During our last chapter, the three races began to come together. Finding greater understanding and wisdom, they work together in friendship using the strength of each race to strengthen all three. The miracle of the temple of Aphrodite has brought many to the service of the chosen.
Magical Hearts: chapter 14
A loud boom from outside gets the attention of all in the room. I fear one of our jars has accidentally gone off. We rush to the window on that side of the building to see a huge plume of angry red flame rising from the channel. The channel is easily as wide as the Straits of Izmira. One of our carpets speed over the land away from the channel it carries at least three figures. Trees on the side of the channel from where the explosion occurred fall. A high wave seems to run from the center racing along the shores and down the channel.
Father, Granite, King Sky and I stand with our mouths gaping. That was far more powerful than any fireball spell has ever been. The carpet lands at the steps outside the temple. Father pulls us into the grand stairwell. He unfurls a carpet that was resting inside his room. I recognize it as one of our first. Isabel and the elf Queen, Jewel, Charles and the rest of father’s Knights join us on the carpet. Granite is a little reluctant, but he too steps upon the carpet. Isabel directs the carpet to fly out into the open air and descend rapidly.
Granite pulls on my arm until I am looking into his face. In his gruff voice he asks, “You sure this thing will not fall?” As I nod my head yes, he again asks, “The magic in it will not just stop when we are in midair?” I shake my head no, as Isabel giggles in my mind. Before granite can ask a third question of me, we are at the crest of the stairs. The three that were on the carpet are now walking up the stairs and we meet them. Brook is a little wide-eyed. Gabriel has a wide grin although he has a hand over one ear. Bill seems to be speaking excessively loud. I doubt he can hear himself.
Brook in a very loud voice says, “It is good to see you awake.”
I hold my hand up, and then bring Isabel into a kiss. The light seems to surround the three especially around their ears. The three, seem to relax.
Now in a normal voice Brook says, “Thank you Goddess, thank you Julius and Isabel.” Then she gives Isabel a hug, looking into her face she says, “This has to be the most luxurious palace ever created.”
Bill asks, “Have you had a chance to try the showers yet?”
Isabel and I shake our heads no. I ask, “Where you testing the jars?”
Gabriel nods his head yes and says, “Bill and I threw it from the carpet, as Brook directed the carpet over a target.”
Justin still shaking his head with his hand laced with Selena’s enters the temple. With a grave expression he says, “We will have to be very high on the carpets to use the jars. By dropping them, Brook if you flew a little slower you would been caught in the blast. As it was, you were barely missed by the flames.”
Gabriel points out, “That will not be a great difficulty, but we now know how powerful a weapon the jar is. Our alchemist are working on making the formula that Brook gave them. If we place the jars we already have, we possibly can take out the first two or three ranks of orcs as they gather at the mouth of the pass.”
Bill says, “I now know why they have the shark fins, it cause them to fly straight to the air and not tumble.”
Father says, “I am glad I took one to show as an example for our Potters to re-create. For some reason the idea of them tumbling does not seem good to me.”
We see three carpets in the distance. I know they belong to house Morgan. As they land, Jeremiah looks wide-eyed at the temple of Aphrodite. All his men stare in wonder. Although Rebecca rushes to Isabel’s side hugging her gently because of her advanced stage of pregnancy. It will not be long before Isabel gives birth to our daughters.
True to her nature Rebecca asks, “You and Julius along with the dwarf Chisel built that in three days?”
Isabel as always is humble and says, “The goddess must have been working through us, because I truly do not remember building more than the first floor.”
I say, “That had to be, it was like I was in a dream. Great sections of the building were completed between each time I had any awareness.”
Father chuckles and says, “It was like watching a child building a Sandcastle. If you looked away for a moment, a new section was complete. If you think the outside is something special just wait until you have a chance to go in.”
The men from house Morgan are beginning to empty a crate. It has a huge number of jars within it. Many labeled with names of chemicals. Others are in the shape of the jars we will drop. Turning back to father Jeremiah asked, “Sire, was that one of the jars we noticed explode?”
Father says, “It was. I believe it far greater than what we believed it would be. Perhaps our enemy will break and run never to return.”
Jeremiah little pale faced says, “If they have any sense at all, any love of their own lives they will.”
We spend the rest of the day, getting some advice from Jeremiah who looked at both the plans for the Straits and the Pass. He finally smiled and he says, “I cannot think of anything else to add to your plans, but if I do I will send word.” As if an afterthought he says, “The jars you want us to make for dropping take quite a bit longer, and if we have another type of jars ready, they can be used to be placed on the ground and save the others made to drop.”
I smile and say, “The ones that are made to be dropped had the special fins the keep them from tumbling. If we just need to place a few on the ground. As Gabriel has suggested any jar would work as long it is big enough to hold the amount of chemicals we want.”
Jeremiah smiles and says, “We have a full warehouse. We used to use them before the crates. I will send them here tomorrow.”
Father asks, “Wine jugs?”
Jeremiah shakes his head yes and says, “Before the crates we would divide the wine from barrels into jugs to move. Now because the crates we do not need to do that. The wine taste better straight from the barrel anyway.”
Father chuckles and says, “We could just make a whole wagon full, place a few with wine on the back and on top. Let the orcs find the wagon and take it back to their own encampment. When the first one opens a jug not finding any wine I bet he throws it down.”
Gabriel chuckles before saying, “If we are lucky they will have spread them out just enough when the first one explodes it breaks the rest.”
I say, “We were planning on letting them kill themselves for us anyway. This would be a nice way to take out a thousand.”
Laughing Ben says, “Remember the smugglers and their wagon we caught last year. How many do you think would be kill by a wagonload a foot thick of the explosives?”
Brook smiles and says, “As they all gather around for wine, and their leaders are forced to come to restore order.”
Something Gabriel said rings in my ears and I wonder how so many orcs can be because the land that they inhabit is poor. The northern third of our continent that belongs to the orcs has great lava flows, or glaciers not great farmlands. Millions of orcs would require as much food as that number of humans, elves or dwarves. How could so many exist with very little to eat, where do they all come from? I think of the map, perhaps it will show us the answers.
Getting everyone’s attention I say, “Let us look at the orcs’ lands something does not seem right, Gabriel you said the numbers could be as many as two million. I think not because the land is too poor for that great of a number. I do not doubt your word or what you seen. I only doubt the land is capable of supporting that many. If the land cannot support that many, they must receive aid from elsewhere or they come from elsewhere.”
Everyone within the room now shares the realization. Gabriel is the first to speak and he says, “Soon after the last orc war I became a Ranger. Many of the orcs were destroyed during that conflict, and I could walk about their lands all but the farthest north without seeing a patrol or hunting parties. I saw no great villages, no farms or shepherds. The orcs used a few caves. However, there was no way for so many to survive. I believe you are correct they must come from elsewhere.
We go back to the map, starting from Dead Man’s Pass we begin heading north, we find the remains of the orcs Gabriel and Brooks fought. The path is recent enough from the large number that it remains visible on the ground. We follow it north, and emerges with many other groups. Gabriel was correct in his estimation possibly two million strong are beginning to collect just south of a river that would block their movement in the spring. We can see where they cross the river. We continue to follow the muddy trail that so many feet have marked. Mile after mile north, Gabriel finally becomes unfamiliar with the land on the map. In the very far north stands some ancient ruins, far older than any in the room know.
Chisel says, “Dwarves made those, see how that arch is formed they look like some of our oldest buildings in Undermount.”
We turn the map trying to look through openings in the ruins. A section that looks like a large doorway, mist obscures the opening, as we watch several drow exit, followed by at least two hundred orcs. We back off and watch as they travel through the ruins and begin heading south.
Sparrow directs the map back so we can take a closer look at the doorway. He almost hisses as he sees the writing carved into the door. He says, “That is a very old ancient elfish dialect. That is a world gate. It is a more powerful form of the spell of teleportation. Only it took several master mages to enchant. It actually connects to another world.”
I say, “We have two choices, allow it to remain open and more of the dark ones come in making our fight more difficult, but allowing them to retreat. Our second choice is to close it permanently, destroy it, preventing any more dark ones to enter our world, but we will have to deal with all that are here.”
King Sky says, “I believed that place was just a legend, the story of the Exodus from our old world. As I remember the story. The world the three races were born on, have become quite old it sun began to die in the world was falling into blackness. To escape the mages had been searching for a new home for millennia. They had found several worlds but none capable of supporting life. They kept searching even further away. Some worked on how to move our people, while others worked on finding a new home.
Finally, a world found that we could live upon. The only problem was the orcs already lived there. We knew nothing of them and sent emissaries. They allowed some of our people to come promising them safety. We did not know of the dark gods. The people that we sent fell to their influence. They became the first Drow, dark dwarves and dark men.
Another world found as we realized the danger. The majority of our people escaped, but some dark ones must have infiltrated the last survivors. It seems they found the old gate redirecting it somehow.”
Father in a deep voice says, “All that matters is what we do now. What mistakes made in the past are over and done. Sparrow you believe that we can close the gate or we are going to have to destroy it?”
Sparrow first looking at his brother says, “The archway needs to be destroyed. Even if we do manage to close the gate, it can reopen. Even destroying the gate may not prevent another’s creation, although that would be very difficult. Those in this room and a handful of others would be required to create one. Although we would have to know where to go, and none have looked.”
I ask, “If we stacked, say ten of the jars against the pillars, dropping two or three others to set off the ones already there would it be enough?”
King Sky says, “If legend is correct, that is more than three millennia old. I doubt that would affect the stone of the arch. However, the stone in the building around it may crumble and seal the exit for a time. That would prevent any more reinforcements until we finish our battle.”
Sparrow says, “If we close it from this side, it cannot be reopened from the other side.”
I say, “If buried it would be very difficult to reopen.”
As we watch another group exits the gate, although dressed somewhat differently, they begin heading south following the trail. Every few minutes another group exits, they will be more than we could possibly stand against if we do not do something rather quickly. None stays at the gate long, and if we hit the gate a few minutes before the next group arrives, just as the last group was out of sight we may have as much as three minutes to close the gate.
Whatever we decided to do, we must do it quickly and quietly. If we remain too long, the next group will be upon us. With the last group only a few minutes away at a walk, they could return to reinforce their fellows quite quickly. If we are too noisy at our efforts, it may bring the last group back to investigate.
Chisel believes he can place several of the jars to bring down the building entombing the gate. Sparrow believes he can close the gate given a few minutes. We decide to take Chisel and Sparrow along with a few of our companions an attempt to close the gate, if not permanently for at least as long as we can. Once the battle is over, we may be able to return and make it permanent.
We load a carpet with twenty of the jars. Chisel believes he will only need half that number, but I believe it is better to have too many than not enough. If nothing else, our second attempt made be successful.
Martin, Samuel, Bill, Brook, Gabriel, Eldeone, Isabel and I along with Sparrow and Chisel carefully load a crate with twenty of the jars. Granite and Father both wish to come along but I reluctantly tell them, “The smaller our group is the more likely we are unnoticed.” As I tease the two I say, “You are more likely to just attack a group for the fun of it, how can we remain unnoticed then.”
Father surprises me by saying, “Pup, I am still your father.”
What could I do? Stepping to my father, I give him a hug and say, “I do not want to become King too soon. I love you, Father.”
Father slaps me on my back and says, “I do not want to lose you again my Pup. You and Granite can take care of the orcs. As the rest of us take care of the drow if it comes to that.”
As a result, our group grows by thirteen. Ben and Ruth wanted to come along as well but their baby decides to stay keeping Ruth and Ben, who is an excited father as his wife begins her labor. I finally tell him, “We should be back before the baby is here. We will go make a big noise, and be back before they know what happened.”
We lift into the air. We have coats and heavy clothes ready for the cold weather. The ruins already have a couple feet of snow. This may be the last of their army, and in the month the land around the ruins will be impassable, now a snowstorm could make it so overnight.
The map has allowed us one other benefit, sparrow’s spell of teleportation allows you to move to any known location. Additionally, high on the carpet we can remain unseen only dissenting silently at the proper time. A wall of mist appears in front of us, and sparrow directs the carpet through it.
During my time, making the palace and asleep Granite has completed our weapons. Mine rests against my armor in a sheath specially made for it. I also carry the short sword and dagger. There is places where an ax is at a disadvantage, as well as magic.
As soon as we exit the wall of mist, the air is quite cold with a strong wind and snow blowing in our faces. There is a dim light coming from the area of the gate, and a party has just emerged carrying a lantern to light their way through the ruins following the path that so many have walked before.
We are unnoticed as we descend silently. The group barely has exited into the ruins, as we set the carpet down. Chisel immediately begins quietly to direct the placement of the jars. Sparrow, Brooke, Isabel and I walk up to the gate. Sparrow is examining the writing and quickly finds the command word that will close the gate. As soon as he speaks the word, the wall of mist vanishes.
A large room full treasure is on the opposite side, the chests that held the treasure have long since decayed to the point that they spilled the gold over the floor. I doubt anyone ever knew it was here, hidden behind the wall of mist. Once our crate is empty of the jars, careful not to disturb anything other than the treasure I cast a summoning spell that causes the treasure to float to the crate.
We even place a few jars within the now empty room, the way Chisel has explained it, the explosions will knock down the walls that support the walls above, cause them to fall down and bury the gate. Chisel double checks each jar ensuring each point is at a mortar joint, he even uses some stones to ensure they do not move before they explode. Once we have everything in place we only have a few moments to exit, we even leave a few jars we have not used behind, back on the carpet high in the air Isabel and I direct one of the last jars to fly directly into the room. I hope that that will set all the other jars off.
Just then, as a spell of teleportation opens several drow mages walk out as the jar hits setting off the several we left in the room. In an instant, all the other jars explode as well. We are moving quickly away from the ruins but I believe we were not moving quickly enough. I cast a shield spell in the direction of the ruins. Pieces of debris strike the shield spell causing it to glow brightly. We can see nothing but smoke and dust from the ruins, but the sound of falling stone heard with the echoes of the explosion.
The cold when quickly blows away the smoke and dirt in the air. Where the gate had stood now stands a mound of rubble at least ten foot higher than the gate had been. There is no sign of the drow, even the parties that have already exited the gate are still running away from it. In their confusion, I believe we went unnoticed.
We climb higher and circle slowly. We wait for a while to ensure none survived. There is a small possibility that they cast a shield spell. However, Sparrow and I doubt they even had time to cast any magic before death found them. We cannot even feel the magic of the gate, and it is possible the explosion destroyed it as well.
Once we are sure, sparrow again cast his spell, the carpet flies through it quickly, and he ends the spell the second we have crossed back over Hound Island. The sky here is warm and sunny compared to that cold dark place we just left.
We open the crate and examine the treasure closely. Sparrow checks for any magic that used to track the gold. It would not do to bring back something that can bring our enemy straight to our door. It is just a way of double-checking, we checked before. Although some spells not activated until the item removed from their resting place. Finding the treasure untainted and not cursed, we even cast the magic to detect poison or disease. Once we are sure that treasure is safe we divided equally among all who came, several thousand gold pieces for each.
Granite eyes go wide as I sit down his chest showing the gold coins. Telling him it is the share for his protection during our raid. Father seated beside Granite looks at the chest in front of him. Both hold the same amount of gold. My father chuckles and says, “The best payday I have ever gotten.”
I chuckle and say, “I enchanted those chest, they are far larger than they appear. Do not turn them over thinking to get a hand full of gold. You will spend most of the night picking up your treasure. It was not on either of your lands, all you get is an equal share. No King’s taxes this time.” When they both turn and look at me, I say, “Perhaps we should find the drow King to pay him his taxes.”
Granite smiles evilly and says, “Tell you what Pup, you find him I will give him something for his taxes.”
Laughing I say, “Now him I will fight you over, well we just flip one of his gold coins to see who gets to take his head.”
Granite flips the coin in the air and says, “Call it Pup, just in case we run into him. It will save time later.”
Instinctively I say, “Heads.”
When the coin lands it lands on its edge and remains there. Father laughs and says, “First I ever saw that, but that means both of you should take him together.”
Chuckling I say, “Knowing drow he would not settle for a fair fight. It would be he and all his guards that is with him.”
As he looks at the small chest before him, Eldeone chuckles and asks, “Are you always so generous with what treasure you find?”
With a chuckle I say, “I find no reason not to be, I never campaign with mercenaries only companions and friends.”
Eldeone looks a little startled by that comment. He asks, “You allow me into your service, as a companion?”
With a chuckle I say, “How better to combat your prejudiced. It is not as easily defeated has Granite’s, he only believe his stomach not capable of handling the Elfin food.”
Granite had just finished a plate of venison, prepared in the elfish fashion. He laughs at my statement. Looking up from his empty plate he says, “Aye, it has been a hard lesson. One I will never forget.”
Eldeone chuckles, “One lesson Pup has taught me too. Prejudice is best shown to be incorrect than just told to be. It is easier to see the incorrectness of your beliefs than just to hear them. It does not stop them from being wrong either way, just easier to see.”
Chuckling sparrow sitting down says, “Eldeone that is because you are not blind, a blind man must hear and understand the truth, where as you can see the truth.”
Eldeone chuckles again now with a smile he says, “Yet more lessons for me to take to heart. I have learned that what I have believed is not always true. I should keep an open mind, and an open heart. Friendship has little to do with one’s birth. Julius although born to royalty never knew that until he reached manhood. I think he sees royalty as a burden not a privilege.”
With a smile and nod, I address Eldeone, I begin by saying, “A good King leads his people, a wise king listens to their hearts, and a great King helps to make their dreams come true. When your subject are happy, healthy and productive so is your kingdom. A King should always strive to ensure the well-being of his subjects. Sometimes it is very difficult to balance their well-being against your own, even more difficult if you hold the belief they are to serve you, and you do not serve them. A great King serves his people far more than his people serve him.”
Father and Granite both chuckle as they nod their head yes. King Sky from the doorway has overheard because he begins to chuckle along with the two other kings. Bowing to me on his approach, and I stand to return it he takes a seat beside us with a smile he says, “That is the best way I have ever heard it described. It is far harder than most people realize to be a great King. It is easy to fall into the trap of believing all should serve you. When it is your turn my son, remember your friends and kinsman’s words.”
Eldeone with a smile says, “Yes my father I will. Although I would hope it long enough that the memory be a distant one.”
With a chuckle I say, “The problem with be in a Prince. We do not want our father’s power. The gaining of it means a great loss to our hearts. We would find it a lost too great, to enjoy the gain.”
Eldeone smiling as he looks in my face says, “I see our hearts shares much kinsman.”
With a smile I say, “True, we have far more in common than you realized just a few days ago.”
Of course, I have not forgotten about Ben and Ruth. I know the baby will soon be here so I excuse myself. Eldeone comes with me, seeing my look he asks, “Do you worry for Ruth?”
I nod my head yes, and my steps take on a swiftness that has Eldeone stretching his legs to keep up. I entered the temple of Aphrodite, and we proceed up to the fourth floor, one section is set up to be a hospital.
I find Isabel watching Ben pace nervously. A baby’s cry makes him spin on his heels as he faces the doorway. Only a few moments later one of the priestess of Aphrodite brings the babe wrapped in a blue blanket. She smiles and says, “You have a fine baby boy.”
After taking the baby Ben asks, “His mother?”
The priestess smiles and says, “Tired, but she will be well soon. She wants you to come in.”
Isabel says, “Give her a nice long kiss for us Ben.” Ben chuckled as he disappeared following the priestess.
Isabel’s face contorts with pain, something that Isabel was trying to conceal unsuccessfully. Isabel’s contraction started soon after we departed on our mission this evening. I look in my wife’s face as my hand reaches for hers. I say, “Our twins are not long in their entrance to our world.”
As if in answer Isabel’s water breaks, and Eldeone shouts for the priestess. He has a look of concern on his face, and he pulls the priestess to Isabel assumed she appears in the doorway. I lift my wife and carrier to the room the priestess indicates. There is a comfortable looking bed although somewhat narrow. I place Isabel upon the bed. The priestess runs Eldeone and myself from the room. Now it is my turn to pace.
Eldeone watches as I pace, when Bill arise along with the rest of our comrades he says, “We heard Ben and Ruth had a baby boy.”
Eldeone chuckles and says, “A fine young lad, he looks a lot like his mother.”
Gabriel and Bill share smiles, the two have become close friends, and often compete to find out who is the best archer. Martin and Samuel have female companions as they arrived. I think it is a good thing, because the two big men could use a good woman in their lives. Michael and Juliet arrived with little Patrick. I have to stop my pacing to hold my son.
Martin and Samuel both have grins as Samuel asks, “Is it Isabel’s time?”
With little Patrick’s head against my chest I smile and say, “The twins will be here soon.” As I look at little Patrick I say, “Your Mommy is going to give you two little sisters tonight.”
Little Patrick says, “Goodie, I will not have to be the baby anymore.”
The room feels with chuckles. Smiling I say, “That is right son. Soon you will be the big brother.” He smiles brightly and I ask, “Are you going to help me take care of your baby sisters?” My son nods his head enthusiastically. More chuckles fill the room.
Father asks, “Are you so sure you are going to have twin daughters?”
I reply, “I hope so father. We only have two girls names picked out.”
Jewel the elfin high priestess, enters the room overhearing my last comment she asks, “Prince Julius what names have you selected?”
Giving her a smile I say, “We have changed one of our selections, we are now thinking to use Ines and Carissa. Later we will use Marta to honor Isabel’s grandmother.”
Jewel asks, “Ines as in Ines Firemoon, Isabel sister?”
I sense there is more to the question so in answering I probe for additional information. I say, “That is who made us first wish to use the name, to give homage to her long service. Nevertheless, why did you ask your question that way?”
Jewels eyes widen, and her expression says she has given away a secret. She says, “Souls reborn seldom remember their first life, even though you lived it twice.”
Now confusion is truly on my face, and shared by most in the room except for Jewel and Eldeone. To answer the question Eldeone begins, “Prince Julius, you never realize that your life story was the same as Cowan the Wise? His life was exactly is yours, except for his father and mother both perished at the hands of a traitor during his fourth year of life. The traitor captured him and made him a slave, only to escape slavery during his eighth year of life. He was trained by the dwarves the same as you, on his fourteenth year he began his campaign to retake his kingdom. During his time the land, you call Cowan were feudal states, the size of your duchies now. Cowan the Wise not only retook his, but he began to unify the whole of your country. During his sixteenth year, he completes the task, makes peace with the dwarves and begin the process with the elves. During his eighteenth year, he travels to the land of the elves.
What you know, Isabel did run away from her father and her upcoming nuptials. However, what you do not know, there was a Duke who wished to prevent peace between the two races. The Duke captures Isabel and with plans to force her to marry his son. The Drake killed the Duke and his loyal men before they could capture Isabel.
The injured Drake attacks Isabel, and Colin rushed to her side. They too shared a kiss after the battle, and the Royal guard knew they were a blessed couple.
The Captain of the Royal guard who found Isabel and Cowan was Isabel’s uncle. The dowry Cowan brought for Isabel’s hand was her weight in gold and a third of her weight in raw diamonds.
Ines was jealous of her older sister, although she did love her sister, her prejudicial remarks was an insult to the goddess and her chosen couple.”
Jewel places her hand on Eldeone’s arm and he gives her a nod. Jewel continues, “The prophecy was that Cowan and Isabel would be reborn, human both, although most of my people never knew that part. You are the sole of Cowan the wise reborn. Isabel is Isabel Firemoon reborn. The two of you have been reborn to fulfill the two prophecies. The first you have completed, the second given to me by Ines. Said you would rebuild the Palace of Aphrodite.
Additionally a number of other things you have yet to complete, those prophecies I am not to share with you, by chance you may do more than what was prophesies. As you have with the Palace, by adding the skill of the master Stone smith Chisel. The goddess inspired him and allowed him to direct the power you and Isabel wheel. She inspired Chisel with not only the image of the blueprints for the Palace, but placed within him the magic for things like the showers, hot and cold water. Even the pool that reflects the noonday light, you and Isabel need to take the time and gaze upon the ceiling of the chapel one-day at noon. Perhaps you should gaze upon it tomorrow with your son and daughters.
As if the babies summoned by the end of Jewel’s speech, my daughters began to cry. A priestess brings the two girls wrapped in pink blankets. I take my daughters into my arms kneeling for little Patrick to see. He has a bright smile looking into his sisters faces. The priestess leads the four of us back to Isabel and we share a long kiss that gives Isabel her strength and health back. The priestess does not object to Isabel leaving with me as we take our children up to our new quarters.
Jewel and companions all accompany us, and the two of us get the retelling of Jewel and Eldeone’s tale. Isabel giggles and says, “I learned Elvish as a young child, my mother said I picked it up as easy as an elf.”
I am not sure if one soul receives their body on the moment you are born or sooner, either way it is not beyond the possibility given the abilities of Aphrodite. Ines has the same green eyes the old high priestess had. Everyone knows your eyes are the windows to your soul. Jewel has tears of joy looking into Ines’ eyes. Isabel and I do not need to ask our shared question, the answer is on Jewel’s face. Our daughter has the sole reborn of Ines. Perhaps that is why we felt the sting of her loss so greatly in the Inn of the fallen Oak.
She would have been my beloved sister in a lifetime before, now she is my daughter I will cherish. Ines will have greater healing art than nearly anyone had before, both magic and herb, potion and salve. Her art of healing will be nearly miraculous, and be a true gift to the world. Knowledge like that I know comes from the goddess, another gift.
Our friends and companions stay with us for a while. Ruth and Ben join us with their little boy. Isabel and I give Ben and Ruth one of the shares from our campaign earlier this evening. Ben rejects before I tell him it is for his son. It is not as if Isabel and I are short of money. Their son coming in the world prevented them from coming with us. We all explain to them how boring it really was, just sitting the jars and dropping one to explode the rest.
Bill laughing as he remembers says, “It was surprise seeing how large the explosion was, especially to the four drow who come to see why the gate had closed. They could not have been there more than two seconds before boom and they found themselves in the afterlife.”
Gabriel begins laughing and says, “The last group through the gate did not even turn around just start to run south as fast as they could, as if hell itself was chasing them.”
Ben finally laughs and says, “By the time they get to their encampment and spread the story how the gate was destroyed their going to be so scared of their own shadow. If we let them march to within a mile of Dead Man’s Pass and then set off a large enough explosion to take out the first two or three ranks. The rest will try to run back and dig the gate out.”
Sparrow laughs and says, “I doubt it still exist, but if they run that far I think I can make a gate to send them home if Isabel and Julius helps. Perhaps they will lose their love of war.”
With a smile I say, “Of course we will help, it would be much easier to allow them to retreat never to return. It would really be nice for them to lose their love of war too.”
Father not so lighthearted says, “It may be best just to end their miserable lives. I sought to end their leadership, we know they never return and under fifty years. Nevertheless, here they are again on our doorstep a large number of them returned to their world obviously. The only thing different now is there is no gate to our world. They do not bring their females, so no matter if, it is long or short, their race is doomed. We have on this world our own drow to deal with, that will be hard enough.”
King Sky sharing my father’s point says, “The drow are not alone, they are many dark men who follow them, the men who chosen to worship the same Gods as the drow.”
His words bring back a memory and I say, “The ships Isabel and I destroyed, the men aboard were dark men. Their souls were evil and black as the gods they worship.”
Father asks, “Those who were in Edmonton where those also dark men?”
I answer father, “Some were, although most only served those that were. The necromancer and the soul that inhabited Duke Duncan definitely was a dark man. If they all were dark men, their coming would been too easily detected. Most humans have some darkness within them, unfortunately. However, most humans recognize their own darkness and fight against it. The dark men embrace their darkness fighting against the light within themselves.”
King Sky looking directly at Eldeone says, “That is true for the elves as well. Fortunately, humans and elves have very little darkness in them to start. It is easy for the light within them to defeat their own darkness.”
Granite smiles as he looks at us. In a soft voice for him he says, “The dwarves long ago, battled the darkness within ourselves. Living underground and having darkness within is difficult. We nearly fell to our own darkness that is when the goddess Jewel showed us how to create light within ourselves. We as a people won the fight. Our people no longer carry the darkness. Nevertheless, it was not an easy battle, and if it were not for the goddess Jewel far more would have fallen.”
Little Patrick stretches sleepily then lays his head against my chest as he closes his eyes. Granite chuckles before he says, “Little pup sleep well. Tomorrow is another day for us to share. Little pup has the right idea it is time for sleep. Out all you let the little fella sleep.”
Like normal little Patrick was the first awake. We had not even noticed the true luxury of our rooms until morning. A thick wool carpet was upon the floor of the bedchamber. Furniture even better and the bed is wider, than what we had in New Cowan. Off the main bedroom, a deep set of closets, a bath with the shower and a bathing pool. Excellently made cribs in the elfish style hold the twin girls. In his own room, Patrick has a dresser with in a closet, his bed nearly as wide as ours in New Cowan, a chair in the corner with a table. Outside our bedchamber is a medium-sized but comfortable room, set of couches, with a few comfortable high backed chairs. The furniture seems to be a blend of all three cultures the chairs are elfish design, the couches human design, the tables of dwarf’s design, others would find it strange that all three designs complement each other.
The high priestess of each race greets us at our door, we know each except for the dwarf high priestess and her name is Dawn. It is rather common that the priestesses of the goddess have names that referred to her. It is rather a unique name for a dwarf, they live underground and some never have seen the sun, let alone a dawn.
On our way down to breakfast, we meet Chisel who smiles at as brightly. He asks, “How did you like the waterfall bath?”
I realize he means the shower, dwarves living underground call a rainstorm the waterfall from clouds. Smiling I replied, “It was most refreshing.” Isabel blushes because I spent the entire time we were within it caressing her body.
Chisel chuckles and says, “I wish I could remember making them. Me wife already wants me to add one to me home.”
Isabel smiles and says, “Ask the goddess perhaps she was share the knowledge with you again.”
Dawn the dwarf high priestess hands Chisel of parchment. As he unfurls it, she says, “The goddess knew of your wife’s wish and has provided you the knowledge you would request.”
Chisel smiles and says, “Perhaps this knowledge will create a new house among our people. I will need to make a copy for the great library. Please excuse me.”
The three priestesses giggle as Chisel runs back to his room. Dawn the dwarf high priestess says, “In a few years all of Undermount will have plumbing. Chisel is correct. A new house will be formed called Plumbers among the dwarves. Their profession will require the aid of either human or elf wizard. Our high Council will change some things, allowing other races to visit Undermount.”
I ask a question of Dawn, “How is it that I am allowed to travel freely in the dwarves’ tunnels?”
Dawn smiles, “Granite’s orders, and the Counsel named you dwarfing on your seventeenth year, after standing at the shoulder of our King in battle, defending his life with your own.”
I chuckle and say, “Of course, I would defend him with my life. The goddess has given me great men to educate me. First was a simple farmer who I only know as Daddy, he taught me humility and kindness is a strength. The next was my uncle Justin, who taught me power no matter great was not absolute. Granite has been like my own father in many ways, he taught me patience, forgiveness, and the ax. Then the goddess restored my birthright, and reintroduced me to my father. By his example even before meeting him, he taught me that a great leader sacrifice much for his people.”
Continuing I say, “They all taught me that a father’s love is a precious thing. They show pride in me, even King Sky, something I would never do anything to tarnish. Isabel and I are the messengers of the goddess. As the messengers we serve all three races, all of the goddess’ children.”
Jewel says, “Isabel kiss your husband for the goddess. Julius kiss Isabel for the goddess.”
Isabel hands Ines to Jewel, and Carissa to Dawn, little Patrick moves to stand beside Dawn the dwarf high priestess, and they give each other a warm hug. Isabel and I embrace each other giving each other a passionate kiss. The glow seems to surround us before moving both up and down the stairwell filling the entire temple with the light of the goddess.
When we finally break our kiss, the three priestesses giggle escorting us to breakfast. Entering the dining hall, there are two head tables Father and Granite are giving the telling of our mission the day before. Ben walks over to us, leading us to a table near the King’s table. After Father and Granite finish the story, Ben turns to me and says, “A boring mission right.”
Laughing I say, “It had a bit of suspense, then a little excitement when we dropped the jar.”
Ruth giggles and says, “To hear your father described the ruins they were nearly as large as New Cowan. Now nothing remains after twenty jars explode within their heart.”
Isabel shrugs her shoulders and says, “Perhaps not quite as large as New Cowan, but near. We will need no more than four carpets with crates for the jars to deal with the ships.”
In a quiet voice, I tell Ben, “Look around Ben, there is no fear or worry now. Remember when Gabriel gave the news. How different the faces in this place look to those in the fallen Oak. They see us not as defeated like before, now hope and confidence has displaced despair. It has done more for our victory than anything before.”
Ben looks around then slowly nods his head, as a smile crosses his face. Ruth embraces her husband and gives him a kiss as she says, “Our son will live to grow into a man, my husband.”
Isabel smiles before she says, “The two of you will give him brothers and sisters.”
I realize Ben worries too much, but he does a good job of keeping Isabel and I out of trouble. He sees all the bad things that could come and strives for us to avoid them. He is our true friend and protector. Ben does for me, what I do for the world.
Eldeone smiles and says, “Our actions did not seem so great before, it seemed as what needed doing.”
Jewel giggles, “Spoken like a true hero. Heroes never see their actions as heroic only as necessary.”
Eldeone chuckles and says, “It seems like I was only along for the ride, although I did help place jars.”
I smile and say, “If we had taken longer, you would have to strike down a drow mage. From all the stories, I understand it is not an easy thing.”
Eldeone says, “My sword will taste the blood of the dark ones, sooner or later I will be forced to fight.”
Ben says, “That is assured, but now hope rules where despair did before. We will win this fight together.”
That seemed to set the tone, for not only us but also our entire continent. The three races came together working for our common good.
Be found out of our other seven allies only two were free of the dark influences. Those two were the weakest, and we provided them more in defense than they could us. Therefore, the victory rested on our shoulders.
The only good thing we realized as we watch the port of Izmira that the enemy was gathering their entire forces to move against us. Each day more and more ships arrived, and fewer departed. Now hundreds of ships were in the harbor of Izmira, so many ships were there that others harbor nearby in sheltered coves.
We knew the time drew near, as they begin to load their ships with provisions. It may take weeks before they finish, but I fear that our time is less than what we need.
Isabel and I, along with sparrow have trained many wizards on how to control carpets, Isabel and I have created many in taught others to do the same. Each day new supplies arrive, carpets made by the elves arrive for us to enchant, and arrows and other supplies arrived by the Shipload.
The islands’ forest totally consumed except that the mages replace trees taken. Carpets from the house of Morgan arrive daily carrying the more crucial items. Among the items they carry are the chemicals for the alchemist, the jars, and more food.
Eldeone got a shock. He really likes the dwarves cooking. He and Granite found they both had more in common because of that. I simply said to Eldeone, “It is good to try something new, a few hundred years of eating the same food has to be boring.”
They both found that they like human dishes as well. Humans tend to use different herbs than the elves, making even a similar item like beef or venison taste very different.
Our time in discovery proved too short. We watched as the last ship was loaded, and troops begin to embark, by the map we could since they were all dark men or drow. We knew they would depart on the coming tide. It would give them the deepest draft through the Straits. We had five crates ready, loaded with the shark fins jars.
Gabriel and Bill had their archers ready, ten large carpets holding fifty archers each. Each archer with two hundred arrows at their disposal, along with special arrows magically enchanted to burn through the decks and planks leaving gaping holes in a ship.
It was just past the winter solstice, and the coldest part of the year in New Cowan. North of dead man’s pass the orcs huddled in their encampments. None of their encampments was more than a few thousand orcs, but their fire seen from east horizon to the west. Camped among the orcs where the drow, their rich looking tents a stark contrast to the orcs. The weather there have been cold, and they show no sign of moving until it warmed.
As the first ships departed, we loaded the crates knowing we had a couple hours until the first ships would reach the near end of the Straits of Izmira. Sparrow handed each of us a small mirror, only four inches across with a smile he said, “Each carpet’s commander will have a mirror, and we will coordinate our strikes.”
I began our briefing before we depart knowing we have an hour. I say, “Today we will face the dark ones. The enemy that come in ships to our lands to destroy our people are dark men and drow. They would show us no mercy. Keep your carpets out of their range, rain death upon them by jar or arrow. When they are their most vulnerable, we will strike. Strike them not in hatred. We do this for the love of our people they deserve our protection. Make your shots clean, and their deaths quick. We are few but we are powerful, together we stand, together we fight together we will be victorious!”
Those assembled shout, “TOGETHER, TOGETHER, TOGETHER!”
We climb aboard our carpets. Sparrow and I open to teleport spells, and the carpets fly through each in two columns.
Sparrow, Brook, Bill, Ben and Ruth are bored one carpet along with a group of archers. Gabriel, Martin and Samuel are bored another carpet with a crate of jars. Gabriel seems have a talent at hitting his mark when directing the two big man. A group of archers also rides with them.
Isabel and I, Eldeone, Chisel and Granite are on one carpet. The carpet is a brilliant red and easy to see even from a great distance. We are to direct the fire from the others carpets, and draw the fire away from them. Eldeone will direct the two dwarves to throw the jars at the proper time. Chisel and Granite insisted on coming, the dwarves having no other representatives in this battle. I warned that the dwarves would have too much responsibility in holding dead man’s pass. Nevertheless, the two are here.
The first ships near the exit of the Straits, one slows to allow the other all of the narrowest part of the channel. Isabel and I dive our carpet moving very quickly we passed by the side of the ship both on leasing lightning bolts that ripped the ship’s planking away. We change our course quickly avoiding the arrows fired from the other ship as the first sinks coming to rest in the center of the channel. The sunken ship’s rigging nearly thirty feet above the water. Several bright colored flags now show on the second ship.
Instead of diving on the ship, Isabel and I fly a crossed had a very high altitude. Eldeone directs Chisel and Granite to toss one of the jars at the proper time, the other carpets are moving into position, three are moving to the rear of the column that enter the straight shortly. The jar hits a deck hatch and it buckles as the jar crashes through. Beneath the deck, an explosion lifts the ship nearly three feet from the water. That ship is on the bottom faster than the one Isabel and I attacked. The third ship of the column tries to sail past, only to be struck by jar when is directly beside the second ship. It sinks quickly and further jams the channel closed.
We can hear explosions from the rear of the column, and rigging seem to sink only a few feet still dragging the ship across the bottom of the channel. There is a wide area in the middle, and ship seemed to try to turn only to run into each other. Cries of panic mark were ships damaged so badly they begin to sink. Now explosions ring out from near the center of the straight, and the panic increases. Some ships tried to lower lifeboats, only to have other ships smash into their side destroying their small craft.
Our archers seem to zero in on the helmsman. Those ships strike the reef having their bottom ripped from them. Some seem to tumble back into the channel their rigging catching other ships. Our enemy is in a panic, there crews abandoning perfectly good ships, the panic sailors preferring to brave the reefs to the unknown enemy.
The battle goes on for a while possibly two hours; very few ships choose to surrender raising a white flag after setting their anchor. Those few ships we ignore. At the end of the battle, we gather our carpets. Upon our gathering, a huge wave crosses the straight caring all ships towards the land. Those at anchor lifted smoothly and deposit inside the reef. Those wrecked seem to choke the channel even more. None of the large ships will be able to sell through for a very long time.
If our carnage had not been bad enough, those who braved the reef now find themselves under attack by sharks. Dark man and drow alike find no shelter from the sharks. We leave them to the faith the gods have chosen for them. Again, Sparrow and I cast our spell of teleportation and we are again above Hound Island.
Landing on the large square, Granite and Chisel happily depart the carpet. As just before we left, the assembled shout, “TOGETHER, TOGETHER, TOGETHER VICTORY!”
Those gathered to see our arrival echo our cheer.
Father and King Sky call for silence from the steps of the palace. When the gathered crowd following fall silent father begins, “Today we won a great victory. This day shall always be known as our first victory in the name of the allies. All three races took part. All three races can claim victory together!”
The cheer rings out from the assembled, “TOGETHER, TOGETHER, TOGETHER VICTORY!”
Father and King Sky again call for silence. When the gathered crowd is silent, King Sky begins his speech, “Today our enemy has seen our true power. They found themselves wanting against it. Together we will use that power. Together we will find victory again. Together we will end these cycles of war. Together we will have a final victory and a peace that will last long past our grandchildren’s time.”
The assembled cheer loudly again, “TOGETHER, TOGETHER, TOGETHER VICTORY!”