Tervine's Travels, continued
Night. The only light around was moonlight, still full and silvery, but neither Sarabine nor myself needed much in the way of illumination; she had her elven infravision, whilst I was receiving visual messages from a (ahem) Tervine's Magus-Eye spell, trained on the bedchamber of Gerram Lendor. The Sergeant had retired for the night less than an hour before, and was apparently sleeping soundly. I was beginning to doubt my intuition when he sat bolt upright in bed, his face as blank as stone and his eyes resembling those of a stranger. My particular variant of Wizard Eye allowed me to see magical auras; in my vision the Sergeant's body was fairly crawling with sorcerous energies; so, he had been ensorcelled, and by a most potent spell indeed!
As I watched, Lendor dressed himself and then moved towards an oak wardrobe; reaching inside, he opened an ingeniously-concealed panel in the back, taking out a cloak, a leather mask., and a small metal box, from which he removed a pearl-encrusted sword hilt. The light of the moon caused the pearls to glow as he held the hilt up to the window, and suddenly a blade of moonlight sprang into existence. If I had ever had any doubts about the killer's identity, this dispelled them once and for all.
On his way out of the house, Lendor grasped a small sack from behind the door, then marched purposely towards the Hammerspan. We followed at a discreet distance, using the Magus-Eye to keep track of Lendor. As we neared the Bridge, I "saw" him duck into a narrow side-alley, press a concealed button in the wall, and disappear through a cunningly-hidden doorway, which closed behind him. This was done so quickly and efficiently that it would have shaken off any normal pursuit; fortunately, we were far from normal. I cast Invisibility and See Invisible spells over each of us - to allow communication between us - opened the secret door, and quietly followed Lendor down into the dark.
The passage led to a smallish basement, which was bare apart from two chairs and a rough wooden table; Lendor was joined here by another hooded figure. I noticed the new figure's hands; soft and slender, unused to physical work - without a doubt, this man was a wizard! Lendor handed the sack he had brought to the Mage, who reached inside and drew forth a severed female head. I heard Sarabine trying to repress a scream. I felt more than a little queasy myself. The pair left the room by another door, and we hastened to follow.
We walked softly down numerous corridors and passages, moving ever downwards, deeper into the earth. My Magus-Eye spell had long since worn off, and I relied on Sarabine's elven eyes to guide me. We could no longer see those we followed, but their footsteps echoed back softly in the darkness. Eventually, we emerged in a huge, circular room - almost a cavern - which was lit by dozens of smoking torches, fitted in sconces around the walls. In the centre was a raised platform with steps leading up to it, which was where Lendor and the Mage had gone. Atop the platform was a large summoning circle, similar to those I had myself used in the past, save for its bewildering intricacy. Spaced evenly around it, their sightless eyes facing inwards, were the heads of those Lendor had slain. Each had an arcane symbol drawn on the forehead in blood; I watched the nameless Mage do the same to the twelfth and final head, before placing it in the last remaining position on the circle. While Lendor watched impassively, I saw the mage walk slowly around the circle, whispering words of magic and touching each head in turn.
I nearly cried out loud. Of course! Now I realised what the heads were for! I recognised this spell, from descriptions given in Terari's library in Karameikos - Orfeo's Choir, an ancient Taymoran enchantment, designed to call up and bind foul denizens of Entropy. This must be stopped at all costs! I turned to Sarabine and, whispering, told her to get as close as possible to the circle; once there, she must use the Locket Scrollbook I gave her days ago - she would know which spell to use - and wait for the right time. She nodded silently, and moved around the dais.
By this time, the Mage had finished the enchantment and the heads had animated, their mouths picking up the chant and their eyes shining with unnatural light; there was little time left. I tried to move closer, but a sudden alarm sounded. Drat! I must have triggered a ward of some kind. The Mage span on his heels and, gabbling familiar words, hurled a Dispel Magic at me, cancelling my Invisibility. Seen, I desperately tried to cast a Hold Person spell, but he was faster; before I could complete the spell, I was in the grip of both a Silence 15' Radius enchantment and the muscular arms of Lendor, who had moved to intercept me while I was occupied.
It is my experience that, much of the time, my fellow spellcasters cannot resist gloating over captive foes, and this one was no different. "Fool!" he spat, from outside the circle of Silence. "You come too late, as usual!"
("As usual"? I could swear I had never seen this fellow before...either I had forgotten the encounter, or he was several denarii short of a lucin!)
The madman continued. "Within mere minutes," he said, "I will be the undisputed master of the Minrothad Guilds. Can you see it, within the circle? A creature from the black pits of Entropy, and I shall be its Master!"
"And how shall you pay it?" I countered - or tried to, but the Silence stole my words. Nevertheless, he must have read my lips, for he sneered nastily and said, "Why, the traditional way, of course - by blood sacrifice. My lovely Fiend shall have a double feast, now that you are here - although I think you will go less willingly than my primary sacrifice. Isn't that so, my sleepwalker?"
This he addressed to the enspelled Sergeant Lendor, behind me. Lendor made no response of any kind, but I felt his hand spasm on my wrists. Could the enchantment be wearing off? I prepared myself for any chance of freedom.
Within the circle, the light grew brighter; the Gate was taking form. The keening of the heads was reaching a climax, and my captor was involved in a lengthy diatribe against those who had slighted and ignored him, from the Masters at Glantri's Great School of Magic to the Khans of Ethengar to the Grand Council of lost Alphatia. I felt Lendor shuddering and shaking behind me; there could be no doubt, the spell upon him had run its course. It was now or never; I wrenched free of his hands, tore open my shirt, and touched the gemstone I had lodged in my navel four days ago, in preparation for just such an eventuality. At my touch, the gem dissolved into powder, releasing the Anti-Magic Shell enchantment bound within it - and dispelling the Silence which held me. Free! As my captor noticed my freedom, I leapt at him, shouting "Now!" at the top of my lungs.
On the far side of the circle, a musical elven voice spoke words of magic; Sarabine appeared with the unfolded Scrollbook in her hands, pointing her finger at the nearest head. As she completed the spell, it Disintegrated; the remaining heads screamed discordantly as the unnatural light in their eyes died. In the moment before it vanished, I saw a monstrous shape writhe within the Gate - we had been not a moment to soon.
The Mage was also screaming, in frustration and despair; the backlash from the failed spell had evidently shattered his sanity. He would be no further threat. I turned instead to Sergeant Lendor, lying unconscious on the floor. As Sarabine joined me, he groaned and stirred, opening his eyes...and blinking in confusion. "Master Culver? Captain Meditor? How came I here? Come to that," he said, sitting up groggily, "where is 'here'?"
I looked at Sarabine, then back at Lendor. "Well, Sergeant," I said, rubbing my chin, "this may take awhile. Why don't we adjourn to your office? We have a miscreant here to incarcerate, and we can tell you all about it on the way..."
17 Fyrmont, 1013: I have finally returned to my lodgings at the end of a long, tiring day. Lendor officially took the mage - one Jomir Heros of Glantri, by name - into custody, and asked Sarabine and myself to accompany him to Meditor Hall, there to present the facts of the case to the Ruling Guild Master, Oran Meditor. That alone took several hours, during which I formally examined Sergeant Lendor for any remaining vestiges of Heros's enchantment (which was identified as a powerful Glantrian spell known as Sleepwalk). When we returned to Lendor's office, we found it full of weeping citizens, who had come to identify the heads of their deceased. It was then I remembered Sarabine's own sister had been one of the victims, and delicately asked if she would like me to go with her as she looked for the right head. She gave me a sad smile, and told me it was unnecessary, since she had already identified the head - it was the one she had Disintegrated back in the cavern. She had freed her sister to find Calitha's embrace. There was little I could say to that, so I accompanied Sarabine back to her ship in silence. Halfway there, however, she slipped her arm around my waist, laid her head on my shoulder, and even smiled at me. I think perhaps she will be all right, given time and care...of which I will do my best to supply.
So the mystery was solved, and the true murderer brought to justice; but there were still questions to be answered. How had Heros - a weak-willed, naturally lazy soul, by all accounts - come across a powerful spell such as Orfeo's Choir in the first place? Come to that, where had he acquired the moonlight sword used to commit the murders? I needed to find out more about both items, and the Sleepwalk spell too, which would require access to a really good magical library. Karameikos would not be sufficient, and Glantri might be dangerous, as it was Heros's old stomping-grounds. Alphatia would have been the best choice, of course, had it still existed. That was it: Aquas! I had heard that the undersea city had one of the finest libraries in the former Empire. I would write to its ruler, requesting permission to go there right away. I opened my bureau to get some paper and ink - and came across Calomon's letter, still unread. Had it been only five days? Well, I suppose I should see what the old war-horse wanted...
21 Fyrmont, 1013: I write this from the deck of the Fair Nancy,, now skirting the coast of Thyatis on its way to Norwold, and the city of Alpha. The ship makes good time, but I am filled with a sense of urgency. Calomon's letter convinced me to embark with all due haste; I only hope I am in time...
To be continued in Tome Issue #3...
Copyright 1999, Carl Quaif. All rights reserved. Used by permission.