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Despite the devastation wrought after 196 years of battling trolls – killing two-thirds of the Commonwealth – the united army of Liraehne cleared the lands. The great Fanaal Emperor Tian’Tal pushed the trolls to the edge of the Frontier, making a stand at the outpost of Tarn, but it was the leadership of Queen Kalynn Wytestarr who led the final victory within the Crax. Of those who went to war, many would never return home, some not because death claimed them but because their wounds made travel impossible, and the outpost swelled into a city.

As Tarn grew, with farmers and families restoring a sense of normal after so much loss, the great heroes and leaders began to pass into legend and new powers began to arise to fill the voids left behind. 

This is the story of one of them.

Author Chuck Sperati Writing Distracted Logo
Onvical
Ambyr Valry
Cariss Mesila
Torgin
Elis Rhees
Elis Rhees

Part Ten: Cursed

“I can tell you where I was, but not how I got here.”

Sitting on a stool, Garreg leaned back against the wall, reached up, and brushed back his gray hair with a hand that still shook a little. The stranger named Elis sat on the hay-strewn floor across from him, his back cooling against the anvil. Allowing a full breath to fill his lungs, the old man released it slowly. “Start there, and we’ll see where it takes us.”

Closing his eyes, the other took a breath and began. “I’d been running with a group of treasure hunters—”

“Grave robbers,” the old man interrupted.

After a moment of silent debate, Elis nodded. “Look, the trolls left a lot of ruins. Entire kingdoms were wiped out. People were eaten. All of their stuff is just sitting there, not doing anyone any good.”

Grunting his disgust, Garreg caught the other’s eyes with his. “I should have left you to Onvical.”

“But you didn’t. I’m not going to apologize. I served in the Army of Liraehne. I fought against the trolls.”

Watching the man’s left hand snake up and grab the pendant as he spoke, Garreg’s eyes narrowed. “If that were true – if you served – I have a hard time believing you would steal from those killed by trolls.”

A grin touched his mouth as Elis looked down at the floor. “You served with the Gaeldur’s, didn’t you?” Glancing up, he saw the old man nod. Shaking his head, he pushed himself up to sit on the anvil. “That’s where you get that sanctimonious attitude. Most of us never saw a Gaeldur. For us, the war was just blood and pain. We collected weapons and armors from the dead to give to recruits, just as they were given to me. I grew up in Bistorr. Spent my youth fishing and playing on the Anea River. It’s gone. What wasn’t burned in the battle is a crumbled ruin.”

“I’m sorry for your loss.”

“Those words are hollow. It’s all been loss. We might have pushed the horde of them back into the Frontier, but that won’t make it better. The only thing we can do is pick up and move on. And that’s what we were doing, until—”

“Until,” Garreg asked, leaning forward as he broke the silence of that trailed-off word.

“We all heard stories of the Magis Caraklin and the impossible amount of wealth he’d acquired.”

“Silly tales is all those are.”

“If you believe that, you’re an old fool.”

“Caraklin served as a Gaeldur in the war and sacrificed himself to save thousands in the Crax.”

“He also found and pillaged Green Mount Citadel.”

Shaking his head, Garreg put his hands on his knees. “That is a legend with no basis in truth.”

“All legends begin as truth.”

“Absurd. Who even believes that Fanaal and Rylin could create something so grand together, let alone—” the old man stopped. “Wait. You’re talking about his wealth, not the Citadel. Your group sought Caraklin’s lair.”

Elis nodded. “We more than sought it.”

“And you called me an old fool. Is that where you got that pendant you can’t let go of?”

With an effort, Elis opened his hand, letting it drop into his lap, and shrugged. “That’s part of knowing where I was, but not how I got here.”

 

*              *              *

 

“Why did you make us leave?” Ambyr asked.

The pitched tone of the question ran up Onvical’s neck, settling painfully at the base of his skull. Feeling magic build in his shoulders, he pushed it down to his hands. It would be easy enough to manifest the magic as pain that could rip through her lithe form and strip some of the gold out of her flesh. Letting it go, he strode on, forcing her into a jog to keep up.

“That idiot Torgin let the old man snoop on us. He was supposed to keep them both in the house and away from the forge until I’d finished.”

“We could have killed the old man,” Ambyr stated.

If not for her quick reflexes, the sudden stop would have caused the elfen to crash into him. “And then what? His daughter knew we were there. Neighbors saw us arrive. Do you want to be run out of a town that pays us to stay here and allows us to extort caravans?”

“I didn’t think about that.”

“I’m surrounded by those who don’t think.” Striding away, he again let the magic shake away from his fingers.

Running to catch up, she again fell into an uneasy pace with him. “Are you at least going to tell me what happened back there with the glowy green hand?”

“He’s cursed.”

“What do you mean by that?”

“There aren’t many ways to interpret that phrase.”

“How about just telling me more.”

A small smile touched on one corner of Onvical’s mouth. “The pendant is a curse for trespassing.”

“Where?”

“Caraklin’s Lair.”

“I thought that was just a story.”

“As did I.”

“But what about the hand?”

Slowing his pace a little, Onvical lowered his voice. “The pendant is bound to his living spirit. When I tried to discover more, Caraklin stopped me.”

“Didn’t he die in the war?”

“That is the story.”

“You think he’s still alive?”

“I don’t care. The pendant is bound to a living spirit. Do you not understand what that means?”

“That he can’t take it off,” Ambyr ventured.

Taking a deep breath, the Magis again began to take long strides. “Come.”

The noise of the market had grown from a whisper to a low roar as they walked. Knowing that they could not speak privately for much longer, Ambyr pressed with another question. “What are we doing?”

“We’re going to collect the others and then make this Elis tell us where to find Caraklin’s lair.”

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