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Enly

Port Anitora and the Dragon ship

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I really like it Enly, great job!

I can't really say how different your Nerala is from the one in Pyewacket's story, however it is ok to deviate somewhat from each others. Whenever another author writes about the same character, inevitably there will be some discrepancies. What you have written sounds fine to me.

Selain perhaps seems more like Mortos here(selain would be more quiet, calculating, devious), but again he is really enraged so his behavior seems quite adequate for the circumstances :hug:

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What if we add "more spice" by saying Port Anitora is a black market - that would explain no houses there? People from all over The Draia gather there to sell their most luxurious items.

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Port Anitora really doesn't fit the "black market" at all. It's all open and has a very friendly atmosphere. But I like the idea of having a black market somewhere in the game for sure :D

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Originally I had planned for the story to end with the second arrival on Anitora, which was going to include more information about the market there. Instead, I've decided to end it on Seridia, but here are the ideas I was considering for exactly what port anitora was like:

 

Its a busy market, and very high class. The reason for this, is that most of the merchants that set up there first claiming areas were notified by the many ambassadors from the different races. Such ambassadors would let wealthy fine merchants whom they would benefit from being in a good relationship with know, rather than cheap peddlers. Eventually, to prevent disputes that rose up between different merchants on the islands, Anitora was placed under the government of Idaloran. With the agreement that those merchants already established there could stay, and no more would be added by Idaloran or any other races to ensure that though it was governed by Idaloran, it was still populated and mostly controlled by a variety of races. So the first wealthy merchants that saw the oppurtunity for a fine location in a hopefully to be busy port, were the ones that got to stay there.

 

This isn't approved by Roja, only what I was thinking/planning, but it won't make it into the story anyway so it dosn't really matter :)

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All done at last :) hope you enjoy the final chapter. Though I might change some stuff yet

 

Chapter 10

The Stuff of Legends

 

Sarma surveyed his companions as the distant landmass grew ever nearer. They would reach Whitestone in a matter of only minutes, and would land on the beach. Annaeh and Assain stood silently, their dragon blades gripped causally in their hands. Bridden and Narran chatted quietly in the back of the boat, both were outfitted in steel armor. Bridden had a titanium sword slipped through her belt. Narran had a saber clasped in his hand. Taur was by far the most ominous of the group, he wore no armor, only a blood red cape. He leaned on his staff, which was topped with a blue stone, and watched the boat around him. Sarma knew Taur’s sharp eyes saw everything, and processed every detail. Nothing escaped him.

Henau sat quietly peering out the window towards the landmass, which was now very close.

“How many will there be?” Henau asked.

“Many,” Assain replied shortly. “And they will all summon giants and other monsters to aid them,”

“You just stay on the boat Henau. Yuwon and Hani will never forgive me if you get killed,” Bridden said.

“What if you’re all killed and they burn the ship like they plan?” Henau pressed.

No one spoke for a moment, then Sarma quietly murmured. “That won’t happen,”

There was no response to his words, and the ship was silent as Sarma guided it into the cave and let the orb slowly fall.

Still no sound came from anyone as Sarma pulled open the door and clambered out into the cave. He expected to be attacked immediately, but the cave was empty. The others followed him, except for Henau who was waved back into the vessel when he tried to follow. Henau glared and settled himself down inside the ship again.

Quietly the small war party exited the cave and walked across the water to the shore of Whitestone. Sarma rubbed his hand against his swords hilt nervously. He wasn’t ready for this.

As Sarma started towards the tunnel under the ridge of rocky hills he heard a voice.

“Stop!” Sarma froze and looked behind at his friends, his heart skipped a beat as he saw nothing. Then he recalled that Taur had promised to make all but Sarma invisible until an attack was launched, so that they could surprise the enemy.

“And so Sarma returns,” Sarma whipped around towards the tunnel as Groden emerged from behind some rocks, flanked by nearly fifty quiet humans and elves.

“I do, but I expected a better welcoming committee than you,” Sarma growled.

Groden laughed coldly. “Haven’t you heard though Sarma? There’s a bounty on your head, for robbing the palace treasury. They want you, alive, or dead,” Groden’s eyes flickered dangerously as Sarma stared.

“I did nothing of the sort! I went to Irillion!” Sarma clamped his mouth shut as he realized Groden knew all this.

“Oh yes, we know that. We just didn’t feel it was terribly important to inform Lord Luxin of it. After all, you are only a gnome, no one will be missing you,” Groden smirked at Sarma waiting for a reply.

Suddenly one of the humans next to Groden collapsed to the ground, a bloody gash had sliced across his chest. Groden and the others stared shocked then all took a step back as Assain and Annaeh advanced on either side of Sarma, now perfectly visible. Bridden and Narran spread out to the right and left, and Taur stood quietly next to Sarma his staff pointed at the now dead man.

What happened after was a flurry of action. Groden and his small army recovered quickly. Lights flashed as giants appeared and lumbered towards the draegoni. Two more of Groden’s company were down in seconds from Bridden’s sword, and another followed quickly, smote down by Narran.

Those were short-lived victories, yetis and chimeran wolves cut off their access to the summoners and they were all forced to fight the monsters.

Assain jabbed at a giant, Annaeh behind him. They moved together back-to-back covering the others weaknesses. Annaeh twisted and slashed at a giant, then skipped backwards as Assain struck down a yeti. Their blades swept in arcs and spun between their fingers as they turned, ducked, stabbed, and sliced. Faster than the eye could follow the blade would switch from one hand to another and slip past the arms of the monsters.

Bridden danced gracefully between the chimeran’s trying to reach the summoners. She had little luck and was forced to take down the ever-increasing monsters rather than destroy their source. She brought down her sword on one monster’s head, only to be slashed by another on her side. Using her titanium shield as a weapon she waded through the ranks of monsters, getting dangerously near to Groden.

Narran was locked in combat with a particularly adept warrior. The elf had summoned no creatures, but was keeping Narran occupied and preventing him from joining the fight. Narran sliced and parried, without as much grace as an elf or draegoni, but with an unfailing strength that forced the elf back against the rocks.

Meanwhile Taur threw spells at every monster within his range. chimerans fell in clusters as he casts spells faster than anyone Sarma had ever seen. A stocky human behind Groden attempted to heal some of the monsters, but Taur finished him with a spell.

Sarma himself was busy keeping monsters away from Taur so that he could focus on his magic. None of it mattered though, no matter how many giants Assain and Annaeh took down, more and more kept appearing. Bridden slew chimerans right and left, but there was an endless flow of them. And Narran was now struggling not only against the elf but two yetis as well.

Sarma continued to slash at the monsters around him and Taur, but his will was fading. All his hard work, was coming to an end. The days he had spent slaving away with Clark to make that boat, the empty time of hunger, thinking he would die. The joyous weeks on Arius, learning all he could about the people of Irillion, it was all wasted. Here they were on a lonely beach in southern Whitestone, no one would ever know what happened. Irillion wouldn’t send any ships after Sarma for fear of what happened to him, Seridia would never know Irillion existed. Selain was finally going to win, and Aluwen wasn’t intervening to stop him.

Suddenly Sarma realized he was drifting away from Taur, he tried to move back towards him but a sea of chimerans blocked his way. Sarma began to panic as he realized he was isolated from the rest of the group.

“Not so bold on your own are you Sarma?” Groden taunted as he walked up behind Sarma, flanked by two yetis.

Sarma stumbled as he turned to face Groden, who laughed mockingly.

“Your friends were not expected, but they will be taken care of,” Groden drew out a shimmering serpent sword wreathed in purple fire. Sarma took several hurried steps backwards only to trip over a rock and fall unceremoniously to the ground. Groden laughed again and advanced as Sarma crawled to his feet.

Groden lunged brining his sword down on Sarma, who ducked behind the shield Narran had given him. Groden growled and brought his sword around to Sarma’s right only to be stopped there by his sword. Sarma silently thank Aluwen that Groden was neither a swift, nor talented swordsman. His movements were slow and easily predicted. Sarma barely had time to counter though. He continued to try and move away from Groden but the monsters had formed a rigid circle around the pair, he was trapped. He switched off blocking Groden’s blows between his shield and sword and tried to move towards a narrow gap between the ranks of monsters. Sarma was nervous and terrified and paid no attention where he stepped as he walked backwards. To his humiliation he stumbled again and fell to the sandy beach.

“You’re pathetic really, can’t even take on a fighter like me. Those two draegoni can at least put up a good fight,” Groden ridiculed.

Sarma stared in horror as he watched Groden’s sword follow a slow arc towards his head. He was going to die, the thought finally sunk in to Sarma. He was never going to see Clark again, or his newly made friends from Irillion, he was about to die. Sarma clenched his eyes closed but the stroke never fell. Had he been watching Sarma would have seen a heavy arrow thud into Groden’s shoulder. Sarma jerked his eyes open as he heard Groden cry out, and watched the sword fall from his hand.

Standing behind the ranks of monsters, only a little ways down the beach were five archers raining arrows down on the monsters. Sarma stood and looked around, to see that a group of soldiers had poured over the rocky hills and were now cutting down the ranks of Groden’s party.

Groden himself whimpered on the ground behind Sarma. Something more than the arrow through his shoulder afflicted him.

“No, I did it. I had him, I was about to kill him! Its not my fault!” Groden continued to mutter excuses to some invisible enemy, and Sarma realized he was talking to Selain. Sarma took a hesitant step towards Groden actually feeling pity for the poor human. Groden jumped suddenly to his feet though, and ran madly down the beach. Confused, the monsters he summoned tried to follow him, but soon lost track of where he was. Sarma watched fascinated as Groden scrambled into the hills and disappeared behind the rocks.

That was the last time Sarma saw Groden, he heard rumors at times of a deranged summoner wandering Seridia, but never saw him again, or heard any real proof. Sarma turned his attention back to the battle to find his friends. But there was little battle left. The uniformed soldiers of Whitestone had either killed or captured all of Groden’s small army. And the few remaining monsters were quickly slain.

Sarma took several steps towards his friends, who thankfully all stood together with no more than scratches and bruises. He was stopped as two gruff soldiers grabbed his arms.

“You are under arrest for thievery from the Lord of Whitestone,” said one of the soldiers. Sarma was dragged over to the other soldiers and his friends. Annaeh stepped forward in front of the humans who held Sarma. He towered above them and glared menacingly down.

“On what charges do you arrest this gnome?” Annaeh growled. The two soldiers who gripped Sarma could do nothing but sputter and stare at the draegoni. Then another soldier walked up, his uniform was slightly nicer than the others and indicated that he was a captain.

“He is arrested for thievery of Lord Luxin’s treasury,” the captain stated.

“And when did this thievery occur?” questioned Assain who stood beside his brother.

“Three nights ago,” the captain replied.

“I can personally assure you that three nights ago this gnome was further away from Whitestone than you can even imagine,” Narran had now taken Sarma’s side as well and stood with the two draegoni. The captain began to reply but another soldier walked up, even more finally dressed than the captain.

“I am General Reddar of Lord Luxin’s army,” he nodded his head silently to Sarma’ friends. “I have cleared Sarma of all charges of theft and placed the blame upon the true culprit Groden Terailidis,”

“What proof do you have of this?” the captain question.

“Who are we to argue with the word of the gods?” the General glared at the captain. “Captain, why don’t you escort these messengers of Irillion to Lakeside,”

“Yes sir,” the captain unhappily guided Annaeh, Assain, and Narran towards the path through the hills with most of the soldiers. Bridden remained standing with Sarma and the General however.

“May I help you mistress elf?” the general questioned politely.

“You were sent to this beach by Aluwen I presume?” Bridden questioned.

“I was. She appeared to me early this morning while I slept, and told me what I needed to do. I am the leader of Aluwen’s followers in Whitestone,” Bridden bowed respectfully at the general’s words.

“I am Captain Bridden, Aluwen’s priestess on the continent of Irillion,” the general was taken aback and stared in wonder.

“Its true then, as Aluwen said, that you came from Irillion, that this gnome built a ship that can travel between continents?”

“The goddess does not lie, General Reddar,”

The General quietly accepted her words and turned to Sarma.

“You then are the gnome that has reconnected our two continents?” he asked

Sarma nodded quietly.

“Whitestone owes you much then, I shall send messages to Lord Luxin immediately, you and your friends will be taken to Whitestone city and given the best lodgings we can offer,” the General said happily.

“We would be much obliged,” Bridden replied politely “I am afraid that those of us who belong on the continent of Irillion will not stay very long though. Our place is with our people, and others will be sent as ambassadors to your Lord,”

Sarma’s attention wavered as Bridden and the general continued to talk. He had done it, he had reached the continent of Irillion and returned to tell the tale. Selain and his minion Groden had been defeated, and now Sarma would be treated as a hero.

That night Henau and Sarma sat in the tavern of Lakeside, their friends around them. Sarma resolved that he did not want to remain in Whitestone long either, he would prefer to ferry people between the two continents.

Over the years the dragon ship and Sarma became living legends. The ship’s insides were changed to make for more comfortable travel, and Anitora grew into a thriving market. Assain and Annaeh disappeared to their homeland, though Sarma did see them occasionally, as he made journeys across Irillion with his gnomish kin. Bridden and Narran returned to their ship and crew, and continued their voyages through Irillion’s seas. Henau returned to his home, but eventually took up residence on Anitora, managing the records of Seridians that came to Irillion. He and Sarma became close friends, and worked together for many years.

Sarma was always welcomed as a hero on Seridia, and feasts were held in his honor. But he preferred Irillion where he was always welcomed as a friend among the gnomes, and indeed many other races. The draegoni were kind to him but never gave him undue attention. The elves of Bridden’s homeland were always cordial and offered lodging, but never showered him with gifts. Sarma even met the empress of the Idal Empire, and stayed in her palace. But home for Sarma was always Anitora, or among the gnomes of Arius.

For in those places he was merely Sarma, a simple gnome. To the rest of Draia though, he was a hero blessed by the gods.

 

Ehem.... THE END (every story needs those words no? :P )

 

Now I plan to go back and re-read the whole thing several times for more grammar/spelling corrections, and any other slight changes it might need. And i still need to title this chapter, and chapter 9. besides that though, I'm all done.

Edited by Enly

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Its nice to be done. There was so much more I could have written, and lots of things I wanted to put in that I didn't, but details are boring.

 

Chapter 9 is now titled 'never alone'

 

and Chapter 10 is 'The Stuff of Legends'

 

I tried to read through it again for more spelling/grammar mistakes, but I've gone over this story so many times my brain just fixes all the errors with out allerting me they are there :D

 

-edit-

and thanks to my friend moonskimmer for helping me work some things out. Even when she just ignored me as i spammed her and worked things out myself.

Edited by Enly

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Guest Annatira

Wow, Enly!

 

I was really captivated by your story, you have an incredible talent!

 

You need a little help with grammar and spelling here and there, would it be easier for me to forum pm you with some suggestions I have? Not sure what the best process is as this is a long story.

 

I do have one general question about the entire story - is each chapter intended to be one long paragraph? There were times when I was looking for the paragraph break and the sentence structure in the typing confused me a bit, not sure if some spots were intended to be breaks. I see where you have * * * * at the end of some paragraphs but these seem to indicate the passage of time to me rather than a paragraph break.

 

Annatira

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There are paragraph breaks, and they show up in my word application, but when I copy the text into the forums the indents go away. A new line does start for each new paragraph, but its hard to notice it. And yes I use the **** for longer breaks and passages of time, rather than only a new paragraph.

Edited by Enly

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Enly and I have been busy collaborating on her Port Anitora and the Dragon Ship story. What follows is a repost of the entire edited story.

 

Chapter 1

An Outcast

 

Quietly, Sarma walked outside the tavern and took a stroll through the darkened city. It was late at night and he should have been getting home, yet the cool night air felt good after a few too many drinks. Reaching the outskirts of the city, he sat down on a rock and leaned back. Above him a stunning blanket of stars twinkled while the two moons hung silently in the darkness casting their ghostly light upon the city.

 

He closed his eyes and breathed deeply. This was beautiful, this was peace. Yet, as he sat there, his happiness was marred by the thought of the next day: more ropes to make, work to be done, money to be made. Without money he wouldn't be able to pay the rent on his house and would be left with no place to live. With a sigh, he picked himself up and headed back toward his house. The few other people on the streets barely looked at him. Sarma was a gnome and short enough to be easily forgotten, but that suited him: better to be forgotten than persecuted.

 

° ° ° ° ° °

 

“That is unacceptable! I ordered twice this! And the quality is horrible as well!” The tall human angrily threw the rope at Sarma. “Out! I shall never do business with a stupid gnome like you again!”

 

With a scowl, Sarma gathered up his merchandise and stalked out of the building. His business was failing fast and he was running out of options. Making a living in Whitestone City was far more difficult than it seemed. He walked down the streets, now crowded with people in the middle of the day. Passing through the market, he reached his small home. He cursed as he reached his doorstep: the door was smeared with mud and white paint that read ‘stupid gnome’.

 

Gnomes were uncommon in Whitestone. It did get many races and numerous travelers, yet gnomes were not among the most common residents. Therefore, being in the minority, Sarma was persecuted. He stored the rope in his room and went to find something to clean the door. As he walked back toward his door he heard rocks landing on it, as well as yells and jeers from outside. Angrily he threw down the wet rag he was holding and yanked open the door. Outside was not a bunch of kids as he had suspected, rather a small mob of humans. At the head of the group throwing rocks toward his house was a slender and pale human. He had simple brown hair and common blue eyes: an average man, unrecognizable to most. Yet Sarma knew his face all too well.

 

“Hello Groden,” grumbled Sarma. Groden was a young human who delighted in making Sarma’s life as miserable as he could.

 

“Gnome! How dare you show your face in this city. You sell things at outrageous prices, thereby stealing money from our humble people. You act poor when truly you hide your riches. You are a thief and an abomination.”

 

Groden would have continued for quite some time had Sarma not cut him off.

 

“Enough, you lousy weasel. You hate me, obviously, now can’t you just be content with your hatred and let me go about my life?” Sarma yelled.

 

Groden smiled wickedly and raised his fist, which held a rock. Sarma paled and jerked behind the door before the rock could hit him. He closed and bolted the door as more rocks pounded the outside of his house.

 

Sarma walked back to his bedroom and looked around at his few possessions.

 

“I’m done,” he yelled to the wall. “I’m leaving this sad city never to return.” Angrily he gathered his things and threw them in a bag. Walking to the back of his bedroom he located the metal grate next to his dresser. The smell rising was horrendous, yet he had learned to deal with it. He pulled it up, slipped inside, and climbed down the ladder into the sewers. He silently thanked the gods he had found this little escape route several years previously. It had likely been installed by the previous owner, whom Sarma knew to have been a thief. That sewer connection was also the one reason Sarma was able to afford a decent house in town. If someone took the trouble to close off that sewer entrance, perhaps the landlord could actually rent the building for the price it deserved. Eventually Sarma found another ladder and climbed back up to the city, he was now on its outskirts. Brushing himself off, he shouldered his pack and headed toward the gate. He halted as he exited the city wondering where was he going. He contemplated this for a moment and then looked south. Far away, beyond where he could see, was the bay where his life had first begun. Setting out, he thought about what he knew of his origins.

 

He had been born in the small village of Lakeside; it would be 30 years ago in several weeks. His pregnant mother had washed up on the shores of the Riven sea. She had been found by the villagers of Lakeside and taken to the Inn where she had given birth to Sarma, and then died. The villagers had named him Sarma because of a necklace she had worn that had the name engraved on it. Reluctantly they had raised him, yet to them he was strange and unnatural. As soon as he was able to fend for himself, they turned him out of their homes. Eventually Sarma had made his way to Whitesone, and made what life he could there. Sarma had often wondered if the people in Whitestone had considered him a thief because of the nature of his house's former owner. It seemed unlikely to him, seeing as he had been persecuted even when he had rented a room in the tavern for nearly a year. In the end, Sarma was forced to conclude that he was only ever persecuted because of his race, and no one looked at him beyond that.

 

Lot of good they were, thought Sarma to himself. As afternoon crept into evening, he reached lakeside village. He spent nearly all of that evening finding some place to stay. At last he located an old abandoned cabin on the village outskirts that he was told he could have. It was only one room lacking any furniture whatsoever. He was content in spite of this though: it was a roof over his head and walls to keep out any animals. Settling down on the dusty floor, he rolled out his blankets and let sleep take him away from his troubled life.

 

° ° ° ° ° °

 

The next morning, he awoke to sunlight streaming in through the wall’s cracks. He lay there for a while, enjoying the peaceful silence and looking around the room. After a few moments, some boards in the corner caught his eye.

 

Groaning, he rolled out of bed to investigate. His muscles ached after a night on a wooden floor. No doubt he would be sore all day, but for now all he could do was loosen up a bit. He stretched out his arms and rolled his neck as he walked over to examine the odd patch of flooring. The floorboards in a square patch at the corner were new and fresh wood, while those around it were old and rotten like the rest of the house. Curious, Sarma slid his fingers into a crack between the new wood and the old. The fresh patch lifted easily from the floor, it hadn’t even been nailed down. Underneath it was not the dirt he had expected, instead there was a hole with a ladder leading down into the darkness.

 

Sarma was very intrigued now. Throwing caution to the winds, he grabbed his lantern and slid himself through the hole and onto the ladder. He climbed down slowly; the passage was tight, even for a small gnome like Sarma. He couldn’t think of how anyone but a child could have gotten through the tunnel.

 

He thought perhaps a dwarf, but why would a dwarf be digging tunnels in Whitestone? They had their own lands and mines, and though they came to Whitestone for trade, it was unlikely they would make it a residence long enough to be digging tunnels around the coast.

 

At long last, the shaft opened up into a tunnel running south and slightly west. He stretched his legs for a moment, then stooped to make his way through the tunnel. The ceiling was low and his back ached as he bent over for so long. Small spiders and rats darted in front of him, then back into the shadows.

 

He began to notice the tunnel was starting to slope up slightly. Suddenly, at the edge of his lantern's faint circle of light, he noticed a ladder in front of him. The tunnel ended and turned straight into another shaft, far overhead Sarma could see light. Eager to see what the purpose of this mysterious tunnel was, he climbed up as fast as he could.

 

Despite his lantern, the tunnel had been dark compared to the bright morning light he now found himself in. Blinking a couple times to adjust his vision, he examined his surroundings. He was on the beach! Stunned, he turned to glance behind. The rocky hills that normally posed an obstacle for anyone trying to reach the beach lay directly to his back. Satisfied with his discovery, he stood and looked around. The beach was small and had coarse white sand.

 

He strolled for a bit trying to imagine where his mother had washed up. He had never actually seen the beach before. Few people ever came to it; his mother had been lucky enough to wash up when the villagers had held a celebration on the shore.

 

Settling himself at the waters edge, he stared out to sea. A small island lay in the water not far off shore, beyond that though it was water as far as the eye could see. He silently wondered what lands lay out there, perhaps one full of gnomes? No, gnomes are odd creatures, uncommon remnants of some old race, he thought to himself. But what if they aren’t? questioned a different part of him. What if there are other lands out there with gnomes everywhere? He looked behind him at the rocky hills, at the ladder which led down to the tunnel and then back to his pitiful cabin.

 

What do I have here? What do I have to lose? And somewhere deep inside, a voice whispered, nothing. I will build a boat and sail across the oceans until I die or find some land out of legend. Irillion, the fabled continent of Irillion! Myths start somewhere don’t they? He tossed this thought around in his head. Every myth contains a grain of truth. Perhaps there are lands out there, and if they are, I will find them!

 

 

Chapter 2

Dragon Bones

 

Sarma grabbed another nail and pounded it into a board. It was over a week now since he had discovered the beach. The villagers seemed perfectly happy that he kept to himself and stayed out of town. He spent a couple days in the forest gathering wood to build a boat. After that, he discovered he would need to spend two days excavating the tunnel and widening it into a large shaft, which would allow him to get the wood through to the beach. The floor of his small cabin was now covered in dirt from his excavation, yet he didn’t mind. It was summer and the days were hot and long, while the nights were comfortably cool. He slept on the beach nearly every night. The change in activity was difficult for him at first, but his muscles soon adjusted to the new workload.

 

His boat was coming along quickly, Sarma had nothing else to do and he spent all his days hard at work. Very soon a hull had begun to take shape. It was a small boat, yet he built it strong and sturdy so that it might hold up to the sea. He had been taught to build with wood when he was very young. Only one man in the village had been kind to Sarma. He was an older man who made wooden shields and staves. Sarma learned much about carving and building anything with wood from that man. However, Sarma knew very little of sailing . The only time he had actually been on the sea was a journey from Lakeside to Corren village when he had been a boy. He resolved he would teach himself to sail while at sea and put no more thought to that matter.

 

° ° ° ° ° °

 

Three weeks after he had arrived at the coast, Sarma decided to take the day off and walked to Grahm’s village. Few people there knew him and though they stared and gave him scowls, they acted polite enough. He spent the day enjoying the village, then headed toward his home in the evening. He reached his small cabin late at night and decided to sleep inside that night. Drawing his blankets over him he slept soundly unaware of the person that had followed him home from the village.

 

He awoke the next morning to another fine summer day. It was the month of Viasia, the last of summer. He got out of bed stumbling and with a slight headache, likely due to the wine from the day before. He crawled into the tunnel and soon found himself on the beach. Blinking sleep from his eyes, he yawned loudly and stretched, then stopped as his eyes settled on his boat.

 

He ran toward his boat then swore loudly. The boat was a mess: the wood was shattered and strewn about, then coated with mud and dung. A piece of parchment lay in the sand at the center of the wreckage. Sarma angrily picked it up and read:

 

Little gnomes shouldn’t build boats.

-Groden

 

Sarma swore again and punched his fist against a piece of wood. He hit it so hard that the skin on his knuckles cracked and his fingers bled.

 

“Sarma, calm down old friend,” spoke a voice from behind him. Sarma whirled around in surprise.

 

“Clark?” asked Sarma shocked. A tall black human stood behind him.

 

“Who else Sarma? I came to greet you for your birthday and found that worm ruining your boat. I sent him scurrying away before he did more damage,” said Clark.

 

“It's too late. He ruined my boat; all that hard work! Now I have to start completely over!”

 

Clark laughed, “You didn’t know how to sail anyway, dear friend. Besides, I have brought you a birthday present which I believe will lift your spirits.”

 

Sarma sat dejectedly in the sand, the wreckage of his work around him. “What could possible lift my spirits from this solemn depression?” he muttered.

 

Clark was silent for a moment and then sat down beside Sarma in the sand. Clark was an old friend of Sarma’s - one of his few. He was a mage from Portland who visited Whitestone often, as he was friends with the owner of the city’s magic shop. After only one meeting, the two had fast become friends.

 

“I have another way for you to complete your goal,” said Clark at last.

 

Sarma turned puzzled to Clark. “Besides building a boat?”

 

“Well, it would be a boat, of sorts,” spoke Clark in reply.

 

“What do you mean?”

 

“Well, here, let me start at the beginning. It’s a bit of a tale so listen well,”

 

“Alright,” Sarma looked at Clark expectantly, curious to know what he was talking about.

 

“Well, long, long ago, before many things happened, there were dragons all across these lands. In the changing of the world, many died, some fled to other lands, some turned from wing to fin and became creatures of the sea, yet several lingered. One of these that lingered dwelt in the land surrounding Portland. At that time the city was only a village, struggling to survive in the hard times of the world. The dragon roamed their lands unchecked and the people could do little about it. At long last a rescuer came to their aid, his name has long been lost in time, but he is now known as the The Slayer. The Slayer was a powerful mage from a mysterious land across the sea. He defeated the dragon with ancient magic forgotten by us now. The scales he gifted to the villagers of Portland in the hopes it would help them rebuild their lands plagued by the beast. The scales were worth so much that they helped Portland become not only what it had once been but also more; a thriving port city, rich and grand. The mage took the bones for himself though and hid them away, then he settled down in Portland and took an apprentice. Eventually the mage died and he passed on his position and belongings to his apprentice. Right before his death, the mage told his apprentice that bones had the magic of dragons woven into them, and that they still held the power of flight. He prophesied that one day, someone like him would use the bones to return his body to the land from whence he had come. Time passed and the world grew and changed. The mages of Portland came and went, passing on their position to an apprentice. Eventually the bones came to me and I was told what The Slayer had told his first apprentice. Now, here I sit on this beach, I believe you are the one that is to return The Slayer to his ancient home.”

 

“What? Now this is magic Clark! I can’t do magic!” Sarma had listened politely but this was beginning to seem strange. He wasn’t part of any ancient prophecy.

 

“I know. It is my job to awaken the spells that came from the time of dragons. It is your job to build the bones into a vessel and, with them, venture to The Slayer’s home. I have studied many myths and legends of old, and I believe The Slayer came from Irillion.”

 

“You think its real then? Irilion?”

 

“Yes, I do. There is a huge amount of evidence to its existence, people just tend to deny things that are different or strange,” Clark stood and beckoned to Sarma. “Come, I want to show you what I have brought. I hid it across the water.”

 

Sarma pulled himself up and followed Clark to the very edge of the beach.

 

“I created a hidden path under the water as well,” Clark waded into the water and Sarma watched fascinated, as the water never went above his boots. Cautiously Sarma followed, sticking close behind Clark so as not to lose the hidden underwater path. Before he knew it Sarma was standing on the island he had seen, a small cave entrance before him.

 

Clark ducked his head and went in. Sarma followed. He looked around as his eyes adjusted to the light. He gasped and walked forward, lying on the floor of the cave was the huge skeleton of a dragon. It was laid out flat, yet it was obviously a dragon. That was the only beast Sarma thought could grow that huge.

 

“These are the bones of the dragon killed by The Slayer,” said Clark.

 

“You want to give them to me?” questioned Sarma completely shocked.

 

“Yes,” Clark replied simply.

 

“How does one build a flying ship then? Since you seem to know all about this,” Sarma asked, still not in acceptance of the idea, but curious nonetheless.

 

Clark smiled. “I’m about to teach you little friend.”

 

 

Chapter 3

The Blessing of the Gods

 

“A little higher and more to the left,” shouted Sarma as he and Clark positioned another board on the boat’s frame. “There, perfect!”

 

Sarma nailed in the board as Clark held it up for him. They had been working hard for nearly a month now. The magnificent ship was near completion. Sarma and Clark had built the boat and the dragon bones into one huge structure. Clark had yet to explain exactly how the ship would fly, but Sarma was patient. This boat was much harder to build: it was far bigger and Clark insisted that everything be a certain way.

 

After putting in a few more boards, the two of them sat down for a moment of rest.

 

“Coming along very nicely, don’t you think Clark?” asked Sarma.

 

“Yes, not much left to do,” responded Clark with a grin.

 

“How about telling me how it’s going to fly?”

 

“Patience, I’ll explain in time.”

 

Sarma scowled but let the subject drop, there was work to be done.

 

° ° ° ° ° °

 

A little over a week later, Sarma and Clark stepped back to admire their work.

 

“We’re done, aren’t we?” questioned Sarma amazed.

 

Clark smiled widely. “I believe so, little friend. All that remains now is the magic.”

 

Sarma sat down amazed and looked around. They had knocked out one wall of the cave that had consisted of crumbling stone that was nearly completely eroded by seawater anyway. They had then built a huge wooden door over the gap, which would allow them a way to easily get the boat out of the cavern.

 

Clark had brought something with the dragon bones as well. A long ornate coffin lay tucked away at the side of the cavern. According to Clark, it held the body of The Slayer, or what was left of it. Apparently The Slayer had come from a race which, at the time, was very superstitious about death. The Slayer had wanted his final resting place to be in his homeland, so that his soul could carry on. Sarma wasn’t too sure about that stuff, but he was willing to deal with the eerie coffin if it meant that much to Clark.

 

The boat itself was the real wonder. A huge ship of wood with an entire dragon skeleton built into it was a sight to behold. Sarma was at a loss for how it would ever fly, but he trusted Clark.

 

“Well, my friend, there are things I need before I can perform the spells necessary. I must return to Portland for a short while to gather them. Do you wish to accompany me? or remain here with your boat?” Clark looked at Sarma, awaiting his reply.

 

“As much as I would love to see your fine house again, I would prefer to stay here with my boat. I still fear sabotage and I need to gather supplies from the village anyway. Who knows how long this journey will be. More than likely it will be my last,” Sarma looked regretfully at the dragon ship, he knew what he was getting into and he didn’t expect to get far. A flying ship was a dangerous thing, and a journey to a continent that may not even exist was as well.

 

Clark nodded to Sarma and slipped out quietly not wanting to disturb his friend’s thoughts.

 

Sarma guessed that his friend would probably be gone until the next day, or later, so Sarma headed into town to gather some supplies; for the most part only food and drink; the basic necessities. Perhaps he could buy some fresh clothes from someone off the street as well. Lakeside village was crowded and bustling with afternoon activity. Boats left the small dock heading toward Corren Village while beggars sat hunched on street corners. And the general store was crowded and busy. Sarma gathered what he needed from the general store and managed to find someone selling clothes in the streets. Then he headed over to the tavern to get some food for the journey and to rest and have a drink as well.

 

At long last he got his drink and settled at a table in the corner. He sighed and closed his eyes after he took a sip from his mug. The usual sounds of a tavern met his ears: laughing, music, talking. It was evening now and more people came to the tavern.

 

Relaxed and content he opened his eyes. By chance, or perhaps the will of the gods, he opened them to look right at Groden who was staring at him from the bar. As soon as Groden and Sarma made eye contact, Groden jumped up and ran for the door.

 

Sarma sat up so quickly he spilled his drink across the table. Cursing he grabbed his things and rushed after Groden. Groden had exited the tavern and was already running full sprint toward Sarma’s cabin. Sarma had the short legs of a gnome, though, so he wasn’t going anywhere fast. He chased after Groden as quickly as he could.

 

What is it with him! Sarma thought as he ran. He spends his life trying to ruin mine; it’s beyond just bullying. What purpose does it serve for him! Far ahead of him, Sarma watched Groden dart into his cabin closing the door behind him. Sarma stumbled toward his house and fell against the door, he turned the old handle and pushed but something was blocking him on the other side. He could hear Groden scrambling into the tunnel.

 

Enraged, Sarma drove his whole body against the door as hard as he could. It wouldn’t budge at all. Standing back from the door, panting heavily, Sarma tried to think straight. The back! There was a large crack in the back he could probably widen and get into. He ran around the house and started prying away the boards. Finally, a gnome-sized hole was in front of him. He dove through it.

 

Scrambling to his feet, he started toward the tunnel, then froze as he glanced toward the entrance. A cyclops was seated against the door. It slowly turned its lazy eye toward Sarma, who darted into the tunnel before it could even think of attacking him.

 

As he scrambled through the darkness, things began to fall into place. Groden was probably a servant of Selain, the god of summoning. That’s how the cyclops had gotten into the cabin. Perhaps the priest had given Groden some mission against Sarma and that was why he wouldn’t stop harassing him. That didn’t really matter to Sarma; all that mattered was that Groden was already at his boat, tearing it apart.

 

Sarma reached the end of the tunnel and ran toward the shore. Rushing through the water, he looked for Groden since he wasn’t anywhere outside. Sarma felt the water splash up onto him as he stumbled as fast as he could toward the island.

 

He staggered into the cave with no idea how he would stop Groden if the accursed human was strong enough to summon a cyclops. Luckily for Sarma, it turned out he didn’t have to do anything.

 

Groden was several feet away from the thankfully still whole boat, but he was standing petrified looking at something in front of him. Sarma slipped to the side so he could see around Groden, and stared as well. Standing before Groden, hovering slightly off the floor was a translucent gnome.

 

“Selain help me,” whispered Groden terrified.

 

“Away with you! Scum of Selain! You have no business here!” roared the figure. His voice was deep and haunting as it reverberated throughout the cavern.

 

Groden shook in terror then turned and bolted out of the cave. Sarma was as terrified as Groden and had no idea what to do. As Groden left, the figure turned to Sarma and smiled.

 

“Return me to my home so that my soul can rest in peace.” The figure whispered this time, yet Sarma could hear him clearly. A slight breeze came in through the cave entrance and suddenly the apparition was gone. As Sarma still stood there staring in wonder, the voice of the figure whispered again.

 

“The gods are watching you Sarma. Your decisions will affect the fate of the world. Go with the blessing of the righteous ones.”

 

Shocked and exhausted Sarma’s knees buckled and he collapsed into the dirt.

Edited by PhilDaBurn

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Chapter 4

To Fly

 

“Sarma, Sarma!” Clark’s voice broke through the darkness and Sarma’s eyes cracked open. “What on earth happened?!” Clark yelled as soon as he saw Sarma was conscious.

 

“Clark! Oh dear, you’re back? I’ve been out that long?” Sarma was shocked.

 

“How long? When did this happen? What happened?” Clark was horribly concerned, Sarma tried to explain what happened as Clark listened intently.

 

“Aluwen have mercy! A ghost?” Clark exclaimed as Sarma finished.

 

“I guess that was what it was; by all appearances, it was the ghost of The Slayer.”

 

“Amazing, but he didn’t harm you at all? Just scared away Groden?”

 

“No, never touched me, and he sure scared off Groden. Then he blessed me in the name of the gods!”

 

“Oh what I would have given to be here! The spirit of The Slayer himself, how lucky you are my friend!”

 

“I would have gladly traded places with you. It was frightening!”

 

“Here, drink this.” Clark handed Sarma a vial. “It may taste foul, but it will help you feel better.”

 

Obediently Sarma downed the bottle's contents. It had a bitter taste, yet he began to feel his strength return right away.

 

“There, better?” smiled Clark.

 

“Yes, thank you.” Sarma nodded and hauled his body to its feet. He stretched his limbs out; lying in the dust for over a day had been quite uncomfortable. He wondered why he had not awakened sooner.

 

Clark watched, concern evident on his face, as Sarma looked over the ship. Sarma seemed well enough, however, and Clark joined him next to the ship.

 

“Are you ready, then, to make this thing fly?” asked Sarma.

 

“I suppose. I really am not all too sure what I’m doing and I have no idea how long it will take,” admitted Clark.

 

Clark walked silently over to the boat; he stooped to the ground and grabbed a book that sat near the ship’s hull. Flipping through the pages, he looked for something. At last he stopped and started reading to himself.

 

Sarma let him be and took a stroll around the cave. He gave the wall with The Slayer’s coffin a wide berth. Helpful or not, ghosts were creepy. Sarma glanced back at Clark who was still reading and exited the cave. Sitting down on the sandy shore he looked toward the mainland.

 

Am I ready for this? He thought to himself. Am I really going to leave behind everything I know in search of a land that is likely a myth? Picking up a small stick, he scratched the sand with it as he thought about the prospects of his trip. He wasn’t leaving behind much. But this was all too much for him, an appearance of a ghost, the blessing of the gods, the knowledge that whatever he did would have lasting effects on the world. He had just wanted to get away from the persecution of his home. At first the idea of leaving was not really with a goal for getting anywhere, it was more of a suicidal mission in order to make himself feel like he would die doing something noble. Now, Clark was casting spells to make a ship fly, perhaps he would actually make it through this. Do I want to make it through this?

 

Sarma stood and looked at the mainland again, then turned and walked into the cave. There was no backing out now, he would go, and what would come would come.

 

“Ready yet Clark?” shouted Sarma to his friend who was in the boat.

 

Clark’s head peered out of the vessel. “Nearly, I’m trying to set up the proper equipment so you can steer this dragon.”

 

Sarma sat against the cave wall and watched the boat quietly as he listened to Clark rummaging around inside. There was a flash of green light and Clark yelped. Sarma jumped up worried.

 

“Clark?” Sarma yelled.

 

“I’m alright, rudimentary mistake, not to worry,” Clark replied quickly.

 

Sarma was concerned, yet there was really nothing he could do. It was all up to Clark now. A few more minutes passed and Clark continued to scramble throughout the boat. Finally he went to the front and sat down. Sarma could just make him out through the one glass window they had put into the ship.

 

Clark laid his hands on the boat on either side of him then began to murmur something under his breath.The book he had been looking at earlier was now in front of him as he read whatever ancient spells the pages revealed. This continued for several minutes before suddenly the entire vessel flared red for several seconds, the light then faded to orange and eventually the glow was gone all together. The boat sat looking just as it had before. Clark jumped out of the boat as his spell was completed.

 

“I think I did it!” he said with glee.

 

“You think?” Sarma questioned a little unsure.

 

“I did it,” Clark said with more confidence. “This boat will now fly. For how long or how far, I do not know I’m afraid. Nor do I know how fast. This was an ancient spell not used for centuries. I can only hope it will work well enough to get you to Irillion.”

 

“So how do I fly it?” asked Sarma confused.

 

“Come here, its quite simple,” Clark scrambled back into the boat and Sarma followed.

 

“I have connected the entire spell to this orb here,” Clark pointed to a small round glowing ball that lay in a hollowed out circle on the floor. The orb was only a little bigger than a fist.

 

“Place your hand on the orb,” instructed Clark. Sarma hesitated and then reluctantly placed his hand on the orb. His fingers tingled and he yanked away.

 

“It is alright, it won’t hurt you,” laughed Clark. Sarma smiled nervously and put his hand down again. “Perfect, now all you have to do is move the orb. There is an invisible circle of magic enclosing the orb that it can’t leave. Just image that orb as the boat, you move it up, the boat goes up, you move it forward the boat goes forward. Understand?”

 

“Yes, I suppose. How in the world did you do this?”

 

Clark only winked, then backed out of the vessel. Sarma followed and they stood looking at it.

 

“When do you leave Sarma?” asked Clark. Sarma noticed a hint of sadness in his friend’s voice.

 

“Can’t you come with me?” Sarma questioned quietly.

 

“I’d love to, but I just can’t. Unlike you I have responsibilities here on Seridia. You did not answer my question, when do you leave?”

 

Sarma looked around for several moments thinking about it. He knew Clark would appriciate Sarma staying another night or two allowing the two of them time to talk and say goodbye. That's not what Sarma wanted though, he wanted to leave and explore as soon as possible. Finally, Sarma answered.

 

"Tomorrow morning," he said. "I want a chance to rest before I rush away."

 

Clark smiled relieved; he had thought Sarma would leave right away without spending time on proper farewells.

 

“I loaded your supplies onto the ship while you were out,” spoke Clark. “I see you have enough for only a week,”

 

“Yes, I don’t want to be floating around in the middle of nowhere for any more than that. If I don't make it by then, I doubt I will have any desire to go on, and likely let my journey end.”

 

Clark frowned but said nothing. He and Sarma spent the rest of the day talking, reminiscing on the time they had spent together.

 

The two had met long ago; Clark had been staying with his friend who owned the magic shop in Whitestone City. Sarma had run into him at a tavern and the two had struck up a conversation. They were instant friends and sent letters back and forth when Clark was at home in Portland. Sarma had traveled to Clark’s home in Portland once and learned Clark’s daily life at his magic shop. Sarma had been with Clark as he tried many different new spells and stood by his friend when Clark tried to teach them to residents of Portland.

 

By far one of the most memorable times for both of them was when they had traveled to the city of Corren. The two had spent the night in the tavern and always remembered getting kicked out after they had gotten drunk and started singing.

 

It was sad to relive so many memories and know that they would soon be parting, perhaps forever. When morning finally came and Clark was ready to bid Sarma goodbye, he had very little to say.

 

“Goodbye my friend, I pray that you will return to tell me of the wonderful lands you have discovered,” he said sadly.

 

“I hope the same, Clark. Goodbye. I can’t begin to thank you for all you have done,” Sarma smiled.

 

“Oh, there is one more thing you can’t forget!” Clark gestured to the coffin.

 

“Ah, yes, of course. Help me get it into the ship will you?”

 

Clark and Sarma carried the coffin into the boat and set it down.

 

“More than likely the old Slayer will have his final resting place at the bottom of the sea.”

 

“Don’t be so pessimistic Sarma! You have the blessing of the gods!”

 

“I suppose I do.” Sarma embraced his old friend in a final farewell.

 

“Goodbye, Sarma,” whispered Clark as he left the ship. He walked around to the front of it and pushed open the huge wooden doors that seperated the cavern from the sea. They were bewitched to be light enough for one man, or gnome, to open.

 

Sarma placed his hand on the small orb and lifted it up, then pushed it forward. He held his breath in amazement as the boat rose slightly into the air and then moved slowly forward. He steered it cautiously from the cave. Clark stood in the cave still a hand up in farewell. Sarma returned the gesture then pushed the orb higher. The boat rose into the air further. Sarma nudged the orb farther forward this time and it went faster, heading away from the island, away from Seridia!

 

Sarma began to laugh as the amazing structure glided above the water. A sudden elation came over him as he realized that he was actually flying. “I’m flying,” he said to himself with joy. He yelled it aloud to the air, a huge smile on his face. “I’m flying!”

 

 

 

Chapter 5

Anitora

 

Sarma sat in the boat for a while, staring out the one small window, fascinated and hypnotized by the water below him. After some time though, the excitement began to wear off. He paced the insides of the ship impatiently. The boat had been made huge in order to incorporate the entire dragon skeleton, many people could have come with Sarma, there was plenty of room.

 

As the hours passed, he grew hot and uncomfortable. The boat continued to glide forward. He didn’t really know where he was going, yet he had pushed the orb as far forward as it would go and the ship seemed to be flying as fast as it could.

 

He began to become more and more aware of The Slayer's coffin, in the boat. He had shoved it to the rear of the vessel, yet still its presence was ominous.

 

Slowly the sun slipped below the horizon and night fell. Sarma wrapped himself in a blanket and tried to sleep. He did not succeed, though. The motion of the ship drove him mad and he kept waking in fear that the boat would suddenly fall from the sky. The darkness made the coffin all the more frightening as it lay there, silent in the back of the ship.

 

Sarma tossed and turned throughout the long night, then rose as soon as the first glimmer of sun reached the ship. He paced back and forth; occasionally adjusting the small orb, making sure it was as far forward as it would go.

 

As another day passed and night fell again Sarma grew even more impatient. How long would this pointless mission last until it was finally all over? Absolute depression seemed to have finally taken over him. He stopped eating, he wasn’t hungry anymore, he gave up trying to sleep the next night and just stared, hollow-eyed, at the wall. Soon, he became so exhausted that he fell asleep at last.

 

° ° ° ° ° °

 

Sarma heard a crash and jolted awake. Jumping to his feet he started to look around, only to be knocked to the deck again. Peering out of the one small glass window, he saw darkness and rain beating in heavy sheets against the roaring ocean. A flash of lightning provided light to the boat for a moment, in which Sarma saw that the coffin had rolled to the other side of the ship. He scrambled to the window again and looked down.

 

The water was far closer than it had been before and waves were leaping up toward the vessel’s hull. He watched as lightning struck nearby, discharging its energy into the water.

 

Panicked and terrified he crawled to the front of the ship. He reached his hand out toward the orb to pull it up, but jerked back in surprise as his fingers slid across it. The orb was too hot to touch. Frantically Sarma ripped off his shirt and wrapped it around his hand, he reached out again to grab the orb, yet before he could touch it a wave smashed into the side of the ship.

 

He rolled backwards to the rear of the ship, which was now lower than the front. The wave had broken the window and washed water in. He tried to crawl back up to the orb again and slipped. Another wave crashed against the side of the vessel allowing more water to pour in. Sarma sputtered as the icy cold salt water poured over his head. He looked to the front of the ship toward the orb. As he watched the orb glowed red and then fell to the floor of the ship.

 

Sarma lurched forward as the vessel took a nosedive into the water. The coffin rolled past him and smashed into the area where the orb had been. Sarma winced as he saw small glass pieces fly out from under it.

 

Water was now flowing freely through the window, and Sarma cursed himself for allowing Clark to add it. Seized by one final desperate idea, Sarma stood and held the wall as he made his way to the coffin. Upon reaching it, he used his last reserves of energy to haul it up, and lay it on its side so it blocked the window. Sarma collapsed against it putting all his weight toward keeping it pressed hard against the small round hole. Water sloshed about his feet as the ship, now floating in the ocean, was tossed this way and that. Several times Sarma was thrown forward or to the side, and he was forced to reposition the coffin as more water flowed in.

 

All thoughts of just dying on this journey had vanished. There was no way he was going to give up, not after all the work he had done.

 

Sarma had no idea how long he sat there, fighting the pressure of the waves beating against the coffin. The storm raged on outside, lightning flashed and he could just barely make out the thunder over the roar of the waves and the constant pounding of the rain. He was soaked; his hair fell in his eyes dripping salt water onto his nose. He couldn’t recall ever being as uncomfortable as he was then in his whole life.

 

In the end, the storm began to calm. Sarma shivered from cold as the waves slowly calmed and the rain stopped. He thanked the gods that the storm had been short and had passed over him swiftly.

 

As light came and he was able to pull the coffin away from the window, he looked outside again. The water, when it was calm, sloshed several feet below the window. He rumaged around his ship, hungry at last, only to discover all his food had been saturated with water. He deeply regretted the fact he had not eaten the day before the storm.

 

He sat there on the gently rocking boat for the entire morning and most of the afternoon. His stomach grumbled and ached; yet Sarma was not going to even attempt eating any of his soggy food. He drank greedily from the barrel of fresh water he had brought and that assuaged his hunger somewhat. Unfortunately, it was only liquid; not food.

 

Afternoon dragged on; abruptly Sarma felt a jolt, as if the boat had hit something. Surprised he searched outside the window. All he saw was water. He sat still for awhile, the boat did not move at all. He began to realize what had happened. He must have hit land!

 

Excited, he clambered up the ladder he and Clark had carved into the side of the ship. Unlatching the door on the top, he crawled out.

 

Outside, on the opposite side of the ship from the window, was land. Whooping with joy, he scrambled down the ladder carved into the ship's exterior and looked around.

 

Upon looking around he decided his situation had not improved. The island that he had landed on was small, two others lay nearby. Quickly he walked around and reasoned that the largest was the one his ship had run aground on. Then there was another to the west, which was smaller, and a third to the south of the second. The last one was mostly just a huge lump of rock from what he could tell. The other two were naught but sandy ground with a few trees and some grassy bushes.

 

Disappointed, he searched the trees hoping for some sort of fruit. To his dismay, he located nothing. When he searched more thoroughly across the island, a rock toward the east side of the island caught his attention. Engraved on it was the word ‘Anitora’.

 

The evidence that someone had set foot on the island before only raised his spirits for a short while. As night fell, he settled down in his still-damp blankets near the rock. The small sign of intelligence, of a presence, of something not a beast, having been there at some point, gave him hope. He lay there in the darkness reasoning that Anitora was likely the name of the islands. He thought about the word in his head searching for some meaning, but he continually came back to it being the island’s name. Tired and still hungry, he let it fade from his mind and slowly he fell asleep on the islands of Anitora.

 

 

Chapter 6

Rescue

 

The night he spent on the island was the first good night’s sleep he’d had since leaving. He awoke at sunrise feeling well rested despite his still grumbling stomach. This was now his third day without food and his stomach was not the only thing affected. Sleep notwithstanding, he was weary and exhausted. Sarma's body had run out of energy to fuel itself and he spent most of the day huddled near the rock.

 

The sun slowly crept above the horizon as he stared blankly out to sea, hoping against hope that some ship would come for him. Morning slipped into afternoon, and he chewed on grass roots praying they would bring some sort of nutrition.

 

Night began to fall and his vision blurred. He had never been so long without food. Staring blankly at the fuzzy horizon, he thought back to his hasty departure. What if he had spent another day with Clark? Would he never have run into the storm? What if he had made his original boat, would he have sailed happily by this island without a care, ready to reach Irillion?

 

His eye’s drooped as he sat there. Jerking fully awake, he stared out to sea. Blinking furiously he tried to clear the blur from his vision. At last he could see well enough to determine it had not been a dream. There, out on the ocean, was a light. Light could only be coming from a passing boat.

 

Stumbling wearily to his feet, he watched its movement. It was coming from the northeast and seemed to be altering its heading to the southeast. Sarma hoped its arch would bring it close to the island. Quickly he looked around and discovered a small bunch of dry grass. Plucking it from the ground, he quickly threw it in a pile, then ran and pulled down palm fronds from some of the shorter trees. He peeled off strips of bark as well and threw it all in a pile with the grass. Then he grabbed a flint and steel from his pack and struck it together furiously. He had never lit a fire that way before, but that sure wasn’t going to stop him now; there was a first for everything.

 

Eventually, a spark flew into the grass and caught fire. Delighted with his success, Sarma darted around gathering anything he thought would burn and threw it on the pile. He had half a mind to pry some boards from the ship, except he couldn’t bring himself to do it.

 

Following the creation of his fire, he proceeded to use what energy he had to jump up and down and yell. Subsequently, the ship seemed to shift course slightly. He watched with glee as he realized it was indeed coming toward Anitora now. Soon a rowboat was headed for shore. Sarma couldn’t make out the figure aboard the boat in the darkness, yet despite the lack of light the figure created him warmly like an old friend.

 

“Well, didn’t expect to find a poor shipwrecked soul out here. And a gnome no less! Lucky for ye we’re heading straight to Arius from this here little island!” said the figure that greeted him. Sarma nodded and smiled with no idea what he was talking about. As he rowed them back toward the boat, the person continued to chatter.

 

“We’re making the long run from Melinis around the coast to Arius see? It’s not commonly used, but ol’ captain Bridden likes the route, so we takes it. Ye should always do what Bridden says if yur on her ship, right you should,” Sarma ignored most of the meaningless words, only stared ahead at the boat. Food, people, warmth, that was all he could think of. Soon enough he was climbing a rope ladder up the side of the boat.

 

A tall female elf walked up to him as he staggered onto the deck of the ship.

 

“Whoa there little fellow, are you alright?”

 

“Not really,” croaked Sarma, at last finding his voice.

 

“What do you need? Food? Water? Or maybe just rest? Name it sir and it’s yours,” Smiled the elf.

 

“Food, if you please,” murmured Sarma.

 

“Oi!” shouted the person that had helped him to the boat. “You heard the gnome! He be needing food! Get it for him!”

 

Sarma registered vaguely that several crewmembers scrambled around, then they brought something to the figure who had rowed him to the ship.

 

“Here ye go little gnome, eat up,” Sarma turned to accept a loaf of bread and an apple from the man, yet the food dropped from his hands as he realized it was not a human. Smiling down at him was a tall green skinned figure; it had no hair, and a black beard. The most shocking thing was the two fangs on its lower jaw.

 

“Alright there?” questioned the female elf again.

 

“What, what are you?” stammered Sarma to the figure.

 

“Well I’m an Orchan, obviously! Ain’t you ever saw one?” laughed the figure.

 

“No, no I haven’t. I don’t even know what that is,” spoke Sarma.

 

“Don’t know what that is? Well that be mighty strange, how could ye not know what an Orchan is? I confess I’m not yer average one, what with my strange speech and talkative manner, I be an Orchan though I assure ya,” he responded, with more laughter.

 

Shivering from the cold breeze, Sarma retrieved the bread from the deck and ate the entire loaf in under a minute.

 

“Hang on there sir, that’s no good for you!” the female elf grabbed his arm as he started in on the apple.

 

“The poor guy’s starving to death Bridden! Do you think there is more on the island?” asked the Orchan.

 

“I don’t know,” replied the elf, which was apparently captain Bridden. She turned and shouted to her crew. “Drop anchor folks and send a search party to the island. We’ll spend the night here and make sure there isn’t anybody else out there.”

 

The crew nodded and hurried to obey their captain’s orders.

 

“Come here, sir, what’s your name?” questioned Bridden.

 

“Sarma,” he replied as his teeth chattered.

 

Bridden raised her eyebrows, apparently surprised at the name, but said nothing.

 

“Well then, come on. We have a few nice passenger quarters below deck."

 

She guided Sarma down to a small cabin. Despite its size, it worked for Sarma. It had a warm bed and Bridden promised that there would be more food waiting for him when he awoke. She left and proceeded to the deck where she shouted several more orders to her crew. Sarma didn’t hear; he was already falling asleep. It barely registered that he had likely discovered residents of Irilion, or at least some other continent. Had he been well fed and rested he would have been overjoyed and asked the people a thousand questions. He was neither well fed nor rested though and he was going to fix those things first. He fell asleep, oblivious to the fact he was the first Seridian to make contact with people of Irilion in centuries.

 

° ° ° ° ° °

 

He awoke sometime later to find food next to his bed as promised. Eating quickly, he filled his empty stomach. As he finished, he heard yells above him. He set down his plate and made his way above deck.

 

“’Morning Sarma,” smiled the Orchan as he past him. “Me name's Narran by the way,” he smiled.

 

Sarma nodded and looked around for Bridden, the captain. He spotted her coming over the side of the ship from the shore.

 

“Sarma,” she smiled as she saw him. “Feeling alright?”

 

“Yes, thank you,” responded Sarma. He was about to ask her several questions but she interrupted.

 

“We looked around the island there, didn’t find anybody else. Were you alone on your voyage?” She asked.

 

“Yes, yes I was,”

 

“That’s a curious ship you have there, looks to be very beat up sadly. I suppose you probably had a run in with a storm?”

 

“Yes.”

 

“Well, we are about to weigh anchor and continue toward Arius now. If there is anything you want on that island, speak now.”

 

“The coffin; I need the coffin! Is it still there?”

 

“Yeah, it is. Why do you care about that coffin?”

 

“I-”

 

“Never mind, we’ll hear your story later. I want to get away from the island while the wind is still good. Narran, Heitu, get the coffin quickly please!” Narran and a young human nodded and clambered down into the little boat. Sarma watched as they slowly rowed back toward shore.

 

“Please wait in my cabin, Sarma. Once we are off, I’ll hear your tale,” requested Bridden.

 

Sarma made his way across the deck and entered the cabin she had pointed toward. It was small, like everything on boats was; yet it was cozy. He sat down at a table in the center of the room and looked around. The maps that decorated the walls were completely unfamiliar to him. He stood and examined them. Upon closer investigation, he found one that depicted an entire continent. Written in the ocean at the edges in bold print and capital letters, was IRILION.

 

“By the gods, I actually made it. I’m here,” he breathed.

 

“What?” Bridden had just entered the cabin and had heard him murmuring to himself.

 

“So, this is Irilion?” asked Sarma excitedly.

 

“Er, yes, what else would it be?” Bridden was puzzled. “Who are you?” she asked puzzled. “And where are you from?”

 

“I am Sarma the gnome, from Seridia!”

 

“Seridia?” shouted Narran who he had just entered the cabin. “Ye mean to say you sailed here all the way from Seridia!”

 

“I didn’t sail, I flew,” stated Sarma.

 

Bridden stood shocked and looked to Narran. “Aluwen help us, you don’t think?” she started.

 

“No, no he couldn’t be!” said Narran.

 

“But the name!”

 

“That was years ago.”

 

“And he flew!”

 

“Yes, but...”

 

Sarma interrupted the two before they could continue. “What is it? What are you two talking about?” he yelled.

 

“How old are you Sarma?” questioned Bridden.

 

“Not much past 30. Why do you ask?” he answered, still very confused.

 

“There you have it Bridden! It can’t be him, he’d have to be hundreds of years old!” spoke Narran.

 

“Tell us the whole story, will you Sarma?” asked Bridden kindly.

 

“The whole story?” sighed Sarma.

 

“Yes, where you came from and how you got here.”

 

“Alright, it’s a bit of a tale, but I’ll go through what is important.”

 

Sarma, Bridden, and Narran all sat down at the table. Sarma began to explain to them what had happened, and how he had gotten to Anitora.

 

 

Chapter 7

Arius

 

Bridden and Narran had been shocked by Sarma’s tale. They asked a thousand questions during the trip to Arius. Why did he leave? Were there gnomes and orchans on Seridia? How about draegoni? elves? What did people eat? What did they wear? How did they live? Sarma tried to answer all their inquiries as best he could. Before he knew it, he heard the look out shouting that he had spotted Arius.

 

Sarma was nervous. He was about to step off the boat into a city of gnomes: an entire city of them! What were they like? He was also nervous how the people of Irilion would treat him. Bridden and Narran seemed nice, yet as he observed Bridden’s ship, he realized they were practically pirates. When he had asked Bridden about whether her ship ever took part in illegal activities, Bridden had laughed and asked what Sarma considered illegal. After a moment of confused silence Bridden said that she indeed had bent laws before, but never attacked people or ships.

 

All that brought him back to the question, would he be welcomed? Perhaps they would treat him as an honored guest; an ambassador from a far off land. Or maybe they would shun him; be appalled at some difference in his ways or speech. Sarma wasn’t sure which would be worse.

 

Sarma ran out of time to consider what would happen; the boat was now at the docks. He stared in wonder at the city as Bridden’s crew jumped from the boat and began tying the ship to the docks.

 

The city before him was stunning. As he looked around, he couldn't help but note how right everything seemed. Rather than the large doorways and houses of humans in Whitestone, everything was sized perfectly for gnomes. The structures were all round and friendly looking with sturdy brick walls. Rising from the center of the city, very near to the shore, was a large palatial building.

 

“Is that the castle?” Sarma asked Narran.

 

“Castle?” Narran let out a laugh. “No, that be the magic school, one of the finest on Irilion. Are there magic schools on Seridia?”

 

“Yes, the one in Tarsengaard is the largest.”

 

“Tarsengaard? There is really a Tarsengaard magic school? Well, I’ll be. Mayhap this here world isn’t so full of myths after all, maybe they all be true!”

 

“So who is in charge of the gnomes? Have they got a king? or an Emperor?”

 

“The gnomes elect a governor for life, who is supported by a small group of advisors. Most areas have groups of elders that are in charge as well. Gnomish government is very loose; there is little crime and only minor disagreements. The governor or the elders handle whatever problems do pop up,” Bridden replied to Sarma's question as she walked up. “Now are you two slackers prepared to disembark?”

 

“Yes ma’am,” Narran replied with a grin.

 

“Good, I sent a runner ahead to announce the presence of our dear guest Sarma, so be warned sir, you may have a welcoming party,” Bridden winked at Sarma.

 

“Welcoming party?” croaked Sarma.

 

Bridden and Narran laughed.

 

“Captain!” a shout came from across the deck. “What do you want us to do with the coffin?”

 

“Leave it in the hold,” responded Bridden. The man across the deck nodded. Sarma watched as he darted below deck then returned with a bag and left the ship. As Sarma looked around he realized most of the crew had now disembarked onto the bustling docks.

 

“Well Sarma? Are you ready to step into a whole new world?” laughed Bridden.

 

“No, but I’ll have to soon enough, might as well do it now,” Sarma drew in a breath and stepped off of the boat onto the gangplank.

 

He was immediately immersed into a chaotic crowd. Bridden slipped around him and led him up a ladder off the docks and into the main city. He passed a small marketplace to his left then, before he knew it, was standing on the steps of the magic school. Rather than leading him inside, Bridden turned and motioned him to follow down a flight of stairs into the heart of the city. A beautiful fountain splashed in the center of the square. Houses and shops dotted the borders and trees grew in grassy areas. Sarma watched as people sat on benches, sold things, bought things, laughed with friends. And they were all gnomes! Nobody was discriminated against, since they were all short gnomes. He got the feeling these people wouldn’t have cared if he were twenty feet tall though. As he stepped into the square, a fine looking gnome walked toward him followed by a group of attendants and curious people.

 

“Is this our amazing visitor?” shouted the gnome over the crowd.

 

“It is Governor Yuwon,” said Bridden with a bow.

 

The gnome, Governor Yuwon, strode forward and grabbed Sarma’s hand. As he shook it he smiled.

 

“I am the Governor of our humble city of Arius. An incredible pleasure to meet you sir, I cannot wait to hear your story. I’m sure you are curious about us as well though. Oh, this is wonderful; there haven’t been ties between our two continents for a very long time. Do you think it is possible for you to get back? And bring more people here?” Yuwon was obviously thrilled by his visit and didn’t know what to say first. Sarma smiled and responded.

 

“It is an honor to be here, sir, I cannot wait to share with you about my own continent and learn more about yours. I would much appreciate it though, if such sharing of information was done in a quieter place. Rather than yelling over the noise in the heart of your fine city.”

 

“Oh please call me Yuwon. And of course, of course; we can find some place better to talk. I’d like you to stay with me at my own house here in the city, would you enjoy that?”

 

“I suppose I would, sir, but where will captain Bridden and her crew be lodging? I have come to know them and enjoy their company.”

 

Bridden smiled widely at Yuwon from Sarma’s side and Yuwon looked slightly flustered. Either he disliked Bridden, or he wanted the gnomes to be the sole race to welcome Sarma to this continent.

 

“They, they are their own people. I know not where they stay,” said Yuwon.

 

“Well, sir, why don’t they lodge with you as well? I’m sure you have a wonderfully large home. Let us share it with the people who helped me get here to Arius. Perhaps it could be a 'thank-you' that they brought me here rather than to perhaps the Idal empire.” Sarma had no idea what the Idal empire was; he had only seen it on Bridden’s map, but apparently him being a guest of the Idal empire would have been a very bad thing, for Yuwon suddenly smiled.

 

“You are right, little gnome. They did bring you here. Perhaps Bridden does harbor some loyalty to our little Gnomish land after all,” Yuwon said.

 

“I do, Yuwon, I always have. Perhaps now you will believe me,” Bridden smirked.

 

“Let us stop this senseless chatter in the streets. Come, we will go to my house. Indeed there is room for many there, invite your crew Bridden, invite your friends,” Yuwon smiled widely and led Sarma away into the crowds.

 

° ° ° ° ° °

 

At long last Yuwon, Sarma, another gnome who was one of Yuwon's advisors, and Bridden sat at a low round table in Yuwon’s house. Sarma had insisted on Bridden’s presence. As they were served mugs of hot tea Yuwon spoke.

 

“Now, my friend, I have yet to learn your name.”

 

Sarma hesitated. His name had earned a strange reaction from Narran and Bridden. They had never told him what they had been talking about.

 

“Sarma,” he replied finally.

 

Yuwon and the other gnome, Hani, gasped.

 

“Sarma?” sputtered Hani. “Does that mean you… that you’re?” Hani seemed to think Sarma would know what he was talking about.

 

“I don’t understand what you mean. Bridden and Narran had the same reaction to my name. Would you kindly explain what you mean?” Sarma questioned.

 

Yuwon cleared his throat.

 

“Well, long ago, there was an incredible engineer in this city known as LaForge. He built many things, including most of this city. One day, long ago, he set out from our shores in search of a new land. He was accompanied by his brother, Sarma.”

 

Sarma gaped at Yuwon for a moment. Several things fell into place in his head and he turned swiftly to Bridden.

 

“Bridden, I need the coffin in here as soon as you can get it,” Sarma whispered. Bridden nodded and darted out the door, then came back a minute later.

 

“Narran is on his way to fetch it. Why do you need it?” she questioned.

 

Sarma shook his head, and then turned to the gnomes.

 

“Forgive me, sirs, I need to check something. While we wait, though, I can assure you that that was not I. My mother washed up on the shores of Seridia pregnant and alone. I was named Sarma because of a necklace she wore bearing that name. I still have that necklace with me.”

 

Slowly Sarma reached into his pocket and pulled out the necklace; he had always kept it with him.

 

Bridden, Yuwon and Hani all stared at the necklace.

 

“That belonged to Bella of Kyriban. She fell overboard in a boat that sailed past Anitora in an attempt to find Seridia. The boat returned bearing news of her death. She had been the wife of one of the men on the ship. She had also been the last living descendent of Sarma,” whispered Hani.

 

“You knew her well?” asked Sarma.

 

“Her husband was my brother,” Hani croaked.

 

“Was?” Sarma asked.

 

“He threw himself into the sea after he returned from the voyage,” Hani explained sadly.

 

There was a moment of silence then the door opened. Narran walked in bearing the coffin with the help of another crewmember. They dropped it onto the floor then left.

 

“What is that?” yelled Yuwon.

 

Sarma did not respond but bent down and felt the edges of the coffin. Feeling the rusted latch, he pried it slowly open. He stared in amazement at the coffin’s contents; an ancient skeleton, its flesh and clothes long gone. But there were some metal and old jewelry sitting in the coffin along with a sword. The sheath seemed to have fallen apart, but the sword, though old, was still intact.

 

Sarma picked up the sword, and brushed years of dust from the hilt. Some odd runes were engraved on it. He held up the sword to the light and then handed it to Hani.

 

“Do those runes mean anything to you?”

 

Hani’s eyes opened wide in wonder. “Yes, yes they do. They spell 'Sarma'.”

 

 

Chapter 8

Times are Changing

 

“Wow, this is an amazing sword,” Henau, Hani’s son, whispered in awe to Sarma. It was the day after Sarma’s arrival on the island and he had shown the weapon to the curious young gnome.

 

“Yuwon and your father seemed very appalled by it,” Sarma said.

 

“Well, obviously. Wherever you were raised, you ended up rather different from us gnomes of Arius, no offense meant,” Henau replied. “We are a peace-loving folk. We don’t have warriors or weapons and the only things we ever use to defend ourselves are things we have engineered. And since we hardly ever need to defend ourselves, we live in peace with the other races and animals.”

 

“Why was Sarma a warrior, then? He slew a dragon, he definitely wasn’t an inexperienced fighter.”

 

“According to the legends, Sarma was always a little different. He had an unnatural interest in weapons and fighting. He was also a talented mage, yet rather than study the peaceful magic most gnomes practiced, he studied dangerous magic; magic for fighting, and defense in battle, magic to kill.”

 

“I’m guessing your people didn’t take well to his interests?”

 

“No, he was not liked by the general populace. His only friends were his brother and the gnome Seray, who became his wife.”

 

“That’s why he left with his brother? To get away?” Sarma was amazed at how similar he seemed to be to his ancestor and namesake.

 

“Yes. He thought he would leave with his wife and brother and go on some grand and noble venture to mysterious and dangerous lands. Things did not go as planned. Seray disagreed with him on his desire to leave and refused to accompany him. In anger, Sarma left quickly with his brother. I have always wondered if he regretted abandoning his wife.”

 

Sarma spent long hours with Henau. His cousin was very intriguing. Henau was only 18, but very smart and fascinated with the idea of Sarma’s flying dragon ship. The young gnome was also slightly different from the rest of his people. He was genuinely a peaceful young man, yet he loved to learn and explore. There were maps drawn by Henau that decorated the walls of his room; maps of Arius as well as maps of other regions on Irilion.

 

° ° ° ° ° °

 

Henau looked up suddenly from a book he was reading in his house’s library. Because Sarma was a relative of Hani, he had stayed with his family. Sarma sat nearby in the library reading a book called Irilion: Its Legends and History.

 

Henau walked over to Sarma. “Sarma, I think I know how to fix your ship.”

 

“What? Are you serious? It can be fixed?” Sarma was ecstatic, he wanted so badly to return to Seridia and prove to the people there the great accomplishment he had made.

 

“I’m not positive it will work.” Henau continued. “I’ve been considering what you explained as far as what you know that Clark did and what happened that caused the spell to fail.”

 

“You know what spell he used?”

 

“I believe so. It was a rudimentary form of a spell we have advanced much further now. He doubtless found it in some book of Sarma’s. The spell is very similar to what it was in Sarma's time. Our mages have perfected it; I believe someone from the magic school would be able to cast it. Perhaps Grandmaster Nerala would even agree to help you. Not only will it fix it, it will make it faster and the spell will be much stronger; likely permanent unless removed by another mage.”

 

“How does one request the assistance of the grandmaster?”

 

“Oh, don’t worry. We don’t have to, Yuwon will for us,” Henau smiled broadly.

 

More excited than Sarma could even describe, he and Henau left the house to find Yuwon. They located him in his own house on the other side of Arius City.

 

“You sure about this Henau? I don’t want to disturb the Grandmaster over nothing,” Yuwon questioned.

 

“I’m sure, this is the only spell that would do anything like what Sarma’s friend Clark did. It has to be this spell. And even if it wasn’t this spell originally, Grandmaster Nerala could cast this on the boat and it wouldn’t matter what the first spell was.” Henau shifted from foot to foot while Yuwon considered his words.

 

“Very well. I will speak to Nerala on this matter and find out if she is willing to help. If she is, then you will sail to Anitora with Bridden and her crew. Bridden is restless; she has remained here in order to keep an eye on you, Sarma. I’m sure she would be delighted to take you back to Anitora and I would like to accompany you as well. Doubtless Bridden has already sent out messages to her contacts among the races to notify them of your presence. I want to meet with the diplomats they have already sent to Anitora,” Yuwon told them.

 

Sarma was disappointed to hear that he would not be included in Yuwon’s meeting with Nerala. He sulked in Hani’s luxurious house for the next day, bored and anxious. At long last, a runner arrived at the house with a message for Sarma. It was a note from Yuwon.

 

Nerala has agreed to help you and will sail with us to Anitora along with a young human mage from the school. I have already spoken with Bridden and she said her crew could be ready to sail by morning. Unfortunately, her eagerness to leave is not matched by Nerala, who has matters to attend to. Nerala has promised she will be ready to sail for Anitora in six days.

-Yuwon

 

“Six days?” Henau cried, as he finished reading the note.

 

“I know. I don’t know if I can stand to wait that long.” Sarma accepted the note back from Henau as Hani walked into the room.

 

“Did Nerala agree to help?” Hani asked.

 

“Yes. She won’t be ready to leave for six whole days, though. What can she possibly have to do that will take six days?” Henau pouted.

 

“Oh stop it, Henau. You must learn patience. Besides, your mother is returning from her cousin’s in Hurquin in two days. That will give you plenty of time to explain what’s happened,” Hani pointed out.

 

“And convince her to let me go to Seridia with Sarma?” Henau smiled hopefully at his father.

 

Sarma quietly slipped out of the room as Hani began to list the many reasons he would never allow his only child to travel to Seridia. Once Sarma was in the library he found his book and began reading again. It was going to be a long six days.

 

° ° ° ° ° °

 

During the journey back to Anitora, Sarma considered what Yuwon had said about other races sending emissaries to Anitora. He had nearly forgotten how much effect this event would have on the entire continent of Irilion. They might be able to conduct trade with Seridia after years of separation. All the races would want to meet him, to hear his tale as Yuwon and Hani had. Sarma wasn’t sure how many retellings he was up to and he had no idea what the other races' reaction to him would be. What if some of them saw a connection to Seridia as a threat?

 

The Grandmaster, Nerala, was given thought on the voyage as well. She was not a gnome, as Sarma had expected, but an orchan. He was very curious as to why an orchan was living in the magic school on a gnomish island. Too embarrassed to ask what he thought would be a stupid question, he was left to dwell on it.

 

Once he set foot on Anitora again, all those matters vanished from his mind. An entire village of tents seemed to have sprung up in his absence. While the small party found their way through the confusion, Sarma spotted many races. Elves, dwarves, humans, orchans, gnomes, and a tall and imposing dragon-like race flitted about between the temporary houses.

 

“Draegoni,” Henau murmured in Sarma’s ear as they followed Yuwon through the maze of tents.

 

“What?” Sarma asked.

 

“The tall folk you were staring at. They are draegoni, said to be descendants of the dragon god. There are a variety of different colored scales and horns they possess,” Sarma stared at one as Henau began to explain more. The draegoni he watched had blue hair and a beard. Small white horns protruded near his large, almost bat-like, ears. Several white scales glittered on his hands and face as well.

 

“They live in the south,” Henau was explaining as they walked on. “In the cold island areas, they are a proud race with several grand cities.”

 

Henau’s explanation was cut short as the small group reached the gap between the two main isles. A bridge had been constructed between them and there were short pillars in the water on either side.

 

“What makes you think you have the right to construct statues of your heroes here?” demanded a draegoni. Sarma realized it was the one he had noticed only a few minutes before, an identical one stood beside him.

 

“This will likely be a thriving market soon, belonging to all the countries and races of Irilion. I only wanted to leave the mark of my people,” responded a human. He had short-cropped white hair and dark skin.

 

“We told you that bridges between the island would be fine Ian, we did not...”

 

The human interrupted the draegoni that had spoken. “Since when are you in charge draegoni? You have no authority over me!” Ian growled.

 

“Enough!” Bridden stepped between the pair of draegoni and Ian.

 

“Bridden!” one of the draegoni exclaimed. “Did you bring the gnome?”

 

“Yes she brought ‘the gnome’,” Sarma stepped forward facing the tall draegoni. Startled for a moment they said nothing, then recovered quickly.

 

“Sir, it is our pleasure to meet you. Do forgive our seemingly uncaring terminology,” said one of the two draegoni with a bow.

 

“Please do remind us of your name,” the other requested politely.

 

“I’m Sarma, of Seridia,” he replied.

 

“I am Annaeh, of the city of Dra Syn, and this is my twin brother, Assain,” he motioned to his companion as he spoke.

 

“I am Ian of Idaloran city,” Ian said as he stepped forward elbowing the two draegonis out of his way. “The empress of the Idal Empire welcomes you to Irilion and sends her regards.”

 

“Her regards? She sends her greetings from a lowly peasant like you?” Assain glared at Ian.

 

“Lowly peasant? I’m no peasant! You are stupid outcasts your Queen wanted to get rid of, I’m sure, so she sent you here to spy on other races,” Ian shot back.

 

“Cease your arguing!” Nerala proclaimed as she stepped forward. “We have come to repair Sarma’s boat. I have already discovered it is not on the beach where it landed. Do tell where you put it.”

 

“Those two draegoni insisted we move it out of the weather,” smirked Ian.

 

“Yes we did, little human! Storms spring up quickly here and we didn’t want it getting swept out to sea again,” Annaeh growled.

 

“We moved it to the cave on the third island,” Assain explained. “And my brother and I magically enlarged the cave as well as made a roomy entrance facing the second isle, work that would have taken these humans weeks to complete, I'm sure,” Annaeh smirked beside his brother.

 

“Weeks? hardly! we could have done it in half the time you did. But of course it would have hurt your pride to watch humans do your work, and you wouldn't let us near the cave,” Ian retorted.

 

"Since when were you so gifted in the arts of magic, Ian? I have known you for years, come across you far too many times on the seas, and still you are as incompetent as ever!" Annaeh laughed.

 

Ian opened his mouth to reply, yet was cut off by Nerala.

 

"We all have our own talents and gifts and can make use of them all in our own ways. I thank you, Ian, for the bridges you built connecting the Islands. And I thank you, Annaeh and Assain, for your efforts in keeping Sarma's vessel safe. Now, if you will excuse us, we go to see what can be done to fix it." Nerala turned and walked across the bridge with Yuwon. Sarma mumbled a hurried thanks to the group and followed.

 

“Thank you,” Sarma nodded to Ian and the draegonis. Sarma walked next to Nerala and Yuwon while the others followed behind. Even the two draegoni fell into step behind Bridden.

 

As they walked into the cave, Sarma looked at his ship. It sat proudly on the small beach inside the cave. He looked past it to the opening in the rock face; this was a perfect dock for his boat. If he were able to return to Seridia, he would surely try to land here on Anitora for any journey back to Irilion. This small, unclaimed island was a far better place to stop than the coast of Arius or the nearby Idaloran docks.

 

“A fine vessel,” remarked Nerala as she examined it. “Henau was correct on the spell as well.”

 

Sarma didn’t bother to question how Nerala knew that right away, only watched as she climbed into the ship to investigate further.

 

“Will you be able to fix it?” Sarma called to her.

 

“Certainly. I will be able to fix it quickly as well. You will find yourself headed home in no time, Sarma.” Nerala stuck her head out of the boat as she responded, and smiled at Sarma. “No time at all.”

 

Sarma watched, delighted, as Nerala began to go about mending his ship. He didn’t notice the whispered conversations between the draegoni twins and Bridden, no more than he had noticed several other things he should have the past several weeks.

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Chapter 9

Never Alone

 

Nerala spent the next half hour examining the ship. Soon she had a crew of humans repairing some minor damage to the hull.

 

Ian was at the head of the human team and took every opportunity to taunt the draegonis and ask them why they had yet to help with anything. The twins simply ignored him and chatted in low tones with each other. Bridden had disappeared with several of her crew to some other part of the island.

 

That evening Sarma shared a tent with Yuwon and Henau. The humans had quickly mended the boat and Nerala planned to re-cast the spell on it the next day.

 

Sarma tossed and turned throughout the night, nervous, but excited by the prospect of his journey home. He could finally show all those humans he was good for something, that he had done something right! He lay there thinking of all the ways he could march into Whitestone with draegonis and orchans by his side. To his regret, no one would be accompanying him home. Yuwon had insisted that Sarma return on his own and explain what had happened to his own people. Yuwon believed that would be easier to do without curious people following in his wake. Sarma, on the other hand, was concerned the people of Whitestone wouldn’t believe him if he had no proof, after all why should they?

 

Sarma rolled onto his side again, then was jolted fully awake by a noise outside. He peered at the shadowy silhouettes outside his tent. He thought he had heard a cry. Was someone fighting, right outside his tent? Yuwon and Henau continued to sleep soundly and Sarma nearly got out of his cot when someone entered his tent. It was Narran staring down at Sarma.

 

“Narran? What happened? What was that noise?” Sarma questioned worried.

 

“Nothing, not anything that would concern you Sarma. Go back to sleep,” Sarma stared shocked at Narran. The orchan had responded with perfect speech, and no sailor’s accent.

 

“Narran? What happened to your voice?” Sarma was very confused now.

 

“It matters not. Rest now, for you will need your strength tomorrow,” Narran smiled down at Sarma. No longer was Narran the odd sailor Sarma had thought he was, but an imposing regal figure, with fine speech.

 

“No, I’m not just going back to bed! I want to know what’s going on!” Sarma started to scramble to his feet when the human mage Nerala had brought appeared beside Narran. Without a word, the young mage, Taur, walked over to Sarma.

 

“Sleep,” Taur whispered and he laid a hand on Sarma’s shoulder.

 

Sarma felt his vision blur, as he was suddenly extremely tired.

 

“You, don’t…. you…” Sarma’s protests halted as he collapsed onto his cot, the magical sleep engulfing his mind.

 

° ° ° ° ° °

 

Sarma awoke incredibly late the next morning. In fact, it was afternoon by the time he was up and about. His memory of the previous night was blurry and he decided it was just a dream. Narran and Taur acted as if nothing had happened. Sarma couldn’t piece together exactly what had occurred and gave up trying.

 

“Just a dream, that’s all,” he muttered to himself as he climbed into his boat.

 

“What was that, Sarma?” Nerala asked. She was already in the boat preparing to cast her spell. “Did you say something to me?”

 

“Oh? No, sorry, just thinking aloud.”

 

“Fitful night's sleep? You sure slept in awhile.”

 

“Yes, I suppose. Thanks for waiting for me to wake up. I’m curious to watch how you make this vessel fly. How exactly does the spell work?” Sarma deftly changed the subject not wanting to dwell on what ever had ensued during the night. Nerala glanced curiously at him and then turned around to whatever she was working on.

 

“Once I had a chance to extensively examine the ship, I think I’ve figured out what Clark did wrong,” Nerala began. “The spell of flight is a simple one. We use it often in Irillion for small things for short times. The nature of the spell is not to last for very long, only to be a temporary way to levitate things. Another reason it doesn’t last long is that it needs a source of power and a mage can’t hold something up forever with magic, no more than you could hold a heavy rock for hours on end.”

 

“That’s as long as the spell will hold?”

 

“Oh no, that’s just a comparison. A powerful version of the spell could last a few days, maybe longer if it didn’t encounter any resistance, or some other form of damage.”

 

“How do you plan on making a permanent spell for the ship then?”

 

“That’s where the dragon bones come in. There’s a certain kind of magic embedded in dragons, in their bones. The first Sarma knew this and realized the potential of using the power in the dragon bones to create a permanent spell of flight. From what I can see in the bones, he tried to tamper with it some, yet never succeeded. Your friend Clark probably did not fully understand what Sarma meant for the bones. All he could manage was a normal spell of flight. Obviously, that didn’t work; the spell fell apart when the storm battered your ship. I can cast the spell again, but cast it to draw the power from the dragon bones. Which should make it work for hundreds, maybe even thousands, of years.” Nerala paused for a moment, “did that make sense?”

 

“Yes, I think it did.” Sarma sorted out what Nerala had said in his head.

 

“Good,” Nerala smiled. “The actual casting of the spell shouldn’t take long. I already did all the necessary preparation work before you awoke.”

 

“You’re going to cast it now then?”

 

“Yes, and please try not to move around too much if you stay in the ship. I don’t want you to break my concentration.” Nerala turned away from Sarma and walked to the bow of the ship. She carried a small crystal-like stone similar to the one Clark had used to allow Sarma to steer.

 

Quietly Sarma sat down to watch what Nerala would do.

 

Nerala stood over where the orb had previously been and held the new one in the air. She began to quietly whisper something. Slowly a silvery cloud appeared around the orb. After a few moments, she let go of the crystal orb and it hovered in the cloud. Perfectly circular, it expanded gradually until it filled the indentation in the wood below it.

 

Once that was completed, Nerala’s chant changed slightly. Sarma watched in wonder as a light began to grow deep within the dragon bones around him in the ship. Blues, oranges, reds, purples, greens; they all danced in the depths of the bones and began to grow more prominent. Thin veins of blue shot across the bones; connecting and spreading out, weaving between thicker threads of green. Purple tips sprouted on the ends of every blue vein while orange and red ropes spiraled among everything. It was a beautiful sight to behold as the colors laced themselves together on the bones. Soon, every dragon bone was no longer a pale creamy white, but blazing with solid colors. Once the bones were glowing brightly, the color began to leak from them onto the wood. Waterfalls of crimson ran down the insides of the ship and pooled in turquoise pools around Sarma. Emerald branches strained to cover the top of the ship around him. Sarma stared in awe at the jade and azure spun wood above him. Abruptly even as he stared at the glorious colors around him, they began to fade.

 

Nerala’s voice was now fading as well. The colors, bright and vibrant only a moment before, turned pale and seeped into the wood and bones again. Sarma looked toward Nerala as she let out a sigh and sat slowly down.

 

“Are you all right?” Sarma asked worried.

 

“Yes, I’m fine. It just took a little more strength than I expected it would,” she replied as she turned to grin at him.

 

“That was amazing! Beautiful!”

 

Nerala laughed and scrambled to her feet again. Sarma followed her out of the ship, still glancing around in hopes of seeing more stunning colors. None remained though, the magic had sunk into the ship and Nerala was positive it would hold this time.

 

That evening, Sarma ate dinner with Nerala, Yuwon, and Henau. The two draegonis, as well as Bridden and her crew, were strangely absent. When Sarma woke the next day, he went in search of Bridden and Narran to bid them farewell, but they were not to be found. Disappointed, he returned to the cave where his vessel sat waiting. The human, Taur, had already loaded a surplus of supplies onto Sarma’s ship.

 

“Ready to leave, Sarma?” Yuwon questioned.

 

“I suppose. I really would have liked to tell Bridden and Narran goodbye, yet they seem to have vanished,” Sarma sighed.

 

“So I heard, I sent Henau to look for them, but he has yet to return.”

 

Yuwon looked to Nerala for advice. “Sarma could wait awhile longer if he liked, but he should leave today if at all possible. Taur says he senses a storm coming up from the west. It would be better to fly in fair weather,” Nerala stated.

 

Sarma settled down on a rock and chatted with Nerala and Yuwon as they waited for some sign of Henau and the others. After two hours, Yuwon was pacing and worried.

 

“Where did that boy get off to? Hani will be devastated if he loses Henau.” Yuwon continued to mutter to himself while Nerala and Sarma waited quietly. After another long hour passed, Taur walked into the cave.

 

“Sarma, you really should leave now. If not now, then you’ll need to wait until this storm passes, which could take weeks,” Taur advised.

 

“I believe Taur is right,” Nerala spoke. “As much as I know you want the chance to say goodbye to everyone, you should go now while you still can.”

 

Yuwon frowned and looked sadly at Sarma.

 

“Must he? Henau will be devastated if he finds he missed his goodbye,” Yuwon informed them.

 

“Henau should have returned by now, Yuwon. Let us get Sarma on his way and Taur and I will scour the island for the boy,” Nerala assured Yuwon.

 

Yuwon nodded solemnly and embraced Sarma in a farewell hug.

 

“I hope to see you return soon my friend,” Yuwon murmured.

 

“I hope the same,” Sarma smiled.

 

He bid Nerala thanks and farewell and nodded a farewell to the mage Taur. With his words complete, he said goodbye one final time and boarded his ship.

 

Alone again, he steered the boat from the cave and headed away, back across the sea to his home. Nerala’s improvements worked fine and he expected to reach Seridia by the next day. As the sun set below the horizon, Sarma curled up for the night. Content and with confidence in his heart, he lay down, trying to push from his mind the trouble he might encounter when he reached home.

 

° ° ° ° ° °

 

Sarma found himself in a dark cave. Nervous, he spun around. Thankfully he was alone, but where was he? Surely not a dream, this was far too real to be any dream. Yet only a moment ago, he had been falling asleep on his boat. Only a dream could have landed him in this dark room.

 

“No dream Sarma, a vision of what is,” whispered a voice. Sarma frantically looked around, his pulse throbbing.

 

“Who’s there?” he called, his voice came out quiet and croaking.

 

“Do not be afraid, Sarma. No one will be able to see you. You are only here to learn, so that you may be prepared.”

 

“Who are you?” demanded Sarma.

 

“I am Aluwen, the goddess of life and protection. Be patient, Sarma, and finish your task. The gods of grace still walk with you.”

 

Sarma gulped and looked around yet again, his eyes wide. He had tried to push the thought of gods from his mind when he was on Irilion, yet here he was swept up in some divine happenings. Strangely, knowledge that Aluwen had spoken to him eased his fear. He took the time to examine the room he was in.

 

It was at the end of a tunnel, a large cushy chair sat behind a small desk. Littered around it were books and chests. Behind the chair a pool of lava bubbled eerily. Several bookshelves lined the walls as well. He was about to investigate some of the books when he heard footsteps in the tunnel.

 

Sarma backed against the wall into the shadows despite Aluwen’s words that he would not be seen. As he stood hidden there, a quivering, skinny man walked down the tunnel. As he neared the desk, Sarma recognized him. It was Groden, but a much thinner, paler and sickly looking Groden than the one that Sarma had known only weeks before.

 

Groden nervously flicked through some of the scrolls on the desk and then began to head toward the shelves. He froze in his tracks as a spine-chilling voice sounded in the room.

 

“Groden!” it hissed. Groden immediately backed against the bookshelves terrified. Sitting on the chair was a dark figure glaring at the wan man.

 

“Master Selain,” panted Groden. “I did as you asked. I gathered many of your followers from all around Whitestone, mages and fighters alike. All worshipers of you, though, they agreed to help. They’re honored to serve their god and would…”

 

“Silence!” growled Selain. “I know what you’ve been up to. I’ve just come to remind you that you won’t be messing up this time!”

 

“Of course not, Master, never would I mess up,” Groden quivered and watched Selain nervously.

 

“NEVER?” roared Selain. “You already messed up! I gave you directions years ago to get rid of that gnome! But you being a weak mortal couldn’t even bring yourself to kill him! So you harassed him instead! Driving him to do the one thing I wanted prevented at all costs! Then, when I told you to stop him, you failed twice more!”

 

“I’m sorry! I failed, I know! It won’t happen again! Not this time! No one will ever know Sarma even came back. We’ll kill him and burn his ship!”

 

“Don’t underestimate him or his friends. That rotten elf Bridden already spoiled my plans enough times. Curse the servants of Aluwen.” Selain now seemed to be talking to himself. “Three different assassins I sent, one on her ship! She threw that one into the ocean. One in Arius! She had that one locked up! And then that orchan Narran killed the third right outside Sarma’s tent on Anitora! Curse that orchan; he’s the one that told Bridden about the first one. I should have known that his stupid appearance was just a show. Who would have thought that scum was a finely bred Lord and servant of Aluwen?” Selain was pacing now, his dark cloak fluttering about his heels. “Aluwen has hidden so much from me so easily! Curse her!”

 

“Bridden sir? Narran? Whatever do you mean?” Groden had the stupidity to interrupt the god at his reminiscing and paid for it by getting thrown back against the bookshelves from which he had slowly been easing away.

 

“Nothing that concerns you, mortal! All you have to do is kill Sarma when he gets back! Nothing more!”

 

“Why do you want him dead so bad?” blurted Groden.

 

“WHY?” Selain was outraged now, his plans had been going wrong for months, years, and this stupid mortal was interrogating him! The god of vice could not help but brag of his intentions some though, even to a hated mortal.

 

“The people of Draia are better left separated,” Selain snarled. “Once they band together, they more easily thwart any horrible things I or my fellow gods might bring to them. Those accursed deities like Aluwen keep helping them, teaching them new things, better ways to survive against the hardships of the world! Mortals are better left dumb, more easily can we toy with their pitiful lives that way. If Seridia and Irilion link, knowledge will spread like wildfire! More ways to kill Mortos’s monsters, or the ones my devoted followers summon. More ways to heal the sick and injured I curse to die. No, you mortals are better left separated.”

 

Selain would not elaborate anymore. Groden seemed to regret asking questions and shivered silently.

 

“You had better not fail me this time, Groden. I gave you powers beyond your imagination! Abilities to summon creatures greater than you even knew existed! And yet you can’t kill one gnome. No more mistakes, Groden, no more!” With that, Selain vanished. Groden collapsed into a relieved pile on the ground and sighed. Sarma’s eyes were still locked open in wonder as he found himself sitting on his boat again.

 

Sarma couldn’t believe it, all that he had just heard. But he needed to be prepared, he was going to have to fight off followers of Selain on his own, who knew how many. What was the point of being prepared for an attack if he had to face it alone the moment he reached Whitestone?

 

“Don’t worry, Sarma, you’re not alone.” Sarma jumped to his feet and spun around. There, standing in the back of the ship, was Bridden. And not only Bridden, but also Narran, Annaeh, Assain, Taur, and Henau.

 

“Mind if we join the fun?” grinned Annaeh. He and his brother were outfitted in shinning red dragon scale armor, dragon blades grasped in their hands. The others were outfitted for battle as well, except for Henau who seemed to have just tagged along for the adventure.

 

“We not may be much, but we’re something,” Narran smiled at Sarma. “Sorry for tricking you about who I was, but the ruse was necessary. Selain didn’t look close enough and forgot to worry about a dumb fumbling orchan.”

 

"But? how..." Sarma sputtered. "Taur you were even standing on Anitora as I left! How did you get on the ship?! How did any of you get here?"

 

"Me? all it took was a teleport spell and Nerala's help distracting Yuwon for a few seconds. For the rest, they were invisible on the ship all that time you waited," Taur explained.

 

"Why?" Sarma pressed. "Why hidden?"

 

"Yuwon would never have let us leave with you. And Selain's spies were watching as well. It was a bit of a risk, but we knew you'd need our help," Bridden said.

 

“Aluwen be with us,” Assain whispered. “This is going to be one tough fight.”

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Chapter 10

The Stuff of Legends

 

Sarma surveyed his companions as the distant landmass grew ever nearer. They would reach Whitestone in a matter of only minutes and would land on the beach. Annaeh and Assain stood silently, their dragon blades gripped casually in their hands. Bridden and Narran chatted quietly in the back of the boat, both were outfitted in steel armor. Bridden had a titanium sword slipped through her belt. Narran had a saber clasped in his hand. Taur was by far the most ominous of the group, he wore no armor, only a blood red cape. He leaned on his staff which was topped with a blue stone and watched the boat around him. Sarma knew Taur’s sharp eyes saw everything and processed every detail. Nothing escaped him.

 

Henau sat quietly peering out the window toward the landmass, which was now very close.

 

“How many will there be?” Henau asked.

 

“Many,” Assain replied shortly. “And they will all summon giants and other monsters to aid them.”

 

“You just stay on the boat Henau. Yuwon and Hani will never forgive me if you get killed,” Bridden said.

 

“What if you’re all killed and they burn the ship like they plan?” Henau pressed.

 

No one spoke for a moment, then Sarma quietly murmured. “That won’t happen.”

 

There was no response to his words and the ship was silent as Sarma guided it into the cave and let the orb slowly fall.

 

Still no sound came from anyone as Sarma pulled open the door and clambered out into the cave. He expected to be attacked immediately, but the cave was empty. The others followed him, except for Henau who was waved back into the vessel when he tried to follow. Henau glared and settled himself down inside the ship again.

 

Quietly the small war party exited the cave and walked across the water to the shore of Whitestone. Sarma rubbed his hand against his sword's hilt nervously. He wasn’t ready for this.

 

As Sarma started toward the tunnel under the ridge of rocky hills he heard a voice.

 

“Stop!” Sarma froze and looked behind at his friends; his heart skipped a beat as he saw nothing. Then he recalled that Taur had promised to make all but Sarma invisible until an attack was launched, so that they could surprise the enemy.

 

“And so Sarma returns,” Sarma whipped around toward the tunnel as Groden emerged from behind some rocks, flanked by nearly fifty quiet humans and elves.

 

“I do, but I expected a better welcoming committee than you,” Sarma growled.

 

Groden laughed coldly. “Haven’t you heard though Sarma? There’s a bounty on your head for robbing the palace treasury. They want you alive or dead,” Groden’s eyes flickered dangerously as Sarma stared.

 

“I did nothing of the sort! I went to Irilion!” Sarma clamped his mouth shut as he realized Groden knew all this.

 

“Oh yes, we know that. We just didn’t feel it was terribly important to inform Lord Luxin of it. After all, you are only a gnome. No one will be missing you,” Groden smirked at Sarma waiting for a reply.

 

Suddenly one of the humans next to Groden collapsed to the ground, a bloody gash had sliced across his chest. Groden and the others stared shocked, then all took a step back as Assain and Annaeh advanced on either side of Sarma, now perfectly visible. Bridden and Narran spread out to the right and left, and Taur stood quietly next to Sarma his staff pointed at the now dead man.

 

What happened after was a flurry of action. Groden and his small army recovered quickly. Lights flashed as giants appeared and lumbered toward the draegoni. Two more of Groden’s company was down in seconds from Bridden’s sword and another followed quickly, smote down by Narran.

 

Those were short-lived victories, yetis and chimeran wolves cut off their access to the summoners and they were all forced to fight the monsters.

 

Assain jabbed at a giant, Annaeh behind him. They moved together back-to-back covering the other's weaknesses. Annaeh twisted and slashed at a giant, then skipped backwards as Assain struck down a yeti. Their blades swept in arcs and spun between their fingers as they turned, ducked, stabbed, and sliced. Faster than the eye could follow, the blade would switch from one hand to another and slip past the arms of the monsters.

 

Bridden danced gracefully between the chimeran’s trying to reach the summoners. She had little luck and was forced to take down the ever-increasing monsters rather than destroy their source. She brought down her sword on one monster’s head, only to be slashed by another on her side. Using her titanium shield as a weapon she waded through the ranks of monsters, getting dangerously close to Groden.

 

Narran was locked in combat with a particularly adept warrior. The elf had summoned no creatures, but was keeping Narran occupied and preventing him from joining the fight. Narran sliced and parried without as much grace as an elf or draegoni, but with an unfailing strength that forced the elf back against the rocks.

 

Meanwhile, Taur threw spells at every monster within his range. Chimerans fell in clusters as he cast spells faster than anyone Sarma had ever seen. A stocky human behind Groden attempted to heal some of the monsters, but Taur finished him with a spell.

 

Sarma himself was busy keeping monsters away from Taur so that he could focus on his magic. None of it mattered, though. No matter how many giants Assain and Annaeh took down, more and more kept appearing. Bridden slew chimerans right and left, but there was an endless flow of them. And Narran was now struggling not only against the elf but two yetis as well.

 

Sarma continued to slash at the monsters around him and Taur, but his will was fading. All his hard work was coming to an end. The days he had spent slaving away with Clark to make that boat, the empty time of hunger thinking he would die, the joyous weeks on Arius learning all he could about the people of Irilion, it was all wasted. Here they were on a lonely beach in southern Whitestone; no one would ever know what happened. Irilion wouldn’t send any ships after Sarma for fear of what happened to him, Seridia would never know Irilion existed. Selain was finally going to win and Aluwen wasn’t intervening to stop him.

 

Suddenly Sarma realized he was drifting away from Taur. He tried to move back toward him but a sea of chimerans blocked his way. Sarma began to panic as he realized he was isolated from the rest of the group.

 

“Not so bold on your own are you Sarma?” Groden taunted as he walked up behind Sarma, flanked by two yetis.

 

Sarma stumbled as he turned to face Groden, who laughed mockingly.

 

“Your friends were not expected, but they will be taken care of.” Groden drew out a shimmering serpent sword wreathed in purple fire. Sarma took several hurried steps backwards only to trip over a rock and fall unceremoniously to the ground. Groden laughed again and advanced as Sarma crawled to his feet.

 

Groden lunged bringing his sword down on Sarma, who ducked behind the shield Narran had given him. Groden growled and brought his sword around to Sarma’s right only to be stopped there by his sword. Sarma silently thanked Aluwen that Groden was neither a swift nor talented swordsman. His movements were slow and easily predicted. Sarma barely had time to counter though. He continued to try and move away from Groden but the monsters had formed a rigid circle around the pair, he was trapped. He switched off blocking Groden’s blows between his shield and sword and tried to move toward a narrow gap between the ranks of monsters. Sarma was nervous and terrified and paid no attention where he stepped as he walked backwards. To his humiliation, he stumbled again and fell to the sandy beach.

 

“You’re pathetic really, can’t even take on a fighter like me. Those two draegoni can at least put up a good fight,” Groden ridiculed.

 

Sarma stared in horror as he watched Groden’s sword follow a slow arc toward his head. He was going to die, the thought finally sunk in to Sarma. He was never going to see Clark again or his newly made friends from Irilion. He was about to die. Sarma clenched his eyes closed but the stroke never fell. Had he been watching, Sarma would have seen a heavy arrow thud into Groden’s shoulder. Sarma jerked his eyes open as he heard Groden cry out and watched the sword fall from his hand.

 

Standing behind the ranks of monsters, only a little ways down the beach, were five archers raining arrows down on the monsters. Sarma stood and looked around to see that a group of soldiers had poured over the rocky hills and were now cutting down the ranks of Groden’s party.

 

Groden himself whimpered on the ground behind Sarma. Something more than the arrow through his shoulder afflicted him.

 

“No, I did it. I had him, I was about to kill him! It’s not my fault!” Groden continued to mutter excuses to some invisible enemy, and Sarma realized he was talking to Selain. Sarma took a hesitant step toward Groden actually feeling pity for the poor human. Groden jumped suddenly to his feet though and ran madly down the beach. Confused, the monsters he summoned tried to follow him, but soon lost track of where he was. Sarma watched fascinated as Groden scrambled into the hills and disappeared behind the rocks.

 

That was the last time Sarma saw Groden. He heard rumors at times of a deranged summoner wandering Seridia, but never saw him again, or heard any real proof. Sarma turned his attention back to the battle to find his friends. But there was little battle left. The uniformed soldiers of Whitestone had either killed or captured all of Groden’s small army. And the few remaining monsters were quickly slain.

 

Sarma took several steps toward his friends, who thankfully all stood together with no more than scratches and bruises. He was stopped as two gruff soldiers grabbed his arms.

 

“You are under arrest for thievery from the Lord of Whitestone,” said one of the soldiers. Sarma was dragged over to the other soldiers and his friends. Annaeh stepped forward in front of the humans who held Sarma. He towered above them and glared menacingly down.

 

“On what charges do you arrest this gnome?” Annaeh growled. The two soldiers who gripped Sarma could do nothing but sputter and stare at the draegoni. Then another soldier walked up, his uniform was slightly nicer than the others and indicated that he was a captain.

 

“He is arrested for thievery of Lord Luxin’s treasury,” the captain stated.

 

“And when did this thievery occur?” questioned Assain who stood beside his brother.

 

“Three nights ago,” the captain replied.

 

“I can personally assure you that three nights ago this gnome was further away from Whitestone than you can even imagine,” Narran had now taken Sarma’s side as well and stood with the two draegoni. The captain began to reply but another soldier walked up, even more finely dressed than the captain.

 

“I am General Reddar of Lord Luxin’s army,” he nodded his head silently to Sarma’s friends. “I have cleared Sarma of all charges of theft and placed the blame upon the true culprit, Groden Terailidis.”

 

“What proof do you have of this?” the captain question.

 

“Who are we to argue with the word of the gods?” the General glared at the captain. “Captain, why don’t you escort these messengers of Irilion to Lakeside.”

 

“Yes, sir.” The captain unhappily guided Annaeh, Assain, and Narran toward the path through the hills with most of the soldiers. Bridden remained standing with Sarma and the General however.

 

“May I help you mistress elf?” the general questioned politely.

 

“You were sent to this beach by Aluwen I presume?” Bridden questioned.

 

“I was. She appeared to me early this morning while I slept and told me what I needed to do. I am the leader of Aluwen’s followers in Whitestone.” Bridden bowed respectfully at the general’s words.

 

“I am Captain Bridden, Aluwen’s priestess on the continent of Irilion.” The general was taken aback and stared in wonder.

 

“It’s true then, as Aluwen said, that you came from Irilion, that this gnome built a ship that can travel between continents?”

 

“The goddess does not lie, General Reddar.”

 

The General quietly accepted her words and turned to Sarma.

 

“You, then, are the gnome that has reconnected our two continents?” he asked.

 

Sarma nodded quietly.

 

“Whitestone owes you much, then. I shall send messages to Lord Luxin immediately. You and your friends will be taken to Whitestone city and given the best lodgings we can offer,” the General said happily.

 

“We would be much obliged,” Bridden replied politely. “I am afraid that those of us who belong on the continent of Irilion will not stay very long though. Our place is with our people and others will be sent as ambassadors to your Lord.”

 

Sarma’s attention wavered as Bridden and the general continued to talk. He had done it, he had reached the continent of Irillion and returned to tell the tale. Selain and his minion Groden had been defeated and now Sarma would be treated as a hero.

 

That night Henau and Sarma sat in the Lakeside tavern, their friends around them. Sarma resolved that he did not want to remain in Whitestone long either. He would prefer to ferry people between the two continents.

 

Over the years, the dragon ship and Sarma became living legends. The ship’s insides were changed to make travel more comfortable and Anitora grew into a thriving market. Assain and Annaeh disappeared to their homeland, though Sarma did see them occasionally as he made journeys across Irilion with his gnomish kin. Bridden and Narran returned to their ship and crew and continued their voyages through Irilion’s seas. Henau returned to his home, but eventually took up residence on Anitora, managing the records of Seridians that came to Irilion. He and Sarma became close friends and worked together for many years.

 

Sarma was always welcomed as a hero on Seridia and feasts were held in his honor. But he preferred Irilion where he was always welcomed as a friend among the gnomes and indeed many other races. The draegoni were kind to him but never gave him undue attention. The elves of Bridden’s homeland were always cordial and offered lodging, but never showered him with gifts. Sarma even met the empress of the Idal Empire and stayed in her palace. But home for Sarma was always Anitora or among the gnomes of Arius.

 

For in those places, he was merely Sarma, a simple gnome. To the rest of Draia, though, he was a hero blessed by the gods.

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