(In which our visit with the Bey goes the way of Avacûdrin)
Argh! Curufinwë was supposed to write this chapter, as per the agreement that we all had set up: one chapter each until the book was completed. Instead, he pawns off some excuse about “my unique opinions being important to this portion of the chronicle.” It almost makes me feel justified that I accidentally missed one of the druids before he set Curufinwë’s trousers on fire a few weeks ago. But, that is a story for another time. Right now, I will tell you what happened in Rundvark’s palace. Later, I will figure out how to get revenge on Curufinwë for making do this monotonous task.
After the episode that was chronicled in the last chapter, we went upstairs to the two rooms that Curufinwë and Collin had rented for us for the night. The night passed peacefully, save for the fact that Amras accidentally slipped off her bed and woke me up once. Curufinwë and Collin reported no incidents during the night.
The boys were already awake when we made our way downstairs the next morning. We had a delicious breakfast of fresh fruit, rye bread, and the dark beverage known as khaffeé. After this repast, we made our way into the Aristokron Quarter and passed the mansions of the rich people. After this quarter, we made our way toward the palace. Unfortunately, the palace is right in the middle of the citadel. As I mentioned before, the citadel is rather difficult to get into. There are armed guards that will kill you if you so much as ask them the time of day, hidden automatic crossbow turrets, and many other nasty traps that will leave you a rotting corpse in some remote dungeon. On that happy thought, let me tell you how we bypassed said traps.
None of us really knew anything about what awaited us at the palace. I only knew what I knew because Curufinwë had told us all what he had read in a book once. Beyond guards and crossbows, we had no idea what we were up against. Collin’s suggestion was that we just ask the guards for an audience with the king. Curufinwë’s response was to give him a whack upside the head.
“Daemon's Blood, Collin, get a brain!” he exclaimed. “Not only are the guards restricted to a monosyllabic vocabulary, we are nationally known fugitives! If they did see us, they would more likely than not kill us, or send us back to the Mines, which is worse.”
Curufinwë shook his head. “We have no idea what else we have to deal with if we stay off the drawbridge and we have no way of knowing if we can circumvent the guards at the drawbridge. Of course, the traps were built with the idea of siege engines and large groups of men attacking, so we could conceivably make our way around the large traps. Could we climb up?”
I nodded. “Possibly. It’s worth a try, anyway.”
The wall climb was a failure. Unbeknownst to us, there were bladed wires placed along the top of the wall to cut through ropes. These also kept us from using grappling hooks along the top of the walls by deploying very industrious Cutter Beetles that ate through the iron with their acidic saliva. Discouraged, we withdrew for the time being.
The next time, we went with a different approach. We smuggled ourselves into the gatehouse with a bundle of faggots that were coming in from the far southwest. We got much farther this time, but still beat a hasty retreat when a guard mistook Collin’s foot for a piece of wood.
Finally, we swam in through the moat into the cistern underneath the castle. The structure was massive, full of stone monoliths that were built of some sort of shiny obsidian that sparkled in the water. While it was dangerous due to the Sawtooth sharks that were kept in the water, the beasts were slow and easily evaded.
By the time we made it out of the cistern, it was well past the afternoon and heading into nightfall. The guards were mostly in their quarters, convinced that they had kept the citadel free from intruders yet another time. The servants were likely in their quarters on the far end of the castle, and our path to the king’s quarters was clear. We snuck through the dimly lit corridors and up the winding staircases that led ever-upward.
As we finally reached the king’s chambers, we realized that we had a minor problem. “Hmm," Curufinwë said slowly, “this was unexpected.”
“Why isn’t the king in the palace?” Amras asked.
“That is an excellent question for which I have no answer,” Curufinwë replied.
We took in our surroundings quickly. The king’s bedchamber was well- protected from the outside world by a new type of iron window that let light through without letting potential projectiles into the room. The furnishings were austere without being Spartan, a single tapestry depicting a great warrior slaying a dragon on one side of the room and a bed on the other. I sighed. “Well, I guess we missed the king.”
“If we missed the king,” Collin muttered, how are we supposed to talk to him?”
Curufinwë shrugged. “I suppose we’ll have to talk to Andrasfir--the Bey.”
I moaned. “Arrah! Why do we have to talk to that idiot!”
Amras looked at me strangely. “Have you had previous dealings with Andrasfir?”
I frowned. “Nothing that adds to his public appearance. He is as pompous in his sentencing as he is in his private life. He was in town when I was condemned. Therefore, he presided over the trial and sentenced me himself. There was nothing out of place to ruin a 'perfect' trial.”
“Regardless,” Curufinwë said. “We need to see the ardrewllyn human. To Andrasfir it is.”
The Bey lived in the same wing of the palace as the king, so it was a quick walk between Rundsvark’s private chambers and Andrasfir’s. The Bey was sitting in front of an elaborate desk, reading a massive tome and muttering under his breath. When he heard us come in, he spun around swiftly and squawked.
“Guar-!” he yelled, never finishing the word. My knives can have that effect on people.
“Hello, Andrasfir,” Curufinwë growled. “So nice to finally meet you. We came to argue a case before you.”
“C-c-cases can be heard before the court on the third Frrorsday of every month,” the Bey stuttered.
“Oh, no, you don’t understand,” Curufinwë replied. “You already sentenced some of us, and we came with new information regarding our innocence.”
“Ah.” Andrasfir frowned. “In that case, I am unauthorized to overturn previous verdicts without an assurance of loyalty to the State.”
I was about to tell him that ‘loyalty to the State’ was worth about as much as a parcel of Minotaur droppings, but Curufinwë spoke first. “Such as?”
Andrasfir’s eyes gleamed wickedly. “The current quest is the hunting and slaying of a dangerous dragon known as Tragunam. This dragon is Rhi Ninvaar’s favorite servant, and therefore is a danger to our armed forces.”
Collin smiled. “Is that all?”
Andrasfir nodded. “That is the quest. Will you accept?”
Curufinwë glanced at me before answering, “Yes, I believe we will.”
Andrasfir nodded. “Good. Now, I will pretend this conversation never happened. Good night to you.”
I suppose, in retrospect, certain things should have raised alarm at the time. However, we were too excited by the prospect of earning back our freedom to pay attention to such things as details. We had a quest, and we were going to fulfill it.
We had a problem as we snuck out of the palace of the king. None of us really knew anything about killing dragons. Collin thought that you needed a large number of mystical weapons and charms that could be used to slay the monster. The list he produced was filled with many items that really never even existed, and the ones that did were lost in shipwrecks and the like. Amras’s idea was slightly more practical. She suggested that we all buy spears and spike out the dragon’s eyes. It was a safe plan, she argued, because it allowed for the dragon to be fully blinded when we went in for the kill. Finally, Curufinwë said what we had all been thinking. “We need to do some research.”
The Library in Vrielorn was twice the size of a city block, with brightly-colored banners all around it. Amras curled her lip in distaste. “It is rather gaudy,” she said as if that was all that needed to be said.
“Will they have any books on the subject we seek?” Curufinwë asked.
“Hard to say,” she replied. “Back in Icetae, the Library was a repository for all knowledge. Here, it appears more like a circus. I suppose we’ll have to go inside to find out.”
The inside of the Library was much duller and drabber than the outside. The scent of old parchment and paper wafted down from the shelves, all stuffed to their maximum capacity with books. Amras glanced at the placard above the first shelf and snorted. “That’s about as logical as a Minotaur riding a Hammarskjan! They put the books that have subjects at the end of the letter spectrum at the front of the library!” She moved down the row. “At any rate, we need to go all the way back to find any entries for dragons.
Thus began and hour of searching. We looked under ‘dragon,’ ‘firebreather,’ ‘wyvern,’ and even ‘useless, good-for-nothing four-legged lizard’ (at Collin’s suggestion). Finally, under ‘wyrm,’ Curufinwë found the perfect resource. The only title dealing with the subject was a journal made by an adventurer in the near past. This chap had gone across the length and breadth of the world in order to hunt down the nastiest dragons. At least, that was his intention before he met Tragunam. At the end of the journal, we found an entry in Herebarian on a page spattered with a brownish substance that looked suspiciously like blood. Roughly translated, it goes like this.
Fiernrisday, 10 Gereranon, F.A.C. 1600
Today, I found a beast that may well have made an end to my travels. Tragunam, they call it, a monster that cannot be killed by the weapons in my possession nor by charms of any sort. I found the wyrm out in the open, likely just off from leveling some village. The beast spun quick for his size when I attacked, and immediately started spitting gobs of black fire at me. I dodged as best I could and tried to stab it, but my sword and spear bounced off the baest’s scales and it got me off balance and came in for the kill. It slashed me with the pruning shears it calls claws and took off my hand at the wrist. I know that it would have finished me off then and there had I stayed there, but I ran like a daemon out of a Library and made away from the monster. I have heard tales of a blade called the Sword of Kings, which is supposed to be sharp enough to cut steel, and will put all my energies to finding it after I put this journal in the Library in Vrielorn. The blade is supposed to be in a secret tunnel in the Crypt of king Ranjor V, I will return for this when I find it.
“Well,” Collin said, he must not have found the sword, because the journal is still here. However, if what he says is true, then Andrasfir would have sent us to our deaths and we would have known nothing about this!”
“True,” Curufinwë countered, “but at least we know what we need now, even if we don’t know where to get it. I suppose that we should head back to the castle. Back through the cistern, but into the crypt this time.”