open portal and was answered by an unearthly shriek. The pike was wrenched out of his hands as a resounding explosion threw him across his throne room, against the wall by the throne. The smoke had thinned with the death of the evil sorcerer, but it now swirled through the entire room.

Kelleh's lungs screamed for air, as he held his breath against the vapor. The room spun as his eyes searched the mist for the body of the Wizard of Blue. The wizard still lived. His hand slowly raised, his long fingers flicked accusingly at the door. More black demons, apparently immune to the gas, skulked through it. With his last ounce of strength, Kelleh crawled to the foot of his throne and drew 'Vengeance'. He passed into unconsciousness with the effort.

Only the stones of the throne room can recount what next occurred.

The beasts seeing all opposition ended burst through the door and piled upon the helpless magister, probably in an attempt to secure his tome of magics for their evil master.

With strength summoned from Gods know where, the old ylf rose to his full height amid the groping beasts.

"Your vile master will never have the tome of a Wizard of Blue!", he said defiantly.

With a wave of his hand, his tome floated to the side of the Red Lord.

He raised his hands above his head and clasped them tightly, fingers entwined. From above his head, a shining vortex formed. It flashed fiery wisps as it descended around the wizard's body. When it reached the floor it whirled faster and faster until the beasts, who had cowered away from it began to be sucked into its spiral. The stone on which it rested had turned to magma stirred by the spinning fury. When the last black attacker in the chamber had been consumed, the spiral vanished with a soft hollow 'pop'.

The wizard was gone.

The Red Lord, awakening, removed his helm. Seeing the wizard's tome by his side, he gently laid his hand on it and weakly drew a final deep breath of the remaining vapor.

The few black minions still alive in the hall below heard a bubbling sound emanating from the throne room. Wave after wave of ruby‑red liquid flowed, like the fuming blood of dead hero's, from the stave Aylyzn had magiced down the top of the stair into the main hall. Retreat, for them, ended as it began; the gate house door had been closed after them and secured with a powerful Magic. Once the magic silica gel filled the sealed hold, top to bottom, it turned to crystal.

'Vengeance' no longer throbbed with life; Faerie was without a Lord of Red.

The child lay in the thicket breathing lightly; deep in the sleep which only innocents achieve. The red cape in which he had wrapped himself stood out against the green of the hedge that walled the thicket like a ripe fruit on a tree in mid-summer.

The tall figure stood and watched the child for some time undecided. Nearby lay the warm body of a wolf, dropped by a single shaft as he had stalked the small prey that slept in the glade. At last, Corwin waded noisily into the underbrush and unwrapped the child. He was four or five years of age and obviously sadly treated. Dressed only in his nightclothes he clutched a long dagger of silver metal, even though he slept. The coat of arms on the broach of the cloak matched the one on the dagger that the child held. Corwin gently removed it from his hand and slipped it into his own belt. The shield was a red fiery sword sprouting from a green veldt toward the heavens and the arch of a rainbow. No such crest existed to Corwin's knowledge in English heraldry. As a gamekeeper his exposure to such things would have been slight; as a retired captain of the Queen's Irish Guards he knew them all. The gamekeeper's position had been a reward from the crown for his years of valiant loyal service. It had been granted to him and his heirs as a boon.

Corwin bundled the youth in the cloak and strode back to the waiting charger who stood not overly close to the dead wolf. Corwin had decided to collect the body later. For now he would take the child to his home for food and shelter while he went to Cork to locate his family. A shame they would want him back thought Corwin. Though he loved his four daughters dearly, he longed for a son and heir to keep the post granted to the Connor family.

 

4 THE KEY IN ERIN

 

Dermot looked over the crags that led down to the lake. They were similar to the others he had seen throughout the Killarny basin, with green-topped plateaus fingering down the gray‑black rocky ridges. The storm that had just passed down into the lowlands had left a clean mist and the smell of damp earth in its wake. It had been lacking in the force that Dermot sought; just like all the tempests he had seen in Ireland these several months. Not one bolt of lightning had he seen.

Perhaps St. Patrick sent all the aerial incandescence out of Ireland just like the snakes that myth said he drove into the sea, Dermot thought.

No lightning at all! The storms rumbled and roared and dumped rivers on the forgiving lands below, but not one stroke of lightning. Not for all his waiting and watching.

Dermot began packing away the camp he had set up here in the small stand of birch at the head of the largest ravine of the basin. Another storm approached up the valley and if he hurried he could beat it home, he thought. He had had enough watching for today.

This was so different from the work he had done for the government computer group. Dermot was the best; a Guru he was called, in deciphering codes and computer encryption. He had retired when the Democrats came in and de-emphasized the need for external espionage. He had had enough by that time anyway. The World War II project that kept the Allies informed of the moves planned by the Japanese forces in the Pacific had been his milkbone in cryptography. He had been seventeen then. He had served in Korea and when Vietnam came along he was attached to the Defense Intelligence agency in Washington, D. C. He later left the army to add his expertise to this, the ultimate cipher group.

As he packed he thought of Barbara and the many trips they had enjoyed together before she had been taken from him by heart disease. He particularly missed her organized packing. Though she had had little personal interest in his studies of mythology, he had always been able to count on her for practical support. With her sudden death, he had plunged headlong into his research, hoping that total immersion would dull the pain of loss. In his mind's eye he began reviewing his heritage, perhaps from the realization of his mortality. This brought out some interesting comparisons between locations of Irish lore and the birthplaces of his ancestors. Why not go to Ireland and 'Kill two birds with one stone..' So here he was. The research he had done since his arrival had led to a theory that meteorological phenomena were connected in some fashion to activities of beings considered to be mythological. He further postulated that lightning, because of its fantastic power, was the rift through which one passed into the lands of lore. His quest was to find that rift here.

The ground water had slowed to a trickle in the ravine bottom by the time he had finished stowing his gear. The rainbow that had formed as the tempest moved north, had faded into oblivion with the reappearance of 'Old Sol'. Dermot slung his trail pack, now crammed with his camp, over his broad shoulders, picked up his staff and strode down the path. Since the ridge sloped severely to the valley floor, the path, though it sloped down slightly, ambled up the wall of the ridge that composed the ravine side. In a tall glen of trees near the top, some forty feet above the floor of the ravine, the path turned back and sloped uphill to the top of the plateau. As Dermot reached this switchback in the trail he was struck by an ominous feeling of foreboding. His grip on the staff tightened, his knees flexed, his body readied for flight or fight.

The staff he clutched had been a proud gift from Meg. Meg was the oldest 'widow' in all of County Kerry. He had searched her out and she had told Dermot the history of his kin, the Connor family. She had also commissioned the crafting of a walking staff for him. Her handyman, Billy Boy did the work, and the wood came from her famous thicket of black thorn. Billy was weak of mind and special to the folk of Cahir East where he and Meg lived. The folk deemed those of slight wit to be enchanted. Billy did all the work at Widow Meg's place and tended her thorn grove for her. It was from the grove they eked out their existence. Billy patiently crafted the finest walking sticks and shillelaghs from Dublin to Cork. The wood works he did were of classic beauty and were sought after by all.

A sound reached the switchback; a growl followed by a sound like the snapping jaws of a dog biting at a summer bumblebee. Abandoning the trail, he slipped to the edge of the precipice to look down the sheer wall. He was cautious, in the extreme, since his premonitions of evil most time rang true. He held the staff tightly as he scrunched his body to the edge on his stomach. The sun freed at last by the clouds, shone, slanting, through the umbrella of the glen. The beams fell in the center, on a small pool. The pool was surrounded by lacey ferns and beautiful white rocks painted with brilliant green mosses. It was obvious that the few travelers along the path above could never have seen the glen without crawling dangerously near the edge of the cliffs.

Several sharp growls shook Dermot out of his inspection. He heard a yelp of pain coming from the foot of the cliffs. He caught a quick glimpse of a young girl in a white cloak darting back into a crevice in the wall beneath him. The yelp had orchestrated quick jumps on the part of five mountain wolves. He snatched his senses from the almost hypnotic view of the glen. One wolf, the one that had yelped, ended his retreat in collapse from a puncture in his neck. The other four, showing due respect, took up the cordon a bit further back. They took turns darting in to snap at the trapped child. She met each foray with a strike of her own and soon each wolf bore a wound and bloodied fur.

As Dermot looked around the visible edge of the glen below for a way down, the largest wolf caught hold of the girl's cloak. He pulled her, screaming, from the crevice. There was blood on her white cloak. The wolf kept tugging at it to keep her off balance. Each time she struck at the wolf leader he would jerk her around, dragging her further from her haven.

No time for easy descent now, thought Dermot. The culprit was almost directly below his hiding place, some thirty feet down, and his comrades were closing for the kill. Dermot half stood and leapt, boots first, directly for the leader's back. His aim was perfect. The feral scream, as he landed, accompanied by the snapping of bone announced the end of the attacker's life. The three remaining wolves, with one look back to confirm that the odds were truly going against them, faded into the shadows of the trees.

Dermot didn't see them go. The jump, though cushioned by the body of the beast, had stunned him. In addition, the girl, in one final desperate stab at her tormentor, had struck her savior instead. Seven inches of white metal pierced to the hilt through Dermot's shoulder. The pain was colossal and subsided only slightly after the girl cautiously withdrew the poniard blade.

The light had lessened with the approach of the second storm and the treetops whispered as the winds heightened, heralding the storm's advance.

The girl spoke. Her voice had the quality of silver bells.

"I struck in err ‑‑ Please forgive me the blow.", she said, attempting to staunch the flow of his blood with a belt she removed from her robe.

"I'm ok.", he murmured bravely, not really believing the statement. He had been wounded before but never quite so badly.

"I pray I did not strike your lung.", she said, putting her small head softly on his chest and listening. "Please draw your breath in deeply."

He did as she bid. This child has a quality of command in her slight voice, he thought abstractedly. He looked down at her small head. Her hair was short, soft and downy looking. It was brilliantly white, even in the deepening shadow brought by the storm. He touched her head, stroking it softly, to find if it equaled the softness it appeared to have. Sensing his dazed inspection, she remained motionless even though her examination of his lungs was complete. Her hair was soft as down and the wings began at the shoulder ‑‑‑

"You have wings!", he thought out loud. One was twisted awkwardly to the left and bleeding where the wolf had bitten it.

"Aye!", she said, mimicking his surprise, "Wings!"

"Your ‑‑ well ‑‑ your wing is bleeding.", he stammered, not believing he had actually said it. "God, I must be delirious.", he said, feeling his head.

"Can you bind the wound with this?", she said. She handed him a cloth torn from the hem of her robe and turned her back to him proffering her wounded member.

He gingerly tied the white linen around the rent in the white feathers.

"Now, fold it like the other, if you will.", she added, as he finished with the makeshift bandage.

As he bent it he felt the strong tendons that normally flexed the beautiful appendage. It resisted his attempt to do as she asked and he hesitated as the movement elicited a small sound of pain from the girl.

"Fold it down!", she insisted, through clenched teeth. The main wing joint clicked loudly as he forced it and the wing folded down freely beside the other. She let out her breath in a sigh of relief and fluttered the wings softly.

"Good, it's mended.", she sighed, "Only wants resting."

"I'm so glad you happened along ‑‑ Had you not, these beasts would have supped at my expense.", she said, poking the dead wolf with her small toe.

"Wings!", said Dermot, incredulously as his groggy mind returned to the subject. "Why wings?", he queried.

"And why not?", she countered, "How else could I fly? But I shan't jest at your expense. You are sorely hurt. I have seen you sitting in the storms around the lake.", she said. "Can you tell me why you do this?"

He noticed that she was examining the Connor Family Shield that Billy Boy had carved into the large knob at the head of his staff.

"I seek the land of Faerie and, judging from your build ‑‑ I mean the wings ‑ I've found it. At least a Fairy, or so you seem.", he ended, sitting heavily on a large rock. His head spun dizzily.

Her cheeks colored slightly.

"I'm neh Fairy", she said, breaking into a deeper Gaelic brogue. She turned to face him holding the staff and indicating the carving that adorned it. She asked formally, "Tell me Sir, is this the device of your family?"

"So I was told by the Widow Meg in Cahir East.", he responded. He was feeling dizzy now and swayed a bit.

"Are you strong enough to walk?", she asked, concerned, moving to his side and steadying him.

"I think so, why?"

"I am comfortable in your presence, and, if that is your coat‑of‑arms, then ... ", she hesitated, "Could you be 'Of the Blood'?" After a bit of thought, she added, "If you can walk, you may go with me into Faerie".

"By God, I'll crawl, if need be, for that.", he said, stumbling to his feet. He half thought he might have to crawl after all. His head told him she was right, he was, 'sorely hurt.' The muscles in his body were beginning to cramp in an effort at self‑preservation. He took the staff from the girl and leaned heavily on it. He would make it he thought.

The second storm had broken outside and the first drops to penetrate the glen were falling around them.

"Which way?", he asked.

"Straight into the storm.", she said, leading him to the edge of the cover.

The storm roared outside as they left the trees. The girl began intoning an ancient magic verse as they left the protection of the wood.

 

"Colors of the sky I see,

Gates of the Fay it be,

Hope that I might find the key,

As I traverse into thee."

 

Her voice filled Dermot with strange warmth. His strength faltered and he missed his footing with the staff; he fell. The girl tried, in vain, to break his fall and she fell herself. The footing in these crags is treacherous, Dermot thought. He struggled to his feet but the girl did not rise. He gathered her small body to him sheltering her face from the pelting rain.

"Into the storm ‑‑ we must ...", she faded in a swoon. Dermot struggled to his feet cradling his small burden as a father would his child. The pain of the fall has put her into a swoon he thought; at least he desperately hoped that was all it was. Calling on every last bit of energy in his stiffening body Dermot shuffled off into the teeth of the tempest in the direction they had started.

She stirred in his arms and whispered a final line of the verse.

"Tis Blue I seek to bring me free,

to the colors of the Keepers three.

All the weight seemed to lift from Dermot's legs. The storm had ceased to pelt them. It was still there but the sound was gone and the sting of the drops on his bare face had stopped. The light changed too; the grey was gone, replaced by a kaleidoscope of brightly flashing colors; red, yellow and blue, of every shade imaginable. The lights that blurred the storm had seemed to warm his body. He felt a strange churning inside his chest, as if someone was rearranging his organs. It wasn't unpleasant but felt odd. He seemed to be floating down a beautiful colored hole. There was also a sensation akin to walking into a strong warm wind, of the skin tightening on his face. The girl stirred again in his arms.

"We have found the WAY.", she murmured, "I owe you my life a second time."

"The way to Faerie?", he breathed.

"Aye, the WAY.", she answered softly, leaning away from him to contemplate his face. "I knew the WAY would leave you more beautiful.", she told him, snuggling back close into his chest. "We will be there by‑and‑by."

"What ‑- I mean who are you?", he stammered, turning her soft head so he could look into her stunning aquamarine eyes.

"The who ‑ my name is Lynn, the what ‑ Well I am Evangeline, Swan Fay of Blue. Now please, rest yourself 'til my uncle wakes us at the gate." She caught his eyes; her's were so beautiful; his so heavy. Dermot slept as they floated down the timeless tunnel of color toward a destiny Dermot had only dreamed of before.

 

5 MAGIC CHILD

 

The ylf child in the big four-poster bed yawned and stretched. He sleepily rubbed his eyes with his small fists. There were noises of arms in the streets below. Now fully awake, he concentrated all his awareness on the muffled voices he heard below in the main audience chamber.

The conjured image formed slowly in his mind. As if the floor had melted away, he saw the room below. There were hastily dressed apprentice wizards milling about their master's dais, ylven guards shuffled out of the arms room adjusting their armor and testing swings of the war axes just taken from the racks, bow men strung ornate crossbows and filled quivers to near overflowing with selected bolts. It was a scene of deep alarm. He caught a glimpse of a child on the stair that ran upward around the circumference of the main hall to the Blue Wizard's quarters. Ascending the stair, the boy was surrounded by the Blue Wizard's illusionists and conjurers, all obviously in a highly agitated state of discourse with him.

He broke the farseeing spell his tutors had taught him. He had cast it without the specific token his instructors had said was crucial to the casting, but the concentration had left him trembling in his covers. He wondered that he was capable of the spell without a talisman -- another paradox concerning his abilities.

 

The sounds of hurried approach of a group outside his bedchamber had interrupted his casting. An ominous feeling of imminent danger now sent him burrowing deeply into his downy comforter.

The source of the agitated voices stopped at his door.

A shrill voice, strangely familiar, reached his ear, shouting for silence and calm above the rest.

The bolt to the room crunched out of its niche.

They were coming in, he thought!

Bylynn struggled deeper into his haven. He was intensely bothered by the strange feelings of foreboding he was having this night.

As the voices in the hall quieted, he heard sounds that could only be of battle coming from the chill night.

 

Filtered by his cocoon, he heard the shrill voice again command the group in the hall.

"Have all my people assembled in the main hall in five minutes!"

The door, that had opened only far enough to admit a small slim figure, thudded home into the stone portal, closing out sounds of the group hurrying away. The bedchamber was suddenly bathed in a humming blue light, visible even through the bedclothes. The eerie sound and glow faded as the braziers around the room 'poofed' into flame.

That was his father's magic, thought Bylynn excitedly! Father is home! All is well. His fluffy hiding place erupted with his thrilled shout of welcome for his parent. Shocked silence followed his outburst; facing him from the door was not his father. It was the child he had seen in the main hall. At the door, wearing Bylynn's favorite ceremonial robe stood a replica, an apparent perfect duplicate of Bylynn himself.

Bylynn stood, frozen like a statue, dressed only in a nightshirt, in the middle of the bed. Bravely, he raised his small arms and began to cast the only defensive spell he knew against this unknown imposter.

"Calm yourself my valiant son.," said a voice that seemed to come from empty air.

Bylynn almost fainted with relief at his sudden reprieve. That was his father's noble voice. His father was indeed here; a glowing essence appeared near the imposter.

"Father, what is happening ‑ that child ‑ the alarm ‑ you appearing like this ....?"

"I have no time to explain my son. Hear me out in silence. Only moments may remain! This child is your psionic twin, built by my magic. I have created him to secure your position here; you are too young to fully understand. You are to give him your ring and remain inside this room until the dawn ‑ as my heir you are now the Wizard of Blue ‑"

"Father, I ..."

"Please my son ‑ soon you shall know the whole story. If the Gods accept my... No! No! Not the tome!" the phantom thundered. Your vile master will never..." His voice trailed away into the distance as his image faded.

"I hear and obey my liege; my Father.", he murmured formally, as his father's glowing essence faded.

Bylynn knew his father was in deep trouble to have spoken to him in such a brusque manner. He spoke the words of Eld that controlled his wizard's ring and removed it from his left hand. The magic periapt had been a gift from his father at the last mid‑august festival. It was a custom for the novice magisters to be given a talisman ring by their master after their first decade, as a symbol of their magical coming of age. The novice wore it for life, and at his death it went to his God as he was accepted into the God's presence. Bylynn was not sure of all the details. One thing he knew for sure, only your mentor had the right or, in fact, the power to demand that you relinquish it. Feeling as though he was giving his duplicate his soul, he handed it the small band. The psionic spoke an invocation, rightly known only to Bylynn, donned the ring, returned to the door, and exited.

Deflated and confused by the myriad of things that were occurring, Bylynn sat heavily on the bed he had risen from what seemed to him a century ago.

The sounds of battle had ceased to resound from the town, he noted. Was the crisis over?, he wondered.

The muffled sound of a conjured fanfare heralded the start of the meeting the psionic had called at his father's dais.

I must see this, he thought.

He relaxed completely and summoned a mental image of the hall from his memory. Again, the floor slowly faded into the scene from below. It jelled into being as though he looked through a window in the center of the ceiling. If he looked up, however, he could also see the upper walls and ceiling, as if he stood on the floor. It was as though he sensed each and every action at the same time, his powerful subconscious mind sifted the relevant from the trivial, and then passed the important news to his conscious mind as perceived sights and sounds. His tutors did not understand this skill he mused.

The setting in his mind was complete now. All the people of Blue, who owed allegiance to the Wizard, were assembled, as ordered. Some were only partially dressed, due to the haste of his ‑ or rather ‑ of his duplicate's summons. The alchemist and his assistants were there, as were all levels of his father's apprentice magisters and the cleric and several acolytes. All members of the guard not at alert posts were standing around the hall, near the walls. Their captain stood near the dais with other members of the household of equal rank and several ylven merchants who served the wizard. All were engaged in hushed conversation.

Ascending the dais was the psionic Bylynn. He lifted his hand for silence as the fanfare ended.

His small clear voice echoed from the blue stone walls and filled the chamber.

"I have here", he said, holding aloft a glowing blue artifact, "the ring of my father, the Wizard of Blue."

Murmurs coursed through the crowd.

"My father is dead!", he said, almost coldly.

Bylynn almost lost the image at that pronouncement. It struck him like a bolt of lightning. Only pure mental courage held the scene for him. Could it be true?, he thought. His eyes darted to the phantoms left hand and found his own ring was in place there. Its other hand did, in fact, hold his fathers ring.

"It is my father's command, that I assemble you all here and allow those who honored my father to pledge their fealty to me, his heir."

Like a rug settling to the floor, the hushed mass dropped to their knees, heads bowed.

They accepted their new holder.

"Inspect your thoughts carefully; let those who find any doubt of their loyalty, to me and my family, depart now!"

"Infidels who remain, will be dealt with, harshly, by my father's signet." The statement was carefully measured for effect. The psionic spoke the words with a strange new power in his voice. No one in the crowd moved.

He continued, "I will issue a proclamation on what has

Happened in Faerie, as soon as I am sure myself."

"I will leave you now to go and mourn my father.", he said, holding the blue signet high in the air in outstretched fingers.

"This", he said, "is the power and the blessing of the Wizard of Blue!".

The ring flashed iridescent blue and shone brighter than lightning. Sparks of unearthly power fell from it at the psionic's feet and engulfed the dais. Blinding fingers of gleaming haze snaked their way lazily down to, and through the crowd, touching each person in turn, then passing on. No head moved as the questing arm of haze moved on, each person glowed with a blue magic fire, as if blessed. When the host had visited all in the assemblage, the light at the dais rose in intensity. There were several flashes around the hall, two acolytes vaporized as did one half‑elf guard near the door. All that remained of each were smoldering heaps of the clothing they had worn. They had been tested by their lord and found wanting.

Heads began to rise as the glow began to fade. The small figure of the child wizard at the dais was fading away with the light.

The inquisition was over; the hold of Blue was secure.

Bylynn sensed a presence in the bedchamber with him. He started awkwardly as he broke the spell and returned his consciousness to the other occupant of the room. Need to work on that, he noted.

His psionic twin spoke, "Here is a medallion from your father, and his ring.", holding them out to Bylynn. "Your father has commanded that you wear his ring from this moment forth."

"You are to wear it on the first finger of your right hand.", he added, as Bylynn accepted the two items.

The psionic continued to stare at Bylynn, as he hung the medallion around his neck and walked to the window. He slipped the ring on as the message had commanded.

There was a burst of sound in his mind as it was flooded by sights and high pitched squealing that seemed to rush over his senses. His conscious mind held only broken images and snatches of the vast panorama that had flashed from his father's ring.

The ring gripped his finger tightly enough to bring his full attention to its stone. An image flickered there, like a candle flame ‑his mind perceived that his body entered the chamber of the stone ‑ his father was there, as a specter, dressed in his magnificent royal blue ceremonial robes.

"Go now and defend against your image.", his father's voice commanded, and pointing a long finger at him, the specter returned Bylynn's consciousness to the bed chamber.

He tensed and without looking up, crossed his wrists at his breast. "Maximum Thraulum Hazzum Serventus", he chanted an evocation he had never heard.

He now slowly raised his eyes and looked calmly, at his twin who was gesturing. The psionic pointed both hands at Bylynn. Four bolts of sizzling energy flashed from the finger tips and were absorbed by the shield Bylynn had somehow evoked. How had he done that?, he wondered. It must have been knowledge gained from his father's signet.

As Bylynn watched, his attacker wavered, like a person seen through waves of heat on a summer's day, and then faded away.

Bylynn would never forget the look of shock and fear etched on the likeness of his own face as his conjured twin vanished.

A ring clattered to the stone. Bylynn bent and retrieved his own ring and returned it to its rightful place on his left hand.

Exhausted, he returned to the bed and was asleep before his head hit the pillow.

 

6 ARRIVAL AT BLUE

 

Synopsis Only -- Dermot and Lynn arrive at the Blue Gate, which is located in the Blue Hold, and are met by Lynn's uncle, Bylynn. Lynn and her uncle tell Dermot how the Gates are thought to work and about the change in his biological clock, as well as clarifying the fact that entry is through a rainbow, not lightning. While recuperating from his wounds, Dermot saves the dwarven child of Mydr, the current Warrior of Yellow. In gratitude, the dwarf lord provides the modern Dermot with dwarven training in the use of ancient arms, two handed swords, war axes, crossbows and the like, until he is one of the best warriors in all the land.

 

7 BYLYNN'S QUEST

 

Synopsis Only -- The blue gyrfalcon sat on a limb overlooking the brilliant white edifice. He longed to flap skyward 'til the cool mist of clouds that drifted lazily over the land caressed his feathers. From there he could watch the fields and rifts for signs of one of his favorite meals unexpectedly doing what meals did before his rushing shadow tolled the end of their life. He dared not leave 'til his master released him though. The last time he had done that, Bylynn had transformed him into toad for a fortnight.

His master sat in front of the only visible entrance to the dome shaped tower. Except for color, the tower was an almost exact duplicate of the three other towers in the kingdom. It was built of a stone that resembled marble but which was obviously much more durable. The towers had stood for at least three millenniums, yet, were unchanged by the ravages of time, weather and man. The seams between the stones, for seams were the only description for such fine joints, could hardly be found with a fingernail. The people of Eld had built well.

Too well, Bylynn thought. Entry to the building had eluded him ever since his youth. His magics had grown immensely in the two hundred years he had studied. His father's tome had not been found nor was the form of his demise ever discovered. Bylynn's magics, therefore, were of his own making, aided by notes found in his father's workrooms in the Blue Hold. Who could say how many 'hunches' on casting or gestures came from the ring he wore on his right hand. Surely, many of the words he used, that seemed to pop into his head from nowhere, must be from his father's knowledge. They, somehow, just appeared when he most needed them. Why was no aid in entering the Hold of White forthcoming, he wondered.

 

8 THREE MEET AT RED HOLD

 

Mytrx sat on the armorer's bench in deep thought allowing two of his pages to lace him into his dress mail and harness. The leather had the pungent smell of the dressing used by his people, the Dwr, to keep fungus from attacking it during storage underground. The dampness of the dwarven caverns suited the people better than it did the equipment they used. He adjusted the thigh bracer and tested each of the four short daggers it sheathed. He did this almost by reflex. As the supreme leader of the dwarven race all these mundane things had been checked and rechecked by his vassals but habits of centuries at battle clung to him like stench to dung. His axe, blessed 'DwrThorne' by the Gods that forged it, and gave it life, throbbed with anticipation when he hefted it from the staples where it had rested. Mytrx went nowhere outside his hold without that gift of the Gods. He was soothed by Thorne's weight as he held it high in two hands and lowered it over his shoulders into its holster at the small of his back. His nerves were jangled by the odd manner of the Wizard of Blue in calling this meeting at the Hold of Red. He stood and stretched, paced full stride, dipped low to test his adjustments. He waved the two pages out of the chamber after they adjusted a strap that he felt needed one more hitch. As the Warrior of Yellow, Mytrx was duty bound to attend all meetings of the Triad that ruled Faerie. These were usually held on neutral ground, at the Hold of White. Never had one member called a formal meeting at another's hold. Another first for the meeting involved the agenda, or rather the lack of one. All the supreme Ylf would reveal was that he had information vital to the future of the land.

The captain of his livery cleared his throat at the portal and interrupted his speculation. "My liege, your son begs audience before we depart which must be presently if we are to arrive at the appointed hour."

"Enter Culdrun. Stand easy. Tell Mydr his father waits his presence."

The clatter of little boots in the passageway confirmed that no intermediary was needed to summon the child who skidded to a halt at the portal and then advanced with proper decorum.

"Sire, your health...? The youth knelt and kissed the signet his father offered.

Not even away from his nurses yet and he knew how to conduct himself with his sire and liege, the old warrior thought proudly. He cast a glance at his senior captain who pursed his lips and nodded the approval his lord sought.

"On your feet my son. What a fine figure you cut in your first armor."

"That is why I begged to see you Sire. But words cannot express my thanks for so fine a gift."

The Lord placed his hand on his son's shoulder and gazed into the depths of his eyes as if seeing them for the first, or last time. Testing the fit, he thumped the lad's arm once in approval.

"Use them to learn, and learn well, as one day the leadership of the Dwarven nation will fall to you. Now captain, to the meeting and whatever intrigue the wizard weaves." He strode out the portal with a flourish followed by his captain, leaving the son to ponder the long hard look his father had given him.

 

-0-

 

Sipping from a ladle full of lichen and creamed goat milk he pursed his lips. Lemon grasses and leeks flavored it, the red robed Majordomo surmised. With his eyes still closed he sighed in feigned passion as he savored the taste.

"You have created masterpieces for the palate ‑ that's what you have done", he purred as he turned to face the now relieved assembly of chefs.

The maker of the soup, a dwarven cook with hands twisted nervously in his apron, bowed low. "Only through the aid of the Red Hold chefs and your fine provisioners were we able to offer the meal, Master", he rambled humbly.

"You have each ‑ ylf, dwr and man ‑ done credit to your masters", the head of household continued, "you shall be amply rewarded".

Fading disclaimers to credit for the gratuity followed his departure from the kitchen by all.

You will take the coppers quick enough!, he mused as he mentally adjusted his budget to reflect the promised payment. Holding up his robe, he climbed the stairs to the main hall and from there, up to the Red Lords chamber on the second floor. He subconsciously checked every area he passed for order and cleanliness. His master's suite was vacant when the portly servant arrived, puffing from the climb. It was neat as could be. He made a mental note to complement the chambermaids. He next went to the young masters bed chamber and found it spotless and unoccupied as he had expected. The Squire was no doubt in the training yard hacking at a post with some instrument of war, he thought ruefully. A non‑combatant, the Majordomo disliked the necessity of arms, though he realized he owed his relative freedom and position to them. He had been trained as man‑at‑arms and companion to his Lord by command of the Red Lord's progenitor, Eamon, Lord of White. He was secretly happy and proud that the Red Lord had chosen his son to train at the side of the Squire of Red.

Drawing a breath, he stealthily climbed the narrow steps to the next level up. The last two rooms on the floor he just quit were now being set up for the banquet and meeting of the Lords of the three races in Faerie to be held this night. He would inspect them later.

As his gaze crested the stair he spied his Lord sitting, facing away from the entrance, at his massive oaken desk, scribing in a huge leather bound volume.

"Keeping the history of the land is a tedious task, you know Thelo", he said, not looking up. Kelleh, Lord of Red, had eyes in the back of his head, or so it was rumored. Thelo had never seen eyes but he knew his Lord sensed when he was not alone, no matter how quiet the intruder was.

"Thelo, you have the stealth of a charging mountain ox. It seems I feed you too well. Perhaps some more strenuous duties... some practice at arms with our sons, perhaps? What say you, you old tub?"

"Old tub is it... I, twenty years your senior, could still box your ears if need be. But then, you are my Lord", he said sarcastically.

After a moment, the Lord smiled and said, "The twenty years might not give me an edge but the twenty pounds does."

Kelleh laid his quill on it's stand, closed his ink pot, and pushed his muscular frame against the massive chair, stretching his long arms. He pushed back the chair and turned it to face his vassal ‑‑ he stared long and pensively at the red figure.

"Why is does Aylyzn call this meeting, Thelo? It is not time for the scheduled gathering of the Triad. That old mage has been a recluse for many years. He has only ventured forth to fulfill the duties of the Wizard of Blue, and now he calls a special meeting, on just two days notice, and at my hold, not his. Have your informants no helpful news in our hour of need?"

"Those who know of the meeting, wonder as you do, but none has any fact on which to speculate, Lord Kel. He used the familiar 'Kel', from their boyhood, only in private and seldom outside this chamber. I have even had a trusted member of the guard seek out the ylfin sage Tybyss, the future seer", he continued. "Even the demons of Tybyss have only feelings ‑‑ vibrations of evil ‑‑ no firm visions. Feelings in all quarters are ominous but without substance."

Thelo walked out onto the balcony which circled the dome of the hold. He could see the domes of the Yellow and Blue Holds, half a mile beyond the gleaming tower of the White Hold, which stood in the center of Faerie. He jumped, his concentration broken; Kelleh had walked up and draped an arm across his shoulders.

"Whatever comes this night, I sense it won't be good", Kelleh said. "The moment the banquet is over and the meeting begins I want you to go to the White Hold. Include Dexter in your escort, it's time your son became familiar with the protocol of the White Lords. Tell the White Wizard, your Lord senses ill is afoot in the land and ask him to consult the Gods, on my behalf, regarding his brother Aylyzn. I fear for Faerie my friend."

They stood there, Lord and liege man, childhood friends, viewing their beloved land.

 

9 LOVE THY BROTHER

 

Aylyzn was in a foul mood indeed! The thundercloud that was boiling within the wizard had festered since his first conscious thought after his birth centuries ago. Born a twin, the younger by less than a minute, son of the Wizard of White, Zanzlyll, and his lovely half‑elf wife, Corith, Aylyzn had felt she favored his elder brother, Bylyll. Though his feeling was probably unfounded, it was supported by logic. Both Corith and Bylyll could pass for human if they wished even though ylven blood shared their veins with human. Aylyzn, on the other hand, was slight of build and possessed fine high‑ylven features, a mirror of his father. Had his logic gone further, he could have supported the inverse theory regarding the maternal favoritism. His mother loved Zanzlyll as flowers love the sunlight.

As if this perceived bias were not enough, the Gods saw fit to gift Zanzayll's first‑born with a natural talent for spells and all sort of magics never before rivaled. He was able to overcome one of the most formidable obstacles facing any practitioner of magic, time. Spells require time to cast. They must be painstakingly memorized, recalled under full concentration, every utterance and gesture must be calculated and performed with perfection, else the conjuration fails for the magister. Bylyll had the power of abeyance, canned spells if you will, which required but a word to set them bounding to do their masters will and enact his magic.

His obvious power stemmed from the fact that, where most sorcerers required hours or even days to cast a spell, Bylyll could prepare this casting in advance using materials readily available in his chambers and his primary tomes, stopping only micro‑seconds ‑‑ a word ‑‑ from completion. His casting of the spell, thence, took only that word to complete. His casting far exceeded any wizard in the known world, good or evil, and surprised many would be usurpers expecting a lesser user of magic. Bylyll had exceeded even the power of his revered father, the great Grey Ylf, Zanzlyll, who abdicated as the Keeper Wizard of White in favor of his elder son on Bylyll's coming of age. Zanzlyll retired to a tower in blue to seek into the ultimate magics or perhaps to commune with the gods of Eld themselves. Some thought he was god‑like and would be allowed such an honor. His sons knew better since he had confided that he wanted to study the essence of his favorite beasts, dragons. In a quest early in his life the ancient ylf had bested a black dragon, shrunk it to the size of a falcon, changed its color to blue, and enslaved its mind for his familiar. The enslavement spell had allowed the young magister an insight into its mind that had grown into his obsession with the ancient reptilian monsters. With Bylyll assuming his father's role as the Wizard of White, the position of Wizard of Blue and the honor accompanying it fell to the younger twin. A true honor it was to be titled the first wizard of a land strong in magic and sorcery. To Aylyzn, to be called "Wizard of Blue" was just another second place ‑‑ another link in the chain of paranoia which was slowly destroying his character. Somehow he equated the fact that his brother constantly bested him with his more human appearance and stature; Hence the flowering sibling hatred manifested itself in a prejudice toward anything human. The jaundice in the psyche of the Wizard of Blue grew almost daily as he tortured himself with every positive item he heard concerning his older brother. His mood was ripe, then, when their father's blue familiar flapped in and skidded to an all but graceful landing at a festival for Wizards Eve at the hall of White hosted by Bylyll himself. A premonition had drawn the unaccustomed attendance of the Blue Wizard and his apprentices at the banquet given by his hated brother.

The lizard bounced twice and went tail over hindparts in the middle of the hall, exposing his baby blue belly scales. His comic appearance elicited mirth from all present ‑‑ limited to a fleeting grin on Aylyzn's stony features. With some difficulty the small dragon regained his feet and a measure of his rumpled dignity. The tome he clasped in his fully fanged jaws suddenly became the center of attention as the dragonnette waddled toward the main table. A hush fell over the assemblage as the tome thudded resoundingly at the feet of the host. Aylyzn was the first to recognize the tome or at least the first to dare to touch the tome which could belong to no one but their father. The dragon hissed his displeasure, at the sudden rush of the wizard, and planted him firmly back in his seat with his one dragon‑sight. Not before he had clutched the tome tightly to his chest, however. Moments later, having assured himself no threat to his well being existed, the lizard released the magisters mind with an audible chortle. No one else had moved knowing that only Zanzalyll had found a shield to mind blasts of sentient dragons, and fearing berserking in the small beast. The lizard, dubbed Naven by his master when he impressed him, trotted along the aisle, hopped thrice and with several leathery flaps of his strong wings he flew to a ledge high in the chamber where after several dust‑flinging approaches, he settled down to watch the throng below.

As the reverberations of the clawed landing high in the smoke filled chamber died the paralysis melted in the afflicted Blue Wizard.

"Damn that Naven!", swore the magister, flexing his stiff muscles, "Some day ...... ", he stammered. If he wasn't father's beast I'd ....'.

"You'd do what, brother?", interjected the host, "You know only father can handle that pretty blue beast." His final statement he made loudly looking upward with only his eyes. A satisfied rustle sounded from the ledge high above, showing that the host's obvious flattery had found its target.

Not wishing to argue further and chance further injury, Aylyzn changed the subject quickly.

"This is father's tome I hold.", he added needlessly. "Father's life must have ended."

Bylyll knew his brother was right. His father's tome would never be allowed out of the sphere of his control so long as he lived. He dispatched an apprentice to arrange an escort of the guard to take him and his brother to his father's tower. After inviting has guests to enjoy the festivities until they returned he went to the practice yard by the guardhouse followed by his brother.

"Captain, we'll not need the entire company. You and your five best is all. If my father has been harmed we will be of no help." He is an army himself, he thought.

With an agility that belied their apparent age the two magisters mounted the riding horses held by squires and spurred toward Zanzylyl's tower on the mountain road outside Faerie. The guard was hard pressed to catch the lighter mounts of the wizard's with their straining destriers. A glow could be seen in the foothills that flickered like a great fire. As the wizards crested the last hill before the approach to the tower they slowed to allow the escort to catch up. The stone tower was backlit by flames that also roared from the windows of the upper floors. As they watched a huge black shape flew into the glare of the fire and smashed the front wall, tumbling it into what remained of the structure. It breathed flame into the bowels of the shell that was now the tower. Its shrieks rent the night. Again and again it raised it long serpentine and showered flames on the rubble it had left. It seemed bent upon melting even the stone of the foundation and in fact was blowing mists of molten rock off their surface. A low hum experienced by the magisters told them that the huge beast was using his mind blast at a maximum directly into the storm of fire he had caused. No creature could survive that fire and the full force of the power of a dragon's mind. Not even their father.

"I fear father has died, Alyzyn."

"No one could survive that holocaust.", his brother agreed.

As they spoke the guards began to arrive, reining the frothing destrier war-horses to a panting stand flanking the wizards protectively. The destriers were barely controllable even in their winded state. The magisters dared not expand the spell that calmed their steeds to aid the guards for fear the dragon would sense the magic and turn his wrath to them. The wood that had reinforced and floored the tower had burned away leaving darkness except for the glow of the stones and coals. The blasting flames the dragon assaulted the rubble with came less frequent as he exhausted his store of whatever made the flames. It now shuffled through the stones kicking them over and over spreading the pile, streaking his hatred at the burned rubble.

 

"The moon is rising, Sires", the Captain whispered as loudly as he dared. We should be away from this place before he seeks further prey I think." He fought to control his horse and keep it silent.

Seeing the Captain's obvious fear of being heard, Bylyll said, "No sound will leave this place. My brother and I have silenced this summit to protect us. The moon is another problem and you are right to worry of that dragons wrath. He is a black dragon of the type and age our father bested centuries ago. It appears to have avenged the deed on him causing his death. We will leave this place and prepare to defend Faerie should he attack." So saying Bylyll wheeled his mount and rode back toward the city slowing his horse to a pace the destriers could keep.

Alyzyn's mind was alive with plans now that his father had died. He wished to discredit his brother and the tome was his way, he thought.

Before they had reached the city the huge black dragon had spent the last of his energy and flew up. Like the Phoenix rising from the ashes he soared up and up. Then as though he had been given a new life, he flew away from Faerie toward his home in the Mountains of the Wind. He had missed home these many centuries he had been away. Unnoticed by the returning warriors or their leaders the two blue draggonettes glide into the ramparts of the hold of blue. Aylyzyn tried to prove himself the heir by the 'test of the tome'; only the closest heir by blood can use his fathers tome. He loses again to his brother and in the test is further humiliated by being temporarily turned into a blue jackass; one of his fathers favorite pranks. Fuming with hatred, he retreated to a tower in the Blue Hold to plot his revenge.

 

10 THIS HOLD IS MINE

 

Synopsis Only -- While being shown around the lands of the four holds, Dermot approaches the door of the Red Hold before Bylynn can warn him of the warding spell on it that damages all who try to approach it. To Bylynn's amazement, nothing happens. The magics have recognized Dermot as an heir of the Hold. He cleans the shield on the door where he finds the coat‑of‑arms that an old hag in Ireland had said was his family's.

 

He exclaims, "This is my family insignia!", and the door magically swings open.

 

11 HE IS LORD OF RED

 

Synopsis Only -- Dermot, with the aid of Bylynn's magic to remove the ruby glass, is able to enter the Red Hold. The panorama of the battle is undisturbed, as it happened 200 years ago, preserved by the ruby liquid glass that is conjured to flood the hold by Bylynn's father just before he imprisoned himself in his signet ring. Dermot sees the preserved death mask of the Red Lord who looks exactly as his own father had at that age. Bylynn notes that this cannot be his father since the actual battle took place over 200 years ago. Dermot proves that he is the heir to the title when the newcomer is able to touch his ancestor's living sword, 'Red Vengeance', without harm. Bylynn also finds his father's tome, which he begins to decipher.

 

12 THE SHAME OF THE GODS OF ELD

 

Synopsis Only -- Bylynn and Dermot research the history library in the Red Hold and find the method for contacting the Gods ‑‑ who had forsaken Faerie as evil for the sin. They do so and explain. At this time the blue dragonnette, which has hung around since the time he returned the old wizard's tome to the two sons, admits he is secretly the old wizard. He had polymorphed himself into a dragon in his experiments so as to live longer ‑‑ dragons live as long as 5000 years. He did not intervene in his son's affairs, as it was not his place, having abdicated. The Gods are, privately, very embarrassed at their lack of faith in their own creations. They accept the heartfelt apology of the sinful wizard, release him from the ring, and take him to their world, Eld, to complete his penance which they feel was begun while he was imprisoned in the stone.

 

13 RETURN OF WHITE

 

Synopsis Only -- Bylynn, Dermot and the Mydr, the Yellow Warrior are appointed by the Gods as the new Keepers of White. The Gods proclaim the positions of lords at the color gates; Red, Blue, and Yellow, as not hereditary but conferred by the holder. to one of choice by the Gods of the best candidate. The Gods vow, between themselves, to investigate before wrathfully punishing in the future. Dermot takes Lynn as bride and Queen of White and the kingdom flourishes. Bylynn studies the histories in the Red Hold and discovers that at least three more color gates can be created under the master plan of the Gods. These are orange, green and purple. He dreams of expansion, as does Dermot since their tranquil life is borrrrring!

 


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