Memories of Connor's Adventures

Orlando the Adventurer pulled a Scimitar from beneath his Robes and smiled...

Tuesday, 15 March 2016

Short fiction: su-lus (part 3)

SU-LUS (Part 3)
Zemiros scraped at the script on the old ceramic jar. Alma Radu had been truthful about one thing. It was real. The Trader had somehow acquired the artefact in distant Ylaraum, most likely on some raid by tomb robbers.
Although his tale of a purchase of it from some vendor at the now perpetual merchant’s fair at Selenica had the ring of truth, that nest having quickly become a market for looted grave-goods from Yalraum and Traladara, the trader’s sun tan implied that he had indeed spent considerable time in the sunlit desert searching for treasure.
There was still pigment around the eye of the dog headed Jar stopper.
<Read Languages> The spell revealed nothing of the pictograms. That instantly took Zemiros by surprise. Even he could see there was meaning in the symbols. The ship and the bird with its feet on the ground had meaning. How could the spell have failed?
<Detect Magic> Nothing. There was no Enchantment; Perhaps another spell.
<Read Magic> No result. They were not a spell. The pictograms were proving elusive.
<Dispel Magic>, the spell cast, Zemiros considered his options.
<Read Language> Still there was nothing. Again the symbols denied him. Was there some agent he could not detect?
<Detect Evil> Nothing. It was lifeless. He had squandered six spells on the damn thing and come away with nothing. It resisted him as though the script were the most powerful and resolute of all things.
Was that it? Was there some agent preventing the deciphering of the Symbols? The mere idea was insanity. Who could do such a thing?
Zemiros returned his attention to the eye of the dog and with an inked quill scribed the symbol on a scroll.
The eye meant ‘watchful guardian’. The dog was a guard dog of sorts.
Under it he attempted to scribe faithfully each of the seven symbols that had denied him. Then he artfully drew an exacting image of the Jar.
Zemiros considered opening the jar but put it from his mind. It would likely be trapped given its ability to resist the power of his magic.
“Now;” Bartov released his grip on the heavy iron spear held aloft by his fellow dwarves and it dropped a thousand feet, through the reinforced wooden ceiling of Sulescu Manor. They all flew in pursuit of it, the great cable crafted from a dozen ropes for the Spear descending toward the rooftop.
The explosion of shattering timbers instantly drew Zemiros from his work as the Black dog headed pottery was shattered casting ash across the wood floor.
Within moments Bartov and his Dwarf companions had gathered to collect up the great rope, their plan escalating rapidly.
Zemiros had gathered his wits enough to realize the core of his residence had been gutted. The ceiling had collapsed above the hallway and the hallway was now a broken shattered jumble of timbers up through which a huge rope cable was now being drawn taught via the hole in the ceiling.
Likely it was a siege weapon. Fury at the assault overcame logic and Zemiros ascended through the hole in the ceiling.
Where he had expected some Gnome-built aerostat a veritable clan of Dwarves flew from the ruination of his home, drawing the cable of their siege weapon; beneath him the roar of cable friction against shattered timber became louder.
Zemiros unleashed a torrent of fire balls into the midst of his retreating foes. They simply shook it off and then dove, descending with terrible haste, dragging the reinforced timber keep off its foundation stones, over the edge of the cliff, and into the raging sea.

The Dwarves and their siege weapon were gone, vanishing into the sea with their weapon of destruction. The shattered remains of Sulescu Manor, the waves breaking it against the cliffs, were still in the process of sinking into the sea. Eventually it would be gone.
Behind him in the distance, the horrible noise that had accompanied the destruction of the Mansion had roused the entire village.
Zemiros Sulescu descended toward the water. He might still have time to retrieve what he could.
The Reinforced box that the Sulescu had called a manor had seemed so invulnerable.
Zemiros shook his head at the sight of the carnage.
The darkness obscured everything.
“Light;” The spell gave everything an eerie glow. Around him the waters seemed to be filled with a murky taint. His room would be at the bottom of all this destruction, somewhere.
Zemiros oriented himself to the new reality. There. He spotted a number of his prized artefacts floating loose of their place on the shelf, his spell book amongst them.
Waving away the illusion he found nothing on the shelf that he had liberated from Braejr.
The Crystal and his spell book could be saved; the prospect that they were now the sum total of his personal possessions annoyed Zemiros greatly.
“Dimension Door” The spell returned him to the top of the Cliff and he turned away from the ruin. The cellar was intact beneath the stonework that had supported the weight of the Manor. At least he and the villagers would not go hungry.
The Villagers; they had amassed before now exposed stonework with what little they could grab. A few were naked except for a weapon.
“Sorry if the noise woke you...The building fell off the cliff; Rot-wood most likely.” They could see it was a lie. The building had lasted for over a century. It was indestructible. Some great force had destroyed it all and Lord Sulescu was keeping the how from them.
“Armand?” he couldn’t see his village Warden.
“Yes Lord Sulescu?” The voice came from the back of the gathered mob.
“Ah Armand, could you please post a guard on the Cellar Stores to make sure no one loots them. I will be popping off a while to see about getting it rebuilt. The Residence I mean.” Zemiros knew that was a lie as well but they didn’t need to have more horrors heaped upon them. He had some Dwarves to hunt down and interrogate. Where to start?
“I don’t suppose anyone would know where I might find some Dwarves about these parts?” It was worth the shot.
A voice in the crowd: “My lad Stephan mentioned spotting a few loitering about the King’s Barrow at the far edge of the grazing field while he was tending the goats.” The speaker cleared his throat and went silent.
“Oh well done; we will have the house rebuilt in no time.” Things were progressing rapidly. Zemiros wondered if it was the same dwarves.
“Off to bed the lot of you. Tavern-master, might I assail you for a moment?” The weary barkeep loitered with the Village Warden as the rest departed for their homes.
Zemiros handed the large crystal to the Barkeep.
“Be a good fellow; keep that on the bar for me; it’s not for sale but it took damage during the building collapse.” The Barkeep seemed confused. He could tell the huge crystal was fine.
“It will give travellers something to gawk at. Might put it on a shelf and start a collection of oddities.” Armand patted the barkeep on the back. He understood wizards to be capable of considerable vagabond behaviour. Zemiros Sulescu was no different.
“And now my Lord Sulescu let us see about putting you up for the night.” Zemiros sighed at the prospect of being put up in the tavern or in the bunk house where Armand resided and held up a hand in protest.
“Perhaps another time Armand; you need a good sleep and it is late enough to be morning so I will head off with an early start.” Zemiros left the ground and the departing villagers of Sulescu behind.
“See you when I see you...Oh and if anything washes up see if its furnishings.”
Zemiros was gone. The Village Warden looked about.
“Gregor! Where are you going? You have watch on the Stores till morning.” The Naked villager grumbled something about clothing.

The child cowered in the Dark, fearing the return of her captors. The old one had abandoned her and departed his throne room filled with a new vigour.
Mirsa preferred the blind darkness to the torment of her dreams. That way lay a nightmare about dead dwarves being roused from their slumber with a single command: arise.
Mirsa’s eyes snapped open at the word. She had awoken to it on a stone bier in the family mausoleum and fed on her first life. That command echoed across eternity. It was the commandment that bought with it hunger.
“Hold Her.” And they had held her down and forced her to feed. Mirsa screamed with rage and hunger at the betrayal, but she had fed.
She filled her belly as a thirsty wolf at a river, and each time Bartov had compelled her to arouse them from death with a single command: Arise.
Mirsa’s eyes opened to the darkness. Somewhere light spilled up a stone cut stairway and dripped like tallow-fat into the throne room of a once dead Dwarven King. She was alone; and her only bonds the fear of being betrayed by a Dwarf named Bartov. Her friend in the dark had betrayed her.
Mirsa forced herself forward to the light. The great rhythm of the Dwarven Forge was gone and it no longer beat in her chest with its life.
“Light;” Zemiros created the source on a large rock and tossed it down the tunnel into the crypt at the far end. The wizard stared down the now well lit postern tunnel at the stone. His explorations would be forced to a crawl down the low hanging tunnel of the Kings Barrow. The crypt was despoiled. The debris of an abandoned age, of little value to the looters seeking a pile of silver or gold, scattered. The low, domed ceiling still inconvenienced the uncannily tall wizard but he could see it was of a skilled craftsmanship. It was oddly well skilled for what was supposed to be a human Barrow. The style was most certainly Song of Halav, or supposed to be. The entrance was off alignment. Not by much but enough to miss the Solstice Star.
Perhaps it could have been a later period barrow.
Zemiros fished about on the floor for his light stone and a sample of the pottery. The Ceramic was fire-pit style pottery - Petra technique. Except that they never made the same piece twice.
Zemiros stared into two different pottery bases and turned them against one another until he could see something familiar. They were identical down to the scratches. These had been cast on a bronze die; no, the pores were wrong – a stone die. Somewhere an artisan had crafted a stone die with such perfection as to duplicate the real thing – Petra technique pottery. It was all Dwarven-craft.
Where was the way in? Somewhere in this chamber was a door that would take him down into the fortress that this Barrow was designed to conceal.
Zemiros stepped back from the stone bier and looked about for signs that it had moved. There were none.
Still that was deception in its own right. It was designed to look like it didn’t cover a secret stairway down into some secret dwarven fortress.
The floor didn’t show any signs of recent traffic and the walls of the burial chamber hid any sign that they might slide or pivot.
Zemiros stopped mid thought. It was now obvious he would never find the entrance so he would need to ignore it completely.
<Clairvoyance> the spell descended through the stone floor until it reached a chamber with a table.
<Dimension Door>; the portal exited below him about thirty feet perhaps into the secret hall.
Mirsa panicked at the sudden appearance of the tall shade in the dwarven hall. She slipped down the stairs to the Dwarven Forge by which the now hated Bartov had introduced her to its secret existence and looked back at the intruder.
“Well well...The little fish is loose.” Bartov took her by surprise.

Mirsa Screamed at Bartov’s touch. In the distance the shadow of the intruder turned to run forward toward her cry. Bartov looked up at the unexpected intruder and snarled.
The arrival of this individual meant that Zemiros had found them. Bartov released his grip on the girl, stepping back momentarily to pull a dirk from his belt to defend him-self from the Barrow Wight that had come for him.
That mistake was all Zemiros needed.
“Reinforced Door” The Space between the Dwarf and Mirsa was filled with a heavy wooden door.
“Mirsa!” The voice of her brother feared and hated as he was became relief and joy.
Mirsa smiled and climbed toward him as Bartov the Betrayer beat on the heavy timber door behind her. After a moment the noise stopped.
Zemiros looked down at Mirsa accusingly.
“What have you done?” Mirsa looked at him with confusion – why was he angry with her?
“You bit them yes?” Mirsa was clothed-mouthed about the events she.
“You felt hungry so you drank their blood.” Mirsa nodded, her tongue stilled with emotional pain.
“I told you this would happen and now you have taken the lives of these Dwarves.” Mirsa balled up at his feet and sobbed.
“I didn’t want to...they made me do it.” Zemiros seemed taken aback by the suggestion...they made her do it? That was insanity.
Zemiros pulled the weeping child to her feet and shook her.
“Explain now. Exactly what happened?”
The sound of an Axe began to work at the heavy wooden door that occupied the tunnel below the pair.
“They made me bite them...Bartov...he forced me to bite them all.” Her voice was stalled by the loud splintering as the door ruptured.
“Bartov?” Mirsa pointed at the Dwarf chopping the reinforced door down. Zemiros looked at the Dwarf and his face darkened with anger.
“Here fishy fish.” Bartov snarled at her.
“And you bit them all? They didn’t bite others?” Mirsa nodded and ducked behind her brother as Bartov and the other Dwarves were revealed behind a pile of splintered timbers.
Zemiros smiled and pulled Mirsa unwillingly from behind him and bent down to speak in her ear.
“Tell them to stop in your loudest voice.” The voice of Zemiros was almost compelling and the Dwarves behind Bartov turned in a plan to flee.
“STOP!” The effect was immediate. The Axe stopped as did the Dwarves. Bartov had made a mistake. The Clan was now enslaved by this little girl for all time and he knew it. Only Mirsa, confused by the sudden peace, biting at her lip didn’t know why they had stopped when she had demanded it of them.
Zemiros nodded knowingly at Bartov’s distress at losing everything to a child and burst into laughter.
“Now Mirsa anytime they do anything you don’t like you need only demand they stop.” Mirsa didn’t really want to push it. She was still afraid of Bartov and the dwarves and very angry with what Bartov had made done. For now she cowered behind her brother not really trusting his words. Mirsa still didn’t understand why the mean dwarves would obey her words.
“Now, if you would all come through so I can get a good look at you all and have a few words.” Zemiros seemed suddenly stern and serious.
Zemiros retreated with his sister in his shadow to seats around a table and claimed one at the far end opposite the gathering Dwarves.
How are you at carpentry?” Zemiros seemed almost civil. One of the Dwarves coughed. They all knew what this was about.
“I have a few decades of work with an Artisan.” An elderly Dwarf who seemed older than the others spoke out.
“ what sort of drink do you brew in this place?” Zemiros smiled, the Dwarves seemed content to repay in labour for the damage they had done, and Mirsa stared at them all confused.

The old thief watched as the Dwarves began harvesting timber at night. The Villagers seemed entertained by the fact the Dwarves had emerged from nowhere to begin work on the Manor house. He had been prevented from looting the cellars while the lord of the manor had departed in search of artisans but Zemiros had returned just as quickly with Dwarves in toe.

To be continued...

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