The Guardians of Atlantis in:
The Devil's Iceberg
Brandon Dragoncove pulled the cork from his wineskin and took a long drink. There are few constants in this world, the old warrior mused. Nations rise and fall, soldiers live and die, wizards tear down mountains so other wizards can set them back up again. Life is change, and life is constantly changing, always seeking the new and destroying the old.
But the fruit of the vine goes merrily on. Year after year, its effect is the same, and in fact, time and age only changes it for the better.
There was a moral in all that, if only Brandon could think of it.
Brandon placed a few gold pieces on the counter. "Thanks for taking a look at my armor," he said to the blacksmith. "I'll be back by to pick it up in the morning. And thanks for the information about Morgon."
He stepped out of the blacksmith shop and into the bright sunlight. This was a small town, not very busy, although there were quite a few people here in the market square. They were a seedy-looking bunch, rogues and brigands, rough outlaws in an outlaw town. Brandon knew their kind well.
Kayleny was an outpost in the wilds of Atlantea. The western most tip of the peninsula of Biscay, Atlantea was a rugged land, surrounded on three sides by the Atlantic Ocean from which it took its name. It had started out as a beautiful kingdom, a hundred and fifty years ago, but it had fallen on hard times. Now it was a haven for thugs, thieves, mercenaries and criminals of all sorts.
Brandon knew better than to stand out in a town like this. Not that he looked in any way different from any other grizzled, battle hardened warrior, in plain, dusty clothes, wearing a scuffed and well-used sword at his side. He was a bit taller than the norm, well over six feet tall, but he had no reason to be imposing. He weaved along the main street, stumbling as if slightly drunk, apparently paying no attention to his surroundings.
He had noticed Foryncia, however. The young girl was at a nearby stall, buying some herbs. She was a tiny thing, a child, apparently, draped in a hooded cloak. A few curls of blonde hair could be seen peeking out from under the hood, but that only made her seem more like a lost waif, out of place in a rough, unruly town like this one.
So far she had managed to blend in, as no one payed much attention to orphans wandering the streets. A couple of men near the herb vendor's stall had noticed her, however, and were whispering amongst themselves. Brandon stepped closer, without making it obvious what he was doing. The largest of them seemed to be the leader, a huge warrior in chain mail, and he was watching Foryncia with suspicion in his eyes.
Before Brandon could get any closer, the big man slipped up behind Foryncia and grabbed her cloak. He pulled, and the hooded cloak fluttered away. She was indeed a young girl, no more than thirteen, her slender, reed-thin frame draped in a silvery-blue robe. And the sunlight lit up her golden mane, making it shine like a halo around her head. But it was her pointed ears that the huge warrior was looking at.
"I told you," he told his friends. "A damn elf!" He sneered at Foryncia. "We don't like your kind here, elf!"
Foryncia took a step back. She glanced back at the vendor, but he was closing up his stall. "I'm just buying a few things," she said. "And then I'll be on my way."
"Herbs to do your witchcraft, elf?" the man said. "To cast your curses on this town?"
"I'm not going to curse anyone," Foryncia answered. "I'm just waiting for a friend to show up, and then we're moving on."
"You don't have any friends here, elf," one of the other men said. He fingered the satiny fabric of her gown. Forynica glanced around at the men, her enourmous eyes darting quickly from one to another. But while there was worry and caution in her eyes, there was no fear. Only anticipation.
Brandon prepared to draw his sword, but another voice cut through the murmur of the crowd. "Leave th' wee lassie be." The crowd thinned away, revealing a tall man in a Scottish kilt. "She hasna dun nothin' ta ye."
"Stay out of this," the first man said. "This has nothing to do with you."
"Ay, but ye'r big strong men, then, pickin' on a wee girl. If it's a fight ye ken, I can give ye quite a one."
"What are you, an elf lover?" One of the other men stepped forward, his sword at the ready. "You think I'm afraid of a man wearing a dress?"
"Ye've never met a Scotsman, have ye? Me name is Angus Buchanon, lad, an I'll be glad ta teach ye the fear o' man i' the kilt..."
The Scotsman charged, swinging his Claymore. This Angus Buchanon had skill on his side, Brandon noted, and a sizable weapon, which he handled well. He was also a fairly large man, bigger than the fellow who was attacking him. Brandon slipped around to the back of the group. Foryncia was backing away, waiting for the right moment to make her escape.
She had been spotted, however. "Going somewhere elf?" the big leader of the group asked. He reached out to grab her arm. In the space of a heartbeat, the elf girl had leaped backwards, a dagger materializing in her hand, as if from nowhere. She slashed across the man's hand, leaving behind a deep gash.
"You little bitch!" one of the man's friends said. He lunged forward, only to stagger backwards, as a second dagger appeared in his eye socket. He screamed in pain, falling to the ground. Foryncia continued to back away, a third dagger in her left hand held ready to be thrown, while her right hand still brandished the fighting dagger.
The leader of the group swung at Foryncia, but then feinted and slashed back to the left. The blow caught the elf girl across the head, and she fell to the ground. Brandon drew his broadsword, preparing to rush forward, but before he could act, another man had stepped from the crowd. This was a tall, lean man in a black robe, and he snapped out an incantation, blasting the warrior back with a barrage of white energy.
The men quickly turned on the newcomer, but he was remarkably skilled in hand to hand combat. He was able to block several of the men's blows with his staff, and then disarmed another with a strange move of his hand, and then a shoulder throw that left the man stunned on the ground. Brandon made a note of the attack. It was almost magical the way the man had moved, fluid and graceful.
The Scotsman, meanwhile, was taking on the warriors from behind. Brandon charged into the middle of the fray, and Foryncia's attackers were quickly routed. The fellow with the staff twirled it as the men fled from him, and brought it to rest under his arm. One of the warriors had gathered up his friend with the injured eye, and helped him to escape.
Brandon reached down to help Foryncia up, and her huge sapphire blue eyes met his. She took his hand, and got to her feet. Brandon again found himself marvelling at her startling eyes, far larger than any human's eyes could ever be, larger even than those of the other elves he had known. They were almost unnerving, although Foryncia didn't seem to be aware of the effect they had on him.
"Thanks, Brandon", Foryncia said. "And thanks to the two of you, as well." She glanced at the Scotsman, and then at the man in black who had defended her. "If you hadn't shown up when you did, I might have been badly hurt before Brandon could get to me."
"I am not sure about that, young lady," the man answered. "You are quite deadly with those daggers. Are you really an elf? I don't mean to offend, but to tell the truth, I've never seen one before."
"Ne'er seen one afore?" The Scotsman asked. "An' where ha' ye been, laddie?"
"No, it's understandable. Many people of Biskay have never seen an elf, since our people left that country a hundred years ago." She extended a hand to the man. "And what is your name, sir?"
"You can call me Malfread," the man said. He ran a hand through his black hair, then took her hand. "I am a wizard by trade, but with a lot to learn. I understand that elves are masters of magic."
"I've studied magic most of my life," Foryncia agreed, "but even I still have much to learn. Maybe we can help each other."
"You are remarkably skilled with the staff, my friend," Brandon added. "I could not help but notice how well you handle yourself in combat. Not like a wizard at all."
Malfread looked at him. "I was a soldier for a couple of years before I... discovered magic. It's awfully hard to cast a spell while surrounded by attackers. Bit of a shame, that. May I ask your name?"
"Brandon Dragoncove. This is my ally, Foryncia. We are here in this town investigating the legend of Morgon, who is said to be alive here."
"Ah, yes, Morgon, I have heard of him. He was said to be a great wizard. I came to see if there was anything I could learn from him."
"Nothing but evil and corruption," Foryncia said, studying Malfread carefully. To Brandon's surprise, he didn't flinch at her penetrating stare. "Morgon was known as Morgon the Foul Mouthed, because of his crude tongue, but his heart was equally as foul. Many humans and elves died at his hands."
"Indeed. I hadn't heard that part of the story yet, forgive me. But perhaps there is still knowledge to be gained." He looked at Brandon. "Would you mind my help in defeating this Morgon?"
"We could use as much help as we can get," Brandon said. "And what about you, Lord Buchanon?"
"Angus, please," the Scotsman said. "I hav'na heard tell o' this Morgon you speak of, but I'll be glad to join ye."
Brandon pointed out past the docks, towards a chain of islands, just barely visible out in the bay. Far in the distance, at the end of the chain, a bright point of light shone, like a beacon. "That is the island the locals call 'The Devil's Iceberg'. The light from it can be seen for miles around. It is said to be a huge crystal island, although none of the locals will admit to going there. It's said to be haunted, or inhabited by demons."
"According to some legends, Morgon the Foul Mouthed came here, to Kayleny, to hide out when he neared the end of his unnatural life. It is said that he lives there still, waiting for the time when he will arise again to wreak his evil on the world."
"Yes. It is said he came to the Devil's Iceberg because he found a great power there. I wonder what that power is?"
"Probably just superstition," Brandon answered. "We're just here to find out if Morgon is still alive. If he is not, then we will make sure his henchmen and his plans are put to rest as well. If he is... well, the world believes him dead, and we will do the best we can to make sure that's the truth."
"Do ye plan ta do this jus' the four o' us?" Angus asked.
"We have other allies as well," Brandon answered, "waiting at the docks. We split up to gather some supplies, but we should be meeting them soon."
"Then we'll go wi' ye," Angus said. "This looks like a good bit o' fun..."
Brandon started to lead his two new allies down towards the docks, but Foryncia was hanging behind. She was looking not down towards the dock, but in the other direction. Above the city, stretching back as far as the horizon, was a stark, rocky mountain range, its jagged peaks reaching for the very sky.
She looked at him. The size of her eyes was a little unnerving, Brandon mused, but what was most disquieting was the intelligence there. Even in elven terms, Foryncia was a child, just barely on the way to becoming an adult, physically. Yet, she was well over a hundred years old. She had knowledge, experience, far more than what Brandon could learn over his entire lifetime. It was in those enourmous eyes that that knowledge could sometimes be seen.
Most of the time, she kept it hidden, as she laughed and played like any youngster. Only every now and then did she let it out.
"What's the matter?" Brandon asked.
Foryncia sighed. "There is magic here. Strong magic. Old magic. Far older than any I have ever felt before. And wild, untamed." She looked up at the mountains in the distance. This rocky section of Atlantea was a bleak, craggy landscape of cliffs, rocks, and crashing waves. Inland, the land wasn't much more hospitable.
"Far older than Morgon. Far older than any wizard." She stared off into the distance. "It may be what drew Morgon here, though, just as Malfread said." She looked at him. "I dread to think what any man might do with this power."
Malfread raised an eyebrow, as if there was an unspoken challenge in Foryncia's words. "We had better stop this Morgon then. Assuming he is still alive to channel this power..."
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