To Everna and Beyond!

An exploration of Fantasy and Science Fiction Worlds in literature and multimedia entertainment
The official blog and novelblog for Evernade Saga and FireHeart Saga by Andry Chang

"Come forth, Paladins! Fulfill your destiny!"

Explore Worlds in Clicks

FireHeart Highlights!

Monday, July 31, 2006

Nations in Aurelia - Arcadia















The Bounty Hunter's Guide to Aurelia

Name : Arcadia – Kingdom (Empire in episode 2 and 3)

Location : East of Escudia, border to Borgia and Grad Mountain Range

Major Cities :

Myrcalia (Capital), Concorcea, Vochaux, Redne, Xenticen, La Porte, Medellar, Uvarse

Resources : Rich soil, lumber, forests, minerals

Specialities : Gems, wine and high quality iron

Economy : Farming, commerce, mining

Ruler : Ep1 King Gregory VII the Cruel

Ep2 Emperor Sage I the Fireheart

Emperor Sage II the Avenger

(history) Emperor Sage III the Wise

Ep3 Emperor Sage IV the Obliterator

Model Base : France in our world

Major Creatures : Griffin, a few goblin tribes, evil eye, giant spider, manticore

Legendary : Aegis the Phoenix or the Thunder Bird

Description :

The richest, most populated nation in Aurelia continent strives in capitalization, economy and commerce. But despite of the good economy, the kingdom is being destroyed from within – corruption and filthy politics of the government, and the harrassment from monsters. The first hunter guild, Cescathon (later named Fireheart), was found in Arcadia, and until now is known for giving large rewards for hunters and escorts to tackle monsters and bandits. The Griffin Riders from Arcadian Highlands are known as the legendary protectors of the land, and there are rumors that certain near-extinct Phoenixes live in Mount Gryveil near Grad.

Nations in Aurelia - Bresconnor















Name : Bresconnor - Kingdom

Location : North of Borgia, border to Gremion and Regia

Major Cities : Barc’vardon (Capital), Llomvard, Caen

Resources : Some agriculture, trading, cattle, meadows & plains

Specialities : Jigdha’uthul swamplands, monster hunters’ paradise

Economy : Farming and trading in the earliest stages

Ruler : Ep1 (conquered by Gremion)

Ep2 (at war with Gremion, led by Nathan van Kreulen)

Ep3 King Chivron van Kreulen

Model Base : Netherlands in our world

Major Creatures : Gavials, marsh folks, Uthul frogs, giant ants, dire wolves.

Legendary : Schkumann, Lord of the Bogs, god of the gavials.

Description : (as described in FireHeart – Paladins book two – chapter 8)

As evening comes the next day, the streets in Barc’vadon, the capital of the Kingdom of Bresconnor are dark – except the dim candle lights from the houses and buildings there. It’s a grim city, no doubt about that, with grim-faced, rude people living there. Most of the buildings are shabby and some of them are even beyond repair and in the brink of collapse.

Many said the condition in this ‘grim slum city’ is the outcome from a nation ruled by corrupt, tyrant nobles and an incompetent king, Chivron van Kreulen. Because of high taxes and lack of resources, the people of Bresconnor only want to survive. They don’t give a damn whatsoever about honor, justice, aesthetics and the good of the society. They are nothing but selfish, dumb and violent brutes, the exact contrary with the lavish landlords.

Reference : A Bounty Hunter's Guide to Aurelia

Friday, July 28, 2006

Christopher the Knight - Characters


Christopher the Knight
Originally uploaded by vadis.


Class : Swordsman > Knight

Status : Novice Hunter > Hunter

Rank : None

Race : Human

Nation : Arcadia

First Weapon : Wyrthal – Long Sword, Raven Shield

First Armor : Traveller’s Tunic => Half-Plate => Full Field Plate

Guardian : None (assisted by the Holy Power from Chiel the Micha)

Skills / Spells :

Sword Mastery with Light Property – Learned from Robert

Basic Sword Mastery :

Power Bash

Three-Point Chain Slash (Combo)

Cross Slash

Ten-Point Chain Slash (Combo)

Whirlwind Slash

Sword-Shield Counterslash

Jump Slash

Thursday, July 27, 2006

3.1.5.7. Enter : The Windwalker and The Bladedancer


Meanwhile, the prime suspect herself, Sheena Mekh’ta is walking along the path in the snowy forest at the slope of The Grad Mountains.

Sheena the Bladedancer is a tan-skinned woman, which indicates that she was really born in the hot, desert-climate kingdom of Meshallah. She’s beautiful, and her face also shows toughness, determination, and menace. Her body is muscly, scarred from her past experiences as a corsair (a Meshallan pirate). What’s really astonishing of her is, she walks down the snowy mountain only wearing her breastpads and dancing skirt. Her brown hair is tied on the top knot. Overall, we can say that she’s a tough girl and it’s better to befriend her than to be her enemy.

Speaking of friends, she’s not alone. A troop of about twenty bandits follow her. Also following her are the rogue bounty hunters that taunted Christopher and Carolyn before the Lumien Troll Hunt, Baxter the skinny archer and Ellephar the fat pikeman. It seems that they have given up bounty hunting and join the bandits instead – the natural targets for bounty hunters.

Actually, all this time they worked as bandits and bounty hunters at the same time, before their shady business was found out and reported to the hunters’ guild by none other than Robert Chandler, right after their taunts, insults and efforts to swindle Carolyn and Christopher. The guild launched a thorough investigation, and about a month later Baxter and Ellephar’s bounty hunting licenses were revoked.

Now they are fugitives and they rejoined their former gang under their former boss, Sheena Mekh’ta full time for protection.

Baxter seems relieved to be finally out of the snow, and he talks, ‘Whew! ‘twas one tough stealin’, guys. Dunno how many of those little guys in there. We were stuck, but our boss Sheena, man, a real deal stealth machine, she is! She infiltrated the castle, totally undetected. Grabbed the loot, planted the decoy, and then ‘whoosh’ outta there!’

Ellephar responds, ‘Uh-huh.’

‘And now, here it is.’ Baxter pats the bulging backpack at Ellephar’s back. ‘The moola. Boy, this thing alone can make us all retire young, retire rich, no!?’

‘Uh-huh.’

‘And now what, boss? Where are we going now?’

‘Uh-huh?’

‘Stop it, Ellephar! Your “uh-huh” makes me sick!’

‘D-uh...’

‘You two stop yapping! You don’t suppose to talk about job in the open, you nitwit!’ Sheena scolds them.

Baxter and Ellephar fret and only keep their heads low because they’re on Sheena’s payroll and protection. Sheena talks on.

‘And remember, we succeed because of the Grand Trow’s help, so we stole it with no casualties. They don’t care about this sign of old alliance, now the crusades are over and the undead are banished into the underworld. We’ll take a rest in the nearby town, and then we’ll set off to Escudia to find Don Hernan y Parvaez, and see if he likes a pair of greaves to go with his fancy breastplate... ‘

‘GYAAAARGHHH!!!’

‘What the hell...!’ Sheena is alarmed and draws her scimitars.

As she sees around, she spots one of her gang members laying face-down on the snowy ground, unmistakably dead. A deep dagger wound on his back indicates that he was backstabbed before he can even move a finger, and he was walking in the pack, not at the back.

Sheena makes a stance as though she is ready to counter any more sudden attacks. She senses that a master assassin is around, and she is the target.

She yells, ‘Show yourself! Or give me your best shot!’

There’s no response.

‘Come on! You want me, take me! Spare my men!’

It seems that the attacker is touched by this remark. His playful, threatening voice is heard from behind the leafless, snowy trees somewhere.

‘Impressive. A good leader, I like that. Don’t worry. It’s not you I want. Hand me the mythril greaves, and you’ll be spared.’

With no further thinking, Sheena yells, ‘No way!’

‘Ah, ah. It’s a waste to lose a beautiful natural leader like you. Had I targeted you earlier, you would be dead by now. Second chance. An admirer’s favor. Hand-me-the-greaves.’

‘Thanks but no thanks. I think I’ll keep it.’

This time the answer is not by the same voice as before, but a scream.

‘AAARRRGGG...!!!’

Again one bandit falls. His comrades only stand there in disbelief; they could’ve sworn that they only felt a gust of wind blowing on their backs. And in addition to their terrors, two people come walking to them, confidently and menacingly. One of them is a large, muscular man with short hair, well-trimmed, unusual-shaped beard, and double stripes tattooed on his cheeks and the nape of his neck. He’s bare-chested, and his torso is overly large in proportion with his head. And it’s so muscular and formidable as though he is made from iron. He wields a great iron maul, larger than normal mauls and extremely heavy.

And beside him is a sorceress. Her skin is pale and bluish white. Her hair is snowy white, and a bit shaggy, with side ends bent up. She has a diamond-like, luminous tattoo shaped like a frost particle on her forehead right between her eyes.

Her expression is icy cold, colder than Robert Chandler’s. Had anyone sees her for the first time he or she may think that Agustina is not a human, but an ice golem.

The voice comes again. ‘Meet my associates, Desmond Edmundsen and Agustina Vyrakova. Their feats were legendary in Bjordan and Val’shka. And they will be disappointed if I take all the fun alone.’

All the bandits are panic-stricken and two of them even pee in their pants, they’re too panicky to escape. Sheena, Baxter and Ellephar are standing in defense. They don’t dare to run away, fearing some more ‘backstabs from nowhere’. They need to be sure who their enemies are before they can even move their muscles. They stand back-to-back, guarding each other. Baxter and Ellephar are, naturally, trembling with fear.

‘Third chance. Wow, you surely hit the jackpot this time. No one ever survived after dropping the first chance they got – most of them even didn’t have a chance at all! So, what will it be?’

‘Over my dead body’, says Sheena.

‘Tut, tut. Wrong answer!’

No later than it’s said, Desmond Edmundsen the big berserker and Agustina Vyrakova the ice sorceress attack at once. Desmond runs but not forward, instead he moves to the left side of the enemies as though surrounding them so they can’t escape, giving Agustina a clear shot. Agustina casts her first spell Blizzard Blast by casting the mantra, ‘An Jokul’me Fyasch!’

A massive blizzard blows towards the bandits, sending altogether a storm of snow and sharp ice darts towards the bandits. The bandits become all rigid and nearly frozen at once.

Sheena and Ellephar protect themselves and Baxter by rotating their weapons in front of them that serve as shields to repel the blizzard. Baxter guard their backs, ready for sudden attacks from behind.

Suddenly Desmond comes from the left, charging with his great maul. And from the right, comes a hooded man with his twin daggers, charger towards them far quicker than Desmond. Desmond swings his great maul and it knocks several nearly-frozen bandits off their feet. The impact alone destroys their insides and breaking their bones. This effect is called Megaton Impact. The hooded man slashes his daggers around and stabs several bandits with great speed.

The freezing effect rendered the bandits immobile, and they became sitting ducks for Agustina’s partners. Within seconds, only Sheena, Baxter and Ellephar are left standing among their fallen comrades.

When Desmond moves to strike Sheena down, the hooded man extends his palm and yells, ‘STOP! Don’t kill them.’

Sheena, Baxter and Ellephar are confused. They remain standing back-to-back facing each of their opponents. The man who seems to be the leader of his party removes his hood, showing his dark-bluish skin, long, pointy ears, long purple hair that curves upwards on the tuft, and the sly expression on his face. He’s a night elf. A black, scary wolf head emblem is tattooed on the night elf’s left hand.

‘Kyflynn The Windwalker. I should’ve known.’ Sheena frowns and twitches her lips at the sight of him.

Kyflynn answers, ‘Right-o. The rogue night elf from Terranova himself. I suppose you won’t need this.’ He raises the bag containing the mythril greaves.

Ellephar just realizes that his backpack is missing. Kyflynn must’ve snatched it amidst the killing strike earlier. Baxter knocks Ellephar’s bald head. Ellephar’s dumbness and carelessness has cost them a fortune, their retirement ticket.

Sheena cannot believe her eyes as she says, ‘What are you DOING here? I thought you’re an assassin of principles. You only kill monsters, and bad people. What made you change now?’

Kyflynn laughs and answers, ‘Knock-knock. Yo-hoo! Bandits. See? Bad people. Besides that, I need these greaves. It provides extra protection and extremely light, so it won’t reduce my speed. My legs here are my most valuable assets.’

‘So, why didn’t you kill us then?’

‘Because you asked me to spare your men. I admire your heroism and leadership so I decided to spare you, Baxter and Ellephar instead.’

Ellephar reacts ‘Hey, he knows our names!’

Baxter slaps Ellephar’s head again, saying ‘Of course, bozo. He’s been spyin’ on us.’

This time Desmond talks, ‘Yes. Remember your good friend Blöin? He was with us too, providing us with all the necessary information to ambush you here.’

Baxter says with gritted teeth, ‘Why that double-crossin’... ‘

Agustina talks like an enchanted golem with female voice. ‘Send your complaints to the Grand Trow. But remember, those greaves are your reward, so it’ll be ridiculous to lose your reward on the way home, right?’

Sheena, Baxter and Ellephar cannot contain their disappointment with the double-crossing Grand Trow. Baxter is about to attack, but Sheena prevents him, saying ‘Don’t, Bax. Winter and snow is their advantage now. We can’t win. We’ll have our revenge later.’

Kyflynn answers with a playful voice, ‘Good. We must take these greaves and split now, but you can come back and steal it back from us anytime. In the mean time, cherrio!’

Kyflynn, Desmond and Agustina move away quickly from there, leaving Sheena, Baxter and Ellephar helpless in the snowy forest. Desmond takes out a florin, tosses it to them while saying, ‘Oh, yeah, we are not bandits, so as honest traders, this is the payment for the greaves. Ha, ha, ha!’ And he walks away.

End of Chapter Five

Saturday, July 22, 2006

FireHeart Operator Logos - Soo Vintage!

FireHeart & Accell Operator Logos
For Monochrome Handphones (Nokia 2100 etc, Samsung, Siemens, Ericsson, etc)
Untuk Ponsel Layar Hitam-Putih.
Exclusively in www.duniamobile.com
(Site Language is in Bahasa Indonesia)

Masukkan nama 'vadis' di kolom 'cari'.
Insert the maker's name 'vadis' in the 'search (cari)' box.
Logos available per 21/7/2006:
1. Robert the Ranger
2. Cristophe the Knight
3. Alexis the Archmage
4. Andreas Marvellini the Dwarven Priest
5. Accell: Superstar Bear
Let's just say... FireHeart is everywhere! - BJ Vadis

Friday, July 21, 2006

From a Willow, To a Swallow


Oh, where?

Where did you go?

Here no more

Like wind, you came and gone

Your graceful wings

Oh, how I miss you

Your heavenly sings

Why can’t I keep you?

Are my branches

Too thin and brittle?

Are my leaves

Too few to shelter?

Falling you fear

You seek stronger branches

Cold you fear

You prefer bountiful leaves

Yet, I’ll survive

And I’ll be wiser

Grow stronger with time

From the loneliness I bear

If you again need me

Fly back to me to stay

For you I’ll be here

Until time fades away


By : Andry Chang

3.1.5.6. Escape From Grad

A hooded and cloaked dwarf comes down the dungeon stairs late at night. He comes no farther as he reaches the bottom end of the stairs, and hides behind a wall. Looks like he already knew the ways in the dungeon very well, that he can enter there easily and in a perfect timing so he won’t get caught. Then he takes out something from the bag hidden in his cloak, and that thing spreads its wings and flies into the warden’s room. Then a strange, eerie music followed by sounds of several people falling asleep are heard. Then that creature lands on one sleeping warden and takes the key chain. The creature flies with the key chain clutched on its feet to the dwarf’s hiding place and gives the key chain to the dwarf.

The dwarf moves in quickly but silently, opens the barred doors and keeps trying to match the keys with the keyholes, one door after another. So far he didn’t get spotted by the dungeon wardens, but as he reaches the last door to the cells, he finds that the door is already opened. He quickly hides again behind the wall, and a shiny, white, winged ball flies from there into the cell rooms. Again the strange music is heard, and also some more people falling on the floor, grunting and yawning and falling asleep.

Robert and the others become alert and ready. Chris says, ‘what the hell is happening?’ And then he talks again, almost shouting. ‘Hey, it’s Chiel! And he’s bringing the keys! Chiel, thank you, you clever boy!’ Chiel responds with a happy ‘chi, chi’ sound at the rare compliment from his co-master.

No time to waste. Robert grabs the keys and starts fitting them into the keyhole. Thank goodness, one of them fits, and as soon as the cell door is open, the four of them rush out from the cell. As Rollo sees the cloaked dwarf coming to them, he recognizes him at once. ‘Ivor!’ he says.

Ivor lowers the hood and answers with, ‘Hi, dad! Let’s run before the guards wake up!’ He puts on the hood again to hide his face and runs forward to guide them through the dungeons to the exit. As they reach outside the dungeons, their presence become so obvious that as some dwarves spot them, they have no choice but to knock them out – and they’re about to attack.

‘STOP!’ Ivor says. ‘Don’t harm them, they’re fellow Vadisians. Look, they bring your weapons!’

‘Vadis be praised!’ Says Rollo in amazement. ‘Bingo, Ello, so you two are palace officials! Let’s run!’

Bingo talks calmly, ‘Just walk calmly. I’m a general, so they will obey me.’ And as they walk to the front castle gate, he continues. ‘Once we were spies sent by the Grand Trow to infiltrate your “church”, but then we became converts because Vadis’ love is strong among you all. We feel loved and appreciated and we did this out of love. Aha, the guards. Stay calm, and hide your weapons.’

The guards salute Bingo. Bingo says ‘Let us pass. The Grand Trow ordered me to execute the prisoners now, sooner than planned.’

‘Oh, of course, sir. Go ahead, sir.’

Bingo and Ello escort them safely outside the citadel, and they part at the entrance to the caves after passing the guards of the citadel.

Bingo says, ‘Well, this is as far as we can escort you, teacher. Farewell and Godspeed.’

Rollo answers, ‘Thanks, Bingo and Ello. Vadis bless you. Farewell, my brothers!’

As they run through the caverns, Ivor talks, ‘Eni and mom found me in my usual hiding place. Then I and Chiel went to rescue you. Mom and sis rallied the fellow believers. Look, here they are, showing us the safe ways.’

They see dwarves on almost every corner, warning and pointing the ways to the exit. Ivor keeps on talking.

‘Now I understand the good of Vadis’ teachings. Brothers and sisters stand for each other in the name of love. Not for money, payment or return of favor. Forgive me, dad, I was the one who stole Chris’ dagger and trusted the Grand Trow too much. He promised me to spare you, so when I heard that you’re about to be executed too, I lost my faith in him and sprang into action.’

Rollo responds, ‘Ah, Vadis forgives you, and I too forgive you. I’m just glad you finally see the light.’

‘Thank you, father. I love you.’

‘I love you too, Ivor, my son.’

They keep running quietly through the caverns, and reach the main entrance. Several Vadisian brothers and sisters stand there, along with Uli and Eni. They also brought Rollo, Robert, Chris and Carolyn’s things and provisions. Rollo hugs Uli and Eni and they break in tears. Sensing that this maybe the last time Rollo meets his family and disciples, and sets foot in Grad, Ylbarra and Falambum Vale, he says farewell and a few words of parting.

‘Ivor, take care of your mother and Eni. I fear this might be the last time I see you all. Brothers and sisters in Vadis, keep standing firm together, spread the word and the love, and let love be y your guide and power. If any of you gets suspected or becomes a fugitive out of this matter, leave Grad immediately and seek refugee with Pope Xylen in Valanis. I’m sure she will help you. Farewell, I hope we will meet again. I love you all. May Vadis watch over you.’

The family let go of Rollo gradually, as though they don’t want Rollo to go. But time is pressing, the soldiers will come to know and catch up with them pretty soon. Without further ado, Rollo, Robert, Chris and Carolyn walk hastily towards the exit. The snow storm has subsided. They have put on their thick coats and they’re good to go. Rollo looks back to his family and fellow Vadisians, thinking ‘From now on, I’ll only be known as Andreas Marvellini. Farewell, Rollo of Grad.’

This time Rollo is banished for good, and the only way he can return is if he can prove that he didn’t steal the mythril greaves. And this means he must hunt down Sheena Mekh’ta and her bandits to the end of the world. They’re the prime suspects and the only key to his return. And Rollo has trustworthy human friends to help him. Their new target: Sheena Mekh’ta.

==oOo==

In the mean time, The Grand Trow Haägi Thornhelm stare outside the castle from the window in his room. A thought runs in his mind.

You finally went away, Rollo. Aye, I knew all along about my officers’ conversion and I myself instructed them to guide you safely out of the citadel. I must defend my position from the skeptical clan leaders. So you must go so we all can live. The seed of love that you planted here will bloom and grow in time. I also acknowledged Vadis’ teachings; the power of love is indeed beyond measure. I won’t arrest and prosecute your family and Vadisian believers, as I too have became one, secretly. Go in peace, Rollo, my friend.

The Grand Trow turns to go to his bed, and a thought comes again into his mind.

But retrieving the mythril greaves won’t be as easy as you think. Things will be a lot more complicated. I’ve seen to that.

3.1.5.6. Escape From Grad Illustration


3.1.5.6. Escape From Grad
Originally uploaded by vadis.






Monday, July 17, 2006

FireHeart III Illustrations Gallery - Book One Chapter 01 and 02


FireHeart III Illustrations Gallery - Book One Chapter 01 and 02


FireHeart III Illustrations Gallery - Book One Chapter 01 and 02


FireHeart III Illustrations Gallery - Book One Chapter 01 and 02


FireHeart III Illustrations Gallery - Book One Chapter 01 and 02


FireHeart III Illustrations Gallery - Book One Chapter 01 and 02


FireHeart III Illustrations Gallery - Book One Chapter 01 and 02


Map of Aurelia - Draft 01 - Wallpaper


Map of Aurelia - Draft 01 - Wallpaper
Originally uploaded by vadis.

This is the 1st impression of the map of the Continent of Aurelia,
the Europe-like setting for FireHeart Saga - The Series.
Want to suggest new names for towns, rivers, and stuff? I'll be very, very grateful.
Thankx! - BJ Vadis

Thursday, July 13, 2006

3.1.5.5. The Slander

‘OPEN THIS DOOR! YOU ARE SURROUNDED!!!!’

Robert wakes up with a start. He heard loud banging at the door. He immediately wakes his comrades up. ‘Chris, Carol, wake up! And ready your weapons!’

‘Wh... what?’ Chris lazily gets up and grabs his sword, Wyrthal. Carolyn hastily grabs her apprentice’s staff and together with Robert they run to the door. The loud yells are heard outside.

‘OPEN THIS DOOR OR WE’LL BURN YOUR HOUSE DOWN!!’

They see Rollo and Uli at the door, and Eni hiding behind the kitchen wall. Rollo opens the door immediately. About 10 – 15 gruff-looking soldiers are standing outside the house, and about twenty more surrounding it, as though it is a siege.

Rollo and friends wonder what this is all about, and they soon receive an answer from the squad leader.

‘Rollo Bigstumble! You and your human friends are under arrest! The mythril greaves were stolen two hours ago, and you are the prime suspects! Follow us to face trial before the council!’

Robert speaks up to stand for his comrades. ‘We seek no enmity with our fellow dwarves, and we have done no evil, so we’ll come quietly.’

‘Good! Men, tie them up, seize their weapons and take them to the castle!’

Chris who is just coming out from the house after he finished wearing his armor is flustered to see himself suddenly being held and tied by 3-4 dwarves. He bellows, ‘Hey! What’s this all about?’

Chris is about to shake the guards away and draw his Wyrthal, but Robert yells, ‘CHRIS! DON’T! We don’t want to hurt them! If we do, there’ll be more reasons for them to sentence us to death!’

Chris lowers his Wyrthal. A dwarf soldier takes it away from Chris’ hand. Then Rollo, Robert, Chris and Carolyn, all tied up, are taken away from Falambum Vale to Ylbarra Citadel.

==oOo==

In Ylbarra, people are mocking them and throwing things at them along the way.

‘Ungrateful scums!’

‘Traitors!’

‘Infidels!’

‘Greedy humans!’

‘Is this what you did to repay our kindness?’

And the crowd is also calling them names, the worst ones they can think of. Chris’ head is hit by what appears to be a rotten egg. He yells, ‘Hey, watch it, kid!’ as he sees the little boy who threw it.

The ‘walk of shame’ doesn’t end when they enter the castle. People in the palace scrutinize them scornfully, and they are whispering among themselves, mostly about confirming their theory that humans are all greedy beings, about Rollo who has been completely influenced by greed, and the falseness of Vadisian teachings.

The trial starts immediately as they enter the center dome, this time they don’t have to wait until they are summoned before the Grand Trow and the Council of Grad.

‘KNEEL!’ The guards push Rollo and friends forcefully to kneel before the throne. The Grand Trow leaps into his feet with utmost rage as he sees the ‘culprits’, and talks with a much louder voice than before.

‘YOU! You have stolen the mythril greaves, haven’t you! Where is it? Surrender it to me NOW!’

Rollo speaks calmly, ‘We don’t have it. We didn’t steal it.’

‘LIAR! Guards, bring forward the evidence!’

The bailiff moves forward, bringing a tray with a dagger on it and puts it on the stairs to the throne. Chris looks at the dagger and his face turns pale. It’s my dagger, he thinks.

‘What are your excuses now? This was found in The Chamber of Peace where we kept the greaves. The guard was knocked out, and the greaves were gone.’

Chris speaks up, ‘Yes, it is my dagger. But it was hidden beneath my own greaves. It must’ve been stolen from me last night.’

All eyes are fixed upon Chris. Carolyn gives him a jab on his back, murmuring something that sounds like, ‘That’s what happened if you don’t check your gears often.’

Haägi continues, ‘Stolen from you? That’s ridiculous. That’s a lame excuse for your greed and carelessness. Just admit that you stole it!’

‘No, O’ Grand Trow! I did not! And neither did my friends here!’ says Chris desperately.

‘You all in league with each other! I’ve sent troopers to Rollo’s house to search for the greaves. It was not there but it must be hidden somewhere, but we’ll find it for sure. Therefore, I found you all GUILTY and the penalty will be death by decapitation tomorrow at down in front of the people! Myvar Trow has spoken! What say the council?’

‘GUILTY!’

‘Death by decapitation!’

‘GUILTY!’

The sixteen council members all shout in turns, giving an unanimous verdict that Robert, Chris, Carolyn and Rollo are guilty as charged.

Fear shows in Christopher’s face. Carolyn is disappointed by the one-sided justice. Robert is thinking hard, with his wide eyes. Andreas a.k.a. Rollo falls on his knees and prays in his thoughts, ‘Oh, Vadis, let Thy will be known.’

The guards immediately take them to the dungeons, and throw them together in one cell in a very violent manner, and the door is locked before them. Chris yells and bangs on the cell door, still with his armor intact, and making a loud racket. ‘Hey! Release us! It was a mistake! We were framed!’

Carolyn snorts, ‘Yeah, The Grand Trow himself framed you, remember? We gotta find an idea to get out of here. Ah! Let me try melting these iron bars. Maybe we can escape.’

‘No, Carolyn!’ says Andreas, deeply worried. ‘Even if we escape from here, there’s still a citadel and a vast maze to go through. If a dwarf spots us, better make sure that four can win against tens of thousands. Even it will be difficult for Thürlam to win in this situation. Better find another plan or wait for Vadis’ miracle.’

So, they decided to wait for a better opportunity. Maybe they can arrest the real thieves, although it’s almost impossible to do so because of the smells of treason and conspiracy that enabled the thieves to breach into the heavily fortified citadel and escaped far away from there with the loot.


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3.1.5.4. The Hermit's Story

Robert, Carolyn and Chris walk in the citadel back to the caverns. In front of them, two dwarven guards are carrying Father Andreas on a litter. Chiel floats close above Andreas’ body and tries to recover him, but with no luck. Chiel’s healing power seems not strong enough to bring this greatly fatigued dwarf in full health.

The guards are grumbling along the way, as though they are burdened with an abomination or a contagious disease. As they enter the caverns through its main tunnel, a dwarven druid approaches them and says,

‘Greetings. I’m Uli Nockimble, druid, at your service. Shall we proceed to Rollo’s cave? We don’t have all day, you know!’

Uli happens to be a female dwarven druid. Her face is chubby and friendly-looking. The guards grunt again, louder than before. It’s obvious that ‘higher class’ dwarves disdain the worker classes and consider them as ‘lowlifes’.

Uli seems to know the way to Andreas (a.k.a. Rollo)’s cave very well, and after about an hour walk from the main tunnel, they arrive at an opening. As they go outside, Chris and Carolyn are astonished, and Robert eyes only open widely.

Chris says, ‘WOOOW! This is AWESOME!’.

It’s a small valley, totally blocked by the mountains around it, and everything in it looks like a paradise, a vale of trees, birds, flowerbeds and grass. It seems the winter outside the mountains doesn’t affect this area. Various fruit trees grow there, even some of them are fruits from the tropical areas – apple, mango, banana, orange, lemon, strawberry, and more – And the strange thing is, they seem almost untouched. Robert secretly puts a smile on his face.

‘Welcome to Falambum Vale!’ says Uli in an excited tone. ‘And that is our hut’.

Uli points to a direction, and there it is. A simple, wooden cottage about five meters in length and width, with a chimney. It’s much like a human’s cottage. It seems well kept and occupied, but something in Uli’s words ignites Carolyn’s curiosity as she says,

‘Excuse me; did you say “our”? Are you...’

‘Ooh, yaa! I’m Rollo’s wife. Ya!’ Uli says with a giggle.

‘His WIFE??’ Carolyn and Chris yell together.

‘Of course. And we have kids, you know. Ah, here they are now. Ivor! Eni! Come here and help! Dad’s home!’

They see a young male dwarf cutting wood outside the cottage, and a dwarf maiden coming out from the house, carrying laundry. they put their works away immediately and rush to their father. Ivor, the younger, is well-built, with hairy chest and arms. And without a moustache and a beard, he looks stunningly handsome – at least among his fellow dwarves. And Eni, the elder, her long, blonde hair wit ponytails adds more fairness into her cute, round face and her rosy cheek.

Eni says worriedly, ‘Dad? Oh, by Vadis! What happened to him? Is he...’

Uli tries to calm her down by saying, ‘Don’t worry, Eni. He’s only unconscious. But he must be treated right away. Gentlemen, will you please carry Rollo inside? That’ll be most kind of you.’

Uli says that while putting her hand into her waist bag, takes it out and shakes one of the guards’ hand. The guard’s gruff expression turns calm, almost smiling. He puts his hand into his pouch, and there are sounds of jingling coins inside it, as though there are some more coins added in it.

Uli says, ‘Come, come in, fellow humans. Make yourselves at home!’

The guards carry Andres into the cottage, lay him down gently on his bed, and take their leave. As Uli, Ivor and Eni are finished treating Anderas, the three of them go outside the bedroom. Ivor and Eni smile at them and then go about their own errands. Uli, on the other hand, goes to the kitchen and about five minutes later comes out with three wooden mugs on a tray, puts the mugs on the table and sits with the guests in the living room.

‘Please, do try our mango juice! Fresh from the trees!’

The humans take a drink, and obviously they have never tasted anything as fresh as mango juice before, even mangoes. Tropical fruits are rare in the continent of Aurelia, and only rich people and nobles have the privilege to enjoy them. The tropical fruits are usually magically teleported from the tropics, and they are very, very expensive.

‘WOW! This is awesomely fresh!’ Carolyn cannot hide her excitement and takes another drink.

Robert, who hasn’t spoken since their meeting with the Grand Trow, finally talks, ‘Well, ma’am, I believe we are not properly introduced yet. My name’s Robert Chandler and these are my friends, Christopher and Carolyn.’

Uli responds with a big smile and wide-open eyes, ‘Oooh, Carolyn! Rollo told me a lot about you! You used to be his student in Valanis, right? He taught you Vadism, as well as healing. He was one of your teachers there.’

Carolyn answers, ‘Well, yes, although only for a short while. I learnt a bit about healing, although I have to admit that I am better versed at attacking magic than healing.’

‘A bit is good’, says Uli. ‘But “nothing” is much better. My child, it’s not always about learning and understanding, but to live it, live the magic and put all your heart and soul in doing it. So we have to “unlearn” our lessons and start to live with them.’

‘I understand, ma’am. Although I still want to perfect my attacking magic for the time being, maybe someday I can be good at healing, too.’

‘Take your time, my child, take your time, ya.’

Robert then asks, ‘Ma’am, forgive my rudeness but as far as I know, Father Andreas is a monk and you’re not supposed to live with him. This puzzles me.’

Robert expects a harsh answer, but instead of being angry, Uli giggles amusingly, and starts explaining.

‘Haha. Ya, ya. I see you’re observant and a man of logic. As you may well presume, Rollo and I are druids. We have been married for a few years before he left to seek ‘a greater wisdom’. Well, he didn’t leave willingly, but he was forced to, being expelled by our community because they think we’re ‘odd’ and ‘radical’. Since Rollo and I found this place, we tried to convince more people to live in us in this vale, but they refused and told us they preferred their old ways of living than trying something new and different for a change. We’ve been scrutinized and treated like oddballs and lived like hermits since then. One day a group of workers came to us and threatened us to leave this valley or they would burn us alive in our house.’

Uli pauses with a deep sigh. And she talks again.

‘But Rollo... he made a bargain with them and said he will go if they spare me, Eni and little Ivor and let them live here. They agreed, because they thought I, Ivor and Eni can still be “altered”.

So, Rollo went for twelve years and returned as a monk with his new name, Andreas Marvellini. He still regards me as his wife and regards his children too, but the community still can’t accept him. He hid and disguised himself for some time until one day; he saved a dying boy suffering from a rare illness, which beyond my expertise and no other druids can heal. So the society admitted him back.’

‘Both of us continued to serve the people as healers. Thus he began to spread his belief among the people. Some converted and became his disciple – I and Eni were among them – But the others wouldn’t convert and even thought of him as “a menace to society, a pagan and an infidel”. The Grand Trow heard this “social unrest”, and tried to stop Rollo’s teachings. When persuasion failed, rather than stopping him by force, the Grand Trow sent him on dangerous missions, each time demanding him not to return until the mission was accomplished – hoping that he would be killed during then – But so far, to the Trow’s disappointment, Rollo always came back alive and accomplished all the missions, but this time... ‘

Carolyn is amazed, and she says, ‘Whew, it’s a good thing that he has you there to help him. He’s really lucky.’

Uli replies with a smile and says, ‘Ya, that’s what a family is for. We stand for each other, help each other, and take care of each other. And it’s all based on love.’ She pauses for a moment, and then continues.

‘Although, well, Ivor has a dispute with Rollo about their beliefs, but that doesn’t stop them from loving each other as father and son. Hmmm, maybe you should start your own families as well someday.’

Chris nods, Carolyn is blushed and beams towards Robert. Robert, however, doesn’t react at all, but in fact he’s thoughtful. He sees Eloise’s pleading face again in his mind and it makes him look sad and serious. Seeing that, smile vanishes from Carolyn’s face.

The party stays and sleeps in Rollo’s living room for the night, and Chiel is somewhere outside, enjoying the warmth of the magically tropical climate of the vale, nesting itself on a big mango tree. And the next day, thanks to Uli’s masterly treatment, Rollo regains his consciousness. His health and stamina are also fully recovered. And at night, they sat down together. This time Rollo tells his part of the story.

‘Uhum. As you can see, I and Uli were considered as “freaks” because we are the only healers who serve the workers, and our way of living is different than the rest. They agreed to banish me only, because Uli was a better druid than I was, and the workers still needed Uli as their healer. We are a family of healers except Ivor who wants to follow the way of the warrior.’

To this, Uli only shrugs and Ivor scowls.

‘As for my last mission, I think The Grand Trow Haägi obviously meant to kill me this time. I knew he made a pact with Sheena Mekh’ta and her gang to ambush me on my way home. Blöin was not killed. Sheena didn’t mean to give me that chance, but she didn’t know that I can check Blöin’s condition by reading his aura from a distance. I managed to read that before her bandits gave me these wounds.’ Rollo points at his body. ‘I think now they’re plotting something even worse to get me killed... or banished forever – away from my family.’

Rollo rubs his big nose and frowns. It’s his habit whenever he feels uneasy, tensed or worried. Then he continues his story.

‘What’s more, I don’t think they even care for the mythril armor or anything of that sort that signifies the old alliance. Only humans and elves can wear them, and it was forged by the dark elves of Terranova, although the materials came from Grad. The Terranovans keep the belt; the Grads keep the greaves; the Escudians – the breastplate; the Arcadians – the helmet; and the Loreans – the gloves. The Mythril Armor, also known as Eil’thanath was splitted and distributed by Emperor Sage I the Fireheart to seal the alliance between the kingdoms during the First Crusade.’

‘We went to Escudia to claim the breastplate, but King Jaime has given it to his champion, Don Hernan y Parvaez. Since this Don Hernan always goes from place to place for adventures (and pretty maidens, as rumors said), they needed time to search for him, so I and Blöin went back first. King Jaime DID refused to help escort the breastplate to Grad. It seems he smelled something bad would happen during the transport, but I couldn’t figure out what it might be. I thought Haägi was honorable and would never betray his fellow dwarves. But this time he did. I don’t want to take revenge upon him, but this time I must be better prepared to protect my family because the worst is coming. And it can be any time now.’

‘Grand Trow Haägi... a traitor... I can’t believe that!’

All heads turn to see the speaker. It was Ivor.

Rollo answers patiently. ‘You better believe it, son. I can never lie to you. Vadis forbids.’

Ivor jeers by showing a scornful smile and says, ‘ooh, ya! I know. It’s you and your stupid Vadis thing who were the cause of these troubles. Why don’t you just give that up and return to the old dwarven ways? Huh?’

Suddenly Ivor receives a slap on his left cheek and he looks right to see who did it. It was Uli, his mother who says ‘That’s for blasphemy.’ Before Ivor can say anything else, another slap lands on his right cheek. It was from Uli again. ‘And that’s for disrespecting your father.’

Ivor is greatly irritated now ‘Argh! Not you too, mom!?’

Uli scolds Ivor angrily “Can’t you understand, son? Vadis’ teachings make us better healers than before. The power of love can bring miracles and overcome everything. Vadis is love! Vadis teaches love! What are the teachings of Ulric, Thürlam, and Joldin anyway? NOTHING! If any, they are just warrior codes and the race for prosperity!’

With gritted teeth and a great disappointment, Ivor turns around and runs out of the house.

‘Ivor, wait!’

Rollo tries to stop him, but Ivor has run away from sight. Uli comes to Rollo and hugs him, her eyes in tears. Robert, Chris and Carolyn can only watch them with uneasiness in their hearts.

Robert is deep in his thoughts. And then he asks Rollo, ‘Father Andreas, pardon me for asking you in this situation. But, I need to know who are Ulric, Thürlam, and Joldin?’

Andreas sighs. Robert thinks Andreas will be angry, but Andreas a.k.a. Rollo speaks in a calm voice, ‘Ulric, Thürlam, and Joldin were the founding fathers of Grad.

Ulric was a mythical dwarven hero wielding a great hammer named Ougl’ludlum (Cave Maker). A single swing of his hammer can bring down a house to rubbles, or block or open up a cave with ease.

Thürlam, also known as “Thür the Iron Skin” was a great hero during the escape from Thalag’Dhega. With a single slash of his great axe, he decapitated a great number of minotaurs at once, and he has the strength of ten thousand men.

Joldin found the Grad mines and the first mythril deposit there. Deemed as “The Prospector”, he managed his fellow dwarf refugees during the exodus to explore and dig caves and eventually they found Emöle Grad, the vast, dead volcano crater and built a city there. The Ylbarra Citadel was built for nearly 300 years, step-by-step, day-by-day. Joldin was chosen as the first Grand Trow of Grad.

The Founding Fathers have also set the Dwarven Ways of Life. Ulric taught about warrior codes, Thürlam about warfare and defense tactics, and Joldin about the race for prosperity. They were worshipped as gods and founding fathers of Grad, among with other gods already worshipped by dwarf people since ancient times. The people of Grad tend to worship their great heroes, and totally forget about their true God, Vadis.’

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Wednesday, July 12, 2006

3.1.5.3. Little People, Big Heads


They set off early the next morning. Andreas is feeling a little stronger now after a good sleep and hot soup. And their journey is getting easier as the cold wind dies down. Then the path declines. Thanks to Andreas’ guidance, they are able to find a secret path hidden between the rocks and they have to move the rock that blocks it aside.

As they walk through the gate into the caverns, they see dwarves roaming around the tunnels. They are mostly miners, smiths, coolies and foragers with ragged clothes and dirt all over their faces and torso. They live in the poorer parts of the region – ex mining tunnels that were deprived of almost all valuable minerals – mined out, they say. And the dwarves dig holes on the cavern walls that serve as apartments furnished with stone-carved or wooden furnitures. But mind that the miners and the rest of the worker classes are trained and can serve as militias if Grad is attacked.

The tunnels are formed into a labyrinth, so it’s extremely frustrating for foreigners to go to the citadel without a dwarf as a guide. As Andreas and friend move along, they receive no offer of guidance from the dwarves along the way. Some of them only stare at the strangers, as no humans may enter the citadel, some only take a glance at them and then go about their own businesses. Only the kids are awestruck to see ‘big people’ as they rarely or never see them before in their lives. A few dwarves recognize Andreas and greet him with a gesture, or say ‘Welcome back, padre’ or ‘Vadis be with you.’

Carolyn looks at them with amazement. ‘So there are Vadisians among the dwarves, eh, Father?’

Andreas smiles feebly and answers her, ‘Well, aye, there are a few, if you count hundreds against ten thousands... but aye, they do understand a bit about the power of love that Vadis teaches us.’

They keep walking along the labyrinth, supporting Andreas who is still weak, and soon they arrive at a large tunnel, one of four tunnels connecting the caverns and the citadel. Now they are heading to a large crater-like opening with the sunlight comes in from the opening above. As Robert looks farther, he can see city-like structures that form a round, great fortress. And the sunlight that reflects upon it makes the city as though shines like the city of gold. Robert thinks, ‘It’s beautiful!’ but his expression is unchanged.

Only Christopher who seems excited on seeing that magnificent view. He says, ‘Man! A city of gold! Imagine, we can be rich just by picking up the gold from the streets!’

The good-natured Andreas, who seems to be undisturbed by Chris’ insults and careless talks, only comments, ‘Go ahead, greedy boy. Do that, and the dwarves there will make a joke on you for mistaking common stones to gold. There’s no gold in the streets. The dwarves do have lots of gold, but they always store it in a hidden, safe place and if you or anybody dares to set foot on it, they will chop yer head on the spot without asking first.’

Christopher gulps, he feels as though he wants to slap himself saying dumb things like that. Andreas indirectly told him to be extra careful in this realm, because dwarves are a proud race. They are materialistic and selfish, but if a threat comes to their kind or their city, they will stick together and form the most formidable defense ever formed – more impenetrable than humans’ or even elves’.

And without any trouble, they soon arrive at the great gate of the Ylbarra citadel, a heavily fortified castle built in the middle of the dead crater. The city of Grad itself is built around the citadel on the crater walls, and extends throughout the Grad Mountain Range, making it a vast realm for the dwarves. The caverns were formed during the mining process, and as the minerals were all mined out, the dwarves will use the tunnels as roads or residences. The most valuable mineral in the Grad Mines is Mythril, which is also known as Escudo in Escudia. Mythril is the lightweight and can be made into threads, but they are harder than common irons. Some say the weapons made from Mythril are unbreakable, and the armors are impenetrable. Mythril is also known as the Eternal Ore because its durability can last through the ages.

As they walk into the citadel, they see a completely different atmosphere than the caverns. It’s obvious that they have arrived in the rich part of the realm. The dwarves in the citadel are wearing rich robes and shiny armors. The dwellers are mostly in the high social statuses and classes, such as military officers, merchants, scientists, scholars and nobles. They all look at Andreas and the humans with amazement, fear and disdain. Some even try to conceal their necklaces, jewelries and valuables they are wearing. It seems that there are no Vadisian to greet Andreas along the way.

Carolyn murmurs, ‘Vadis’ ways are always more obscure to anybody blinded with wealth.’

As they arrive in front of the castle gate, two gruff dwarf guards are eyeing them and blocks their way. One of them says, ‘HALT! Non-dwarves are forbidden in the castle except with the Grand Trow’s invitation. And you, state your name and business!’

Then Andreas Marvellini salutes them with the special dwarven salute – two right hand fingers on the forehead – and says, ‘Rollo Bigstumble reports on duty to The Grand Trow Haagi Thornhelm. These humans are my escorts.’

The guard observes Andreas a.k.a. Rollo’s face to make sure that he was telling the truth, and then speaks, ‘Rollo Bigstumble, we were given specific instructions that since you are in an important assignment, you are not allowed to return until the mission is accomplished. Did you accomplish your mission?’

Andreas is thinking hard on hearing this. He is in a delicate situation now – to tell the truth means to face banishment – no chance to meet the Grand Trow at all. But if he lies, he and his friends will face death sentence if it’s found out. After a short while he says, ‘Aye and nay.’

The guard is a bit puzzled and angry. ‘Aye and nay!? Be more specific, we don’t play games here!’

Andreas Marvellini says calmly, ‘Aye, we have received the goods and nay, we need your support in case of transportation. The Escudians are not allowed here so they decided that the dwarves alone will carry the goods. You see the rest of my companions aren’t with me right now. So I need to speak to the Grand Trow himself as he holds the power to decide. This is an emergency. Only with the Grand Trow’s decision and cooperation this mission can be completed perfectly.’

‘Right, right. But humans are not allowed to enter the citadel. Wait here until you hear the summons.’ After saying that, the guard goes inside. Andreas shrugs and is ready with an answer in his thoughts. Well, it’s half the truth so no harm done.

Andreas and Robert’s party stand there to wait for about an hour or so. Then the guard dwarf returns and says, ‘Very well then, you may proceed, and your human escorts too. The Grand Trow hopes that you can explain the whole thing. But remember, if your explanation displeases him, there will be no escape, and death is certain. Follow me.’

The party and Andreas follow the guard silently, and they are directed through one grand, great hall after another.

Chris is marveled by its splendor, and the can’t help feasting his eyes upon the vast riches displayed in each hall – Diamond goblets, gold and silver statues, tapestries with colorful gems attached on them, and mosaic pictures that were made with rare gems, in golden frames. He also observes the dwarf officials going to and fro in the halls, all of them, male and female are wearing rich robes and jewelries – even one small trinket can be sold for a fortune.

Andreas suddenly remembers something, and as he glances at Chris, he knows at once that The Grand Trow allowed the humans to come with him to gain an easy but justified excuse to kill them. He scolds Chris in a low voice.

‘Chris, keep your eyes on the walkway and look straight. Don’t touch or even stare at the riches. The dwarves might see you and behead you on the spot, and yer greedy look will only make things even worse. The dwarves here surely like to keep their riches on display, but don’t like anyone – even their own kind – to look at them. And touching them is a more serious offense. They might think you are planning to steal the treasures – and the penalty is mutilation – it’s more devastating than death sentence because they want the offender to live in terror and shame – remembering their greed. So, watch yourself!’

Chris is zapped, and shivers at once at this prospect if his ‘offense’ is found out by the dwarves. Chiel the Micha even acts as though he understands Andreas’ warning by trying to close its eyes while still flying straight – straight to a wall. It bumps into the wall and falls. Before it reaches the floor, Carolyn catches it, saying, ‘be careful, Micha.’

Micha only responds with a weak ‘chi, chi’ voice. It seems dizzy. And Carolyn keeps it on her lap to let him rest and recover.

After walking for a long time, they reach an opening. It’s the largest hall in the Ylbarra Citadel, The Hall of Emoldrum. In dwarven language Emoldrum is derived from two words, Emolë Dol’drum, meaning ‘The Dome of Mother’s Womb’. From this dome-shaped hall, warriors are made, great decisions are made, and everything that sustains the growth and prosperity of the dwarven kingdom is ‘born’. It’s located in the core of Ylbarra, and automatically, this dome is also called the core of Emolë Grad (The Womb of Grad) volcano – permanently inactive for more than five centuries.

Robert’s party looks around. The throne hall is indeed magnificent. The royal throne hall in the Marlham Palace in Alceste, Kingdom of Lore looks like a district courthouse compared to this hall. They see dwarven ministers and officials sit in two rows on the left wing and right wing tables. And there is a wide circular space at the northern end of the dome. At the center of the space, the Grand Trow’s throne stands on a high platform. And behind it, three great statues stand there – the statues of the Fathers of Grad or in the dwarven language: Paderen il Grad. Three figures of first Grand Trow and great heroes of Grad ever since the great exodus from the lost mines of Thalag’dhega after the disastrous defeat from the minotaurs. Now Thalag’dhega at the southern Escudia is the realm and stronghold of the minotaurs – again. Mind that the dwarves drove the minotaurs away from Thalag’dhega about 1,000 years ago, and the minotaurs took it back about 500 years later. And the statues stand there magnificently: the long-bearded dwarf in the middle with a great axe, the statue on the left with a big hammer, and on the right with a sword and a shield.

Sitting on the throne is the Grand Trow himself, Haägi Thornhelm. He sits there casually like a small boy on a very large chair. He stares warily at the incoming guests.

Andreas signals Robert’s party to follow his moves. They walk slowly, with their right hands on their chests and left hands loose but visible, and walk on with their heads down until tehy stop and kneel. And Andreas talks, ‘Thêl Kadra, O Myvar Trow! (Long live O Grand Trow!) Hail the monarch who is mighty and true. We are in awe of your greatness!”

The Grand Trow responds, ‘Kom’sha (thank you), Rollo Bigstumble.’ And he talks on.

‘Now I believe you have some important news to tell me that you have the nerve to return here. I see that your companions, Pungli, Banzi and Blöin are not with you. Where are they? Explain!’

Andreas Marvellini, or in his dwarven name, Rollo Bigstumble answers feebly as he is still in a bad shape, “O’ Grand Trow, I came in an emergency. Like I said, I left two of my companions in Escudia because King Jaime refused to help transport the Diamante mythril armory we claimed as the Escudian humans are not allowed in this citadel. There were only four of us to escort the armory, and no pigeon can fly to here during winter, so we decided that I left with Blöin to return here and ask for more escorts. Alas, we were ambushed by bandits. There were about 30 of them. Although we fought bravely, Blöin was slain by their leader, a muscled tan-skinned female wielding a pair of scimitars as if she came from the deserts.’

Robert reacts on hearing this; he suddenly recalls a name in his mind, ‘Sheena Mekh’ta, The Bandit Queen.’

‘I was saved because I ran and Blöin covered my escape, but the woman bandit caught up with me and delivered a fatal blow at me. I stumbled and fell into the river. She thought I was dead but she didn’t know that I am the one and only dwarf who can cast healing spells. So I healed myself but barely, because my wounds were too many, and I walk as far as possible with my remaining strength. When I fainted on the snow, somehow I was lucky to be found by them, the humans. They also carried me back to Grad, where I regained my consciousness and guided them here. So that’s the whole situation at hand, O’ Mighty Trow.’

Andreas expects a sudden outburst of anger from Haägi Thornhelm, but he unexpectedly remains calm and his tone is unchanged when he talks,

‘I see. So this mission turns out to be too difficult for only four dwarves with that bandit queen around. I will investigate this matter further, and you are pardoned for your failure to complete the mission on your return here in exchange of this important news. You can return to your “secluded abode” now to rest. And about your human “escorts”, I understand that they are also your savior. Please state your names and your reason to save Rollo Bigstumble.’

Robert talks, representing the party, ‘O’ Mighty Trow, forgive us from our insolence by violating your prohibition. My name is Robert Chandler, and these are my companions, Christopher and Carolyn. We are bounty hunters by trade, and our reason to save our fellow dwarf here is solely due to compassion.’

Suddenly the Grand Trow cuts in with a loud laugh, and speaks in a loud voice.

‘Did you really? HAHAHA! You humans are all the same! Always making excuses, excuses! Compassion, my foot! There must be something ELSE you want to add for that! Greedy, greedy humans. I can see it in your eyes! I can see what you want! Gold, glamour and glory! Compassion! HUH! I know what to do with you! GUARDS! Take them away! Put them in the dungeon!’

Before the guards reach them, Christopher yells, ‘NO! Please, Lord of The Dwarves, hear us out until we are finished first. We admit that there IS something else other than compassion that moved us to rescue Andreas. You see my cousin Carolyn here used to be Andreas’ disciple in Valanis, so... it’s her duty to rescue him as thanks for his guidance, and as her relative and friend we are also obliged to help. That’s so!’ (Well, that’s the first clever remark from Christopher that put a shock in Carolyn’s face and at least in Robert’s heart).

Haägi smirks and replies, ‘My, my, my. Are you trying to defend yourself with such lame excuse? There’s no such thing as a coincidence! The probability for that is near to zero. How dare you made such a story up, and talk with such insolence! You’ll have your tongue cut off for this!’

And now it’s Carolyn’s turn to talk. ‘Please hear us out, O’ Great Trow. Father Andreas is truly my ex-mentor in Valanis. And this is the proof. This mark on my hand is the seal given by a mentor to his disciple after finishing the lessons for witchcraft and wizardy and passed the personality aptitude tests.’ Carolyn takes off her wizard glove to reveal a special mark on her right hand, right below her palm and shows the mark to the Grand Trow. That mark can’t be erased, because it was applied magically and if someone should cut some skin to take it off, he will cut the blood veins in the hand too.

Andreas also speaks, ‘And I also have the same mark on my left hand as the mentor’s sign. I have a different mark here on my right hand, because I was taught by a different mentor.’ And he shows the mark on his left hand. The same ‘M’ figure mark (an initial for ‘Marvellini’) with Carolyn’s.

Carolyn continues on, ‘And about coincidence, we truly didn’t expect to meet Father Andreas there in such a sorry state. It was Vadis’ will that I must meet and help him. So that were not merely a coincidence, but it was part of Vadis’ plan for this world.’

Thornhelm’s expression is unchanged, so Carolyn continues, ‘And if you should need another proof, Father Andreas has taught me much about magic, and I can only master fire and lightning elements. I can give you a demonstration just to satisfy you, but I bet you’ll be displeased because there’ll be some damage here.’

After a brief pause, the Grand Trow clears his throat and speaks, ‘HMM… The mark will be enough. You know, we The Kindred of Grad need to be always careful. We need to know your intentions, whether you are like the others or not. So far I’m satisfied that you three can keep your tempers level and stand for each other in spite of our rude remarks. But, I did see greed in – who is that lad? (Indicating Christopher) – Oh yes, Christopher, in his eyes. But his display of calm diplomacy, bravery and selfless attitude proves that his wisdom exceeds his greed, so we can accept that.’

Carolyn thinks, ‘Yeah, but his trash-talking exceeds his wisdom.’

Christopher gulps; he thought for a moment that he might’ve lost his head because of his greed and insolence. But the Grand Trow’s answer lifted the entire burden in his mind and replaced it with a surge of determination to prove himself that he can be a man everybody can count on, especiall by his cousin, Carolyn.

The Grand Trow continues, ‘HMM… Enough explanation. I hereby declare, by the might and blessing of Ulric, Thürlam, and Joldin, that from now henceforth, these three worthy humans are the Comrades of Grad, having saved the life of our kind, at the risk of their own. Now you all may retire. I will see further to this matter and our healer will treat Rollo Bigstumble in his abode. And you humans may accompany him until further notice. Myvar Trow has spoken.’ And the Grand Trow waves his hand and rests his densely bearded chin on his upright knuckle, with his eyes shut – he doesn’t want to hear another word at the moment.

Andreas sighs in relief on hearing this, but then his strength is failing him – He’s still weak upon his recovery from unconsciousness, his wounds and the pressure of this meeting – and he collapses, sprawling on the floor, and faints again.

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