A Wylde Tale by T. J. Schaaf and Cal Westray
Chapter 9: A New Beginning
I appear immediately behind tall, dark, and ugly. I don’t need any magical talent to determine that he is the diabolical mastermind behind this carnage and he is planning to kill them both. I see a blue, green, and yellow energy mass rising from T.J. I don’t understand the significance of it, but I’m sure it must be stopped. He is unconscious, he looks in pretty bad shape. The girl is crying hysterically. The leader hasn’t detected my presence yet, but one of his underlings has.
It charges at me, with saliva and blood drooling from its sharp fangs and chapped lips. I withdraw my blade and catch the creature fully in the chest. The blade is buried deeply and I pull the blade upward, cutting through the torso and neck; lifting it off the ground. It screams and smoke rises from the rapidly decomposing body. I pull the blade free as the leader turns to face me.
I grin at him through narrow eyes. “They just don’t make minions like they use to.”
“Who are you?” There is rage in his voice, seeing one of his spawn dispatched.
“I am no one important. I just don’t like ‘parasites’.”
He scowls at that, with his arm outstretched and his hand in a fist. “Whoever you are, I will delight in draining you myself.”
Another minion attacks me from behind, slashing at my arm. I move aside, but not quickly enough. It connects with my sword arm, drawing blood. Blast it! He would have cut it off if I was a fraction slower.
The leader fires a bolt at the minion. It screams, dissolving in smoke.
“I said, he is mine!”
While his attention it distracted at the dissolving minion. “The smell of your blood. You are one of the cursed spawn of the Unicorn!”
Upon saying that, the demon apparently tripped on something and began to fall. That gave me the extra second I needed to cast my spell.
I motion. “A stitch in time...”
The leader freezes, mid-fall. The energy mass stops flowing.
“Excellent.” Spawn of the Unicorn? I will worry about that later. I rush over and pick up the girl who struggles with me. “Do you want me to leave you here?”
Comprehension sets in. “No. But he will find us.” She whispers.
“Time to worry about that later. Come with me or stay here, your choice. Quickly!” I pick up T.J. and throw him over my shoulder in a fireman’s carry. I reach for the girl, she takes my hand. “If you have a deity of good fortune, pray to it now.” I haven’t tried this with others, it should work. I visualize my wagon and step forward, pulling the girl with me. I step into my wagon and look around. T.J. is here and the girl is still in tow. Good. I tell the girl to sit down.
I lower T.J. onto my bed and loosen his clothing. I examine him for injuries. Nothing apparent other than the missing eye. It appears to have happened quite recently. His mother isn’t going to like this. I look at the girl and try a warm smile. “Welcome to Talladale, my name is Wylde. You are among friends here. I have been looking for T.J. for some time. What is your name?” I pour a glass of water for us both.
“I don’t have one,” she said remembering something. Something painful by the look on her face. “I haven’t had one for a long time now.”
“How unfortunate. Would you like a drink of water. I have stronger beverages, if you like.” She shakes her head. “I need to call for a healer, just sit tight and relax.” I walk to the door and see Alban outside. “Alban, get Madame Moonscrye! I need a healer for the boy.”
“Of course, brother!” He runs to her wagon.
I turn to the girl. “Now, are you injured?”
“Good.” I think her injuries are of the spirit. I take my jacket off and rip off my shirt, keeping the girl in the corner of my eye. I don’t know how far she can be trusted, yet. I tear the clean portion to make some bandages. “I got careless.” The blood has nearly covered my arm, but the blood flow is slowing. At least no artery was severed. I pour the rest of the water from the pitcher over my arm, into the wash basin. Then I get a bottle of my strongest alcohol. With the cork in my mouth, I pour the contents over the injury. I nearly bite it in two at the pain and spit it out into the basin. “Bloody!” Then I wrap the cloth around the wound. It should be stitched, but I will leave that decision up to Moonscrye. The girl comes over to help tie it off. “Thanks.” We go to sit down. “What can you tell me about what is going on and what happened to the boy?”
She starts crying again. “It’s my fault. It’s all my fault. I was torn between loyalties. I felt for T.J. but served the old one. I knew that T.J. was attracted to me and I to him. At the old one’s orders, I attacked T.J. and took his eye, T.J. nearly killed me then. Later, I was weak and betrayed T.J. and his people to the old one. Only T.J. remains. Now, T.J. will kill me. If he doesn’t, the old one will for my weakness. I deserve death for what I have done.” She sobs.
“I see.” Young love between enemies. Charming. She is walking a dangerously fine line and on the brink of insanity. I kneel down before the girl and take her face into my hands. “No point dwelling on that for now, it looks as though you need an ally. The question you should ask yourself is not how you should be punished, but what you can do to rectify the situation. There is always hope. Start by telling me what you know and what you have to do next.”
She sits back to think about it, as though it’s the first time she has heard that concept. Moonscrye enters my wagon. “What’s wrong, Wylde? I lost contact with the boy when he fell. That demon lord was taking his soul! I hope we aren’t too late.”
“A demon lord? Is that what he was doing, taking his soul?”
“Yes, you are lucky to be alive.”
“He seemed to know who I was. He referred to me as a cursed spawn of the Unicorn. Does that mean anything to you?”
“Not particularly. Maybe they are known from where the demons come from.”
“Well, no matter. Thanks to your help, I brought them back. The girl is shaken up a bit. T.J. lost an eye, but looks all right otherwise. What can you do to help him?”
“I will see what can be done. You don’t look well, yourself.”
“Nothing that a few stitches won’t fix, but later.”
“Were you bitten? The possibility of infection exists from those vampires.”
“No, I’m just scratched. I used water and alcohol on it. It’ll hold for now. T.J. is your patient, misler.”
“Very well. But I will deal with your injuries next.”
“Fair enough.” I smile.
Moonscrye glances at the girl. “What is you name, missy?”
“We’ll worry about that later, misler.” I said quickly, trying to avoid bringing up any more painful memories for the girl. She got the message.
Moonscrye glares at the girl through her sight. “Do you still serve that butcher?”
She flinches at that, then averts her eyes. “No.” Truth.
I intervene. “Moonscrye, she was about to tell me her story. She needs friends now, all she knew were enemies.”
“I would like to hear it as well, gifan magi.” She turns to the girl. “Well, missy? I can listen while helping this poor boy. I only saw what he was experiencing as his people were being butchered by the vampires and his soul was being drained. There is still some good within you, girl. Show it to me.” Her words have some power behind them, seeking truth.
The nameless girl sits back in the chair and sighs. “I don’t remember exactly how it happened. It was so long ago. My father was a very powerful man, and he promised my family great things. Things like power, happiness, freedom, unity. When my mother died, I knew everything was a lie. I didn’t want what happened to my mother happen to me or the ones I loved. So I ran away. I ran away in search of ways to make all the things my father had promised come true.” She goes silent for a moment, in recollection.
“I met a stranger in my travels. He was a powerful man as well, but he didn’t promise me anything. He was very realistic. He said that he would help me in any way he could. One day, he told me he had found a true source of power. I believed him. And after awhile, I embraced the power. It was only afterwards that I found where the power came from. The demon lord. The one that just tried to kill us. All I wanted was to be free, and I ended up a prisoner to darkness.” She turns her head to hide the redness in her cheeks.
“Later, I found out that the stranger I had learned to trust and love like a father, was murdered by one who served my true father. Hearing that crushed my soul and twisted it into what it is today. I became one of the demon’s elite assassins. I have been on a mission for over ten years now. I was to seek out a chosen few that my father had given power to, and eliminate them. After what he had done to me, I gladly took on the task. Anything to cause him pain. I did a good job too, until I met T.J.” She looks at the unconscious form of T.J. on my bed.
“Something about him made me question everything that had happened. A long time ago, another lifetime it seems, my father told me about one who would fulfill an ancient prophecy. One who would save many, who would bring much joy, and who would bring many together. He said he had a vision of his next son. And it would be he who would bring all that my father promised. Upon my mother’s death, I knew there would be no son. No happiness, no unity, nothing.” Her hands balled into fists at the thought, then relaxed again.
“But as strange as it sounds, I think this boy may be the next son. When I first felt his power, I could feel part of my father behind it. Somehow, I think this boy is the son of my father. My brother. So now, I find myself here. Alone, powerless, and with no beliefs or identity. And now I must go. I will return tomorrow to see how T.J. is doing. I don’t know whether to thank you or pity you. You saved my life, but in doing so you may have condemned your own. The demon lord will not just let me go. I know too much. And because of that, I am a threat. But as I said, I will return tomorrow, and then leave you forever.”
There was no arguing with her, short of subduing her. There was no point in that, if I want to gain her confidence as an ally. I suppose we need to trust her, a little.
I watch as she leaves the wagon and walks into the woods, soon disappearing among the trees.
“Well,” the voice inquired.
“I got there and found them as you foretold,” he replied.
“And the other teleported in and teleported all three of them out.”
“Any ideas what he is?”
“Maybe mutant. Not a dragon or mage. He was wounded too easily and didn’t have much magic energy.”
“Did the demon follow them?”
“He couldn’t. Didn’t have enough time to track where they went. He had an allergic reaction.”
“I believe it was my arrow in his skull. They didn’t go well together.”
“But he came back.”
“Yes, which proves what we suspected.”
“He is immortal.”
“It seems that way.”
“Fine. Now go and protect them all. Demon included. Make sure none takes his soul until it’s time.”
“Yes, my queen.”
“And make sure you aren’t seen. If she sees you, then she may suspect something.”
The un-named girl is gone and Moonscrye stitched up my arm. “Thanks, misler. And thanks for the numbing salve.” It made the stitches bearable anyway. I cleaned myself up and put on fresh clothes. “So, the boy will be OK, no serious effects?”
“I think he will be fine, at least physically. The demon lord only began the soul draining. He will need to spend a lot of time resting.”
“That’s good news anyway. Misler, I wonder how he will react to the story about his sister? If you can believe what she said. I’m not sure what to believe, myself.”
“There was the feel of truth to her words, at least the truth as she saw it. Who can tell?”
I shrug. “She doesn’t have a name. She said she hasn’t had one for a long time, it seemed to be quite painful to her.”
“I’m not sure why she wouldn’t have a name. But among some creatures, there is power in the knowing of names. Some creatures can be summoned or banished by someone knowing their true name. However, I think that she has a different reason.”
“I think so, too. What is this business of draining souls? I don’t understand the purpose.”
“Power, pure and simple. As you already learned, mages absorb magical energy from magical sources. Everyone has a life force, which is released upon death. It can also be forced from the body, like the demon lord was doing to the boy. Life force taken, can be added to your own life force. This is the first time I have witnessed such an event, I hope it’s the last.”
“I see. I should contact Cassandra and make preparations. Can you watch T.J. until I return?”
“Of course. But first, I want you to take something with you. If the boy wakes, I will need to reach you. I have a few tricks of my own, gifan magi.” She smiles and takes a hair pin from her tresses. She punctures her palm, cupping the welling blood in her hand. Then she holds her hand out and blows into it. The blood forms into a small dark crimson snake and I see no trace of the puncture. “Wear this around your wrist. When I summon you, it will lightly constrict. The tighter it constricts, the more urgent the summons.”
I put the snake on my wrist, it wiggles around making itself comfortable. Once in place, it pokes the head out of the shirt sleeve. “Interesting trick, misler. Thanks for watching over the boy, I will be back soon.” I take a last look at T.J., his breathing is slow but steady. I visualize Dragon’s Peak and step through.
Cassandra is casting minor spells in the center of the circle. I experience a myriad of aromas, all quite pleasant. She turns and regards me. “Wylde, you never cease to amaze me.”
“Pardon? In what way?”
“Next time you decide to go one on one with a demon lord, please be kind enough to invite me along.” She smiles. “At least the boy is well.”
“Moonscrye thinks so. How much did you see?” I look down at my chest. “The necklace?”
“Yes, I saw all of it. You can take it off, if you feel it a violation of privacy. I just wanted to be able to help, if you were in trouble.” She grins evilly. “I am glad that you did well without my help. Besides, I didn’t want to alert the demon lord to my existence.”
“I see the wisdom in that. No, I will keep it for awhile, if you don’t mind.” I grin as well. “What is your opinion of the girl?”
“The nameless one? Dangerous and capable of great treachery, as you already know. But I think she is now trying to make amends. You owe her a great deal already.”
That catches me off guard. “How is that?”
“It was her devices that tripped up the demon lord, to distract him. She made it possible for your spell to work.”
“It was her? That is good and it explains a lot.”
“I think she truly believes that T.J. is her brother. In her intervention with the demon lord, she gambled all of our lives in that belief. I think that she is confused, but not foolish enough to risk facing the demon lord again. She is afraid that T.J. will kill her if the demon lord doesn’t, but she hopes I can convince him not to. Also, my impression of her is that she is afraid of both death and servitude. She will take any opportunity to change her situation. She is desperate, hoping that she is making the right decision. Her feelings for T.J. are giving her courage to face the outcome of her decision.”
“Very good. But there is something else.”
I grin at her words. “Only the obvious. If I can’t convince T.J. to accept and help her, all bets are off. She would re-join the dark forces and lead them down on our heads. There will be a lot of blood and soul feasting.”
She smiles. “You do have a way with words. Yes, that is it. Should we make preparations?”
“I thought of a few spells that I would like to learn.”
“A good start. Name them.”
I named the three spells and she laughed.
“Wylde, you are amusing. I will teach you the first two spells now. As for the third spell, we should go somewhere else. I prefer not to see Dragon’s Peak damaged.”
“My thoughts as well. I think it will be useful against a fire warlock and his minions. I plan on casting it an hour or so before they are in range, well out of Talladale. That should be adequate for getting the maximum effect.”
“Indeed it will. Let’s begin the first two spells.”
Cassandra teaches me how to dispel magic and how to cast banishment spells. Both will be useful as defensive spells against a fire warlock that may employ fire elementals. I can also use it to banish minor demons as well, but it’s not likely to work against a demon lord.
It’s the third spell that I am really interested in. It occurred to me that the best way to combat one force, was with another. After Cassandra is satisfied with my learning of the first two spells, we tap into the ley lines to gather magical energies for the next spell. She teleports us to a suitable area for practicing. It’s a forest that is desolated, a catastrophe occurred that reduced it to a wasteland. Little has survived in this bleak landscape. Perfect for my spell.
She explains to me how to begin the spell, how to accelerate it, how to control it, how to slow it, and how to stop it. We run through it several times before I actually attempt it. I am ready. I release magical energies slowly and cast the spell. The winds begin to flow around us. Slowly at first, then gradually getting stronger with each passing minute. I push the spell for nearly a half hour. We stand in the vortex or eye of a maelstrom of wind, a cyclone. The material on the ground is lifted and carried of into the sky. She is assisting with the control over it, until I gain confidence in it. This is an awesome power at our hands, and there is an adrenaline rush in this knowledge.
Next step, I walk forward slowly. I will the cyclone to move with me. I feel the drain of magical energies as it begins to move with me. I concentrate on keeping the wind speed constant, knowing that I could increase it as much as two or three fold. The cyclone matches my moves. There is no drain if the movement is constant, only if I change direction or speed. I gain understanding in the cost of control of such a force of nature. I let the spell go, letting it slow at the same rate it grew. Within a half hour, it stops completely and the winds are calm once again. There is little difference in the landscape, other than things are moved from where they once were.
“Bloody...! Cassandra, that was more intense than I imagined!”
“It’s best that you saw it for yourself. Like any force of nature, it can be devastating. If someone uses it for destruction, this is the result.” She waves her hands across the landscape.
“I understand. If such a force was unleashed in Talladale or Dragon’s Peak...” I leave the rest unsaid. Using this force against an army will cause untold deaths, either tossing them around like dolls or blowing the fire spells back at them. Even if the fire warlock can dispel it, it will cause a lot of damage before it completely stops. Their deaths are preferable to the deaths of my people.
My people. Yes, that is true. Regardless where I came from, these people and this place is my responsibility now. Duty and responsibility, part of my core being. “Thank you, Cassandra. I learned what I must know. I can’t allow the fire warlock to get near Talladale or have access to Dragon’s Peak.”
“Correct. He must not be allowed near either. Let’s get back and recharge our magical energies. Then we can rest.”
We return to Dragon’s Peak and tap into the energies of the ley lines, replenishing our lost energies. Before it gets dark, I feel a throb on my wrist. It’s the crimson serpent. “Cassandra, Moonscrye is calling.”
“We can rest in your wagon as well as here.” She smiles.
I visualize my wagon and step through. Moonscrye is sitting next to the bed, nearly asleep.
“Misler, is something wrong?”
“Sorry, Wylde. Good evening, Cassandra. It’s getting late and I was nodding off. I thought I better check to see if you wanted to watch him for awhile. I could resume after a few hours rest.”
“Good idea. Sorry it took so long, misler. Get some rest, I will see you in the morning. I will stay up with him for awhile. Cassandra, you can relieve me later after you get some sleep.”
We exchange good nights. Moonscrye leaves for her wagon. Cassandra goes to her room and I begin my watch. I pour myself a sherry and get out a deck of playing cards. I take my seat by the bed and play a quiet game of solitaire, enjoying my excellent sherry.
The evening passes quite slowly and after cheating on the last dozen or so games of solitaire, boredom and my labors catch up with me. I nod off in my chair, the cards fall from my hands.
I wake up quickly, hearing a door knob turn. Cassandra comes in and looks down on me.
“Good morning, Wylde. Sleep well?”
“Good morning, Cassandra. I didn’t intend to sleep.” Looking out the window, it’s nearly morning.
“You tend to do things the hard way. I cast an alarm spell over the bed and around the wagon. If there was a disturbance, I would be awaken.”
“Yes, I guess I could have done that. But I don’t want to become dependent upon using magic for everything. I am a light sleeper and would have become alerted as well, as long as I wasn’t spelled to sleep.”
“Like I said, the hard way.”
“Yes, the hard way. Thanks, for making the preparations though.”
“One of us has to. Coffee?” She heads for the kitchen.
She prepares the coffee, cheating of course. Using spells over actual labor every time. It will taste the same anyway. She pours it and the smell of it clears the remaining cobwebs in my head.
I take the cup. “Thanks.” I leave to freshen up for the day, I prefer to be clean shaven.
When I am done, I smell food cooking. Cassandra has breakfast ready and she decides to eat outdoors. We have a table with an umbrella for outdoor dining, so Cassandra can enjoy the sunrise. I must admit that I enjoy it as well.
As we have breakfast, Madame Moonscrye joins us. “I hope you have some more coffee.”
I grin. “Misler, you know that it’s not good for you.”
She glares at me. “Neither are any of the other vices you have exposed me to. Since they haven’t killed you yet, I don’t expect them to kill me either.”
I remember an old expression. “What doesn’t kill you, makes you stronger?” I pour her a cup of coffee.
“Something like that. Is the boy awake yet?” She takes a sip and hands it back to me. “Please?”
“Oh yes, I forgot.” I pour in two spoons of sugar, stir it, and hand it back to her. “He’s not awake yet.”
“It shouldn’t be much longer.” She takes a sip. “Much better, thanks.”
“Thanks, Cassandra. The breakfast is wonderful as always.”
Cassandra grins at me. “My pleasure. Are you watching the woods, Wylde?”
“Of course, aren’t you?”
“Yes, but I’m not as obvious about it. The girl will be here soon.”
“I know, but I’m not watching for the girl.”
“Oh. I see.”
I recall another expression. “Trust everyone, but cut the cards.”
Moonscrye laughs at that jest. “A good rule to live by.”
Shortly the nameless girl comes out of the woods, as she left. She walks to my wagon, but very slowly. Also, no one is following her. A good sign.
We exchange greetings and the girl sits at the table.
I ask the girl. “Are you hungry?”
“Yes. Is he awake yet?”
I shake my head. “Not yet.” As I prepare a plate of food and a cup of coffee, then hand it to her.
“Thank you.” She eats and drinks without comment.
The three ladies and I sit around the table and little is said, until Cassandra turns her head to the wagon.
I sense a magical alarm.
Cassandra gets up. “The boy is waking up.” She looks at the girl and gives her a sympathetic look. “Stay here until we have a chance to talk to him.” She looks to me. “Wylde, you better be the first person he sees.”
“Agreed. Let’s go.” I place my hand on the girl’s shoulder and I smile. “It will be all right.”
She nods. We enter the wagon and I sit at the chair next to the bed.
He isn’t fully awake yet, just turning over and stretching; trying to awake.