Visit our Bookstore
Home | Fiction | Nonfiction | Novels | |
Innisfree Poetry | Enskyment Journal | International | FACEBOOK | Poetry Scams | Stars & Squadrons | Newsletter

 

The Rise of Zakarian

By Frederick N. Marais

 

Click here to send comments

Click here if you'd like to exchange critiques

 

Copyright protected 2003

 

Chapter 1

The Journey

 

Creaking sounds could be heard as the three ships cut through the sea. Burning lanterns dimly showed their true light as the mist covered them. At the front of the ship stood a bearskin cloaked figure. His green eyes reflected from a nearby light. Black leather pants seemed to match the darkness while his brown leather armor could have a tale or two to tell.

"Zakarian, you know if you look long enough your eyes are going two fall out."

Zakarian turned around and saw a green, dim light coming his way. A black-cloaked figure stepped out of the mist. The cloak had red lining at the ends. There was also a red shoulder plate over his chest.

"Kortein. Don’t you ever leave that staff of yours?" Zakarian gave a slight grin to Kortein.

"Well do you ever leave that sword of yours?" Kortein joined Zakarian.

"Point taken." Zakarian smiled back at Kortein. "Don’t worry my friend, I am sure that we will find your land soon. My magic never lies."

Kortein stood by his side. Zakarian looked back at the sea. His mind seemed as empty as the sky.

"Yes, your magic doesn’t lie, but it also doesn’t tell the time."

Zakarian just smiled as Kortein placed his hand on Zakarian's shoulder. "Then where will the fun of life be? If I knew exactly what is going to happen at the exact time." Zakarian looked at Kortein and they both started to laugh.

"Well I will see you Zakarian. I have things to attend to. Don’t stay up too long, you still have a fleet to command." Kortein walked away into the mist.

Zakarian looked at the sea, taking a deep breath as if it was his last. He walked back to the ship's galley. As he passed the mess hall of the ship he heard cheering. Few people were cheering for the two at the table. The two barrels and mug said everything. Drinking contest. There was a dwarf sitting at one end of the table. He had brown curly hair and his beard was smothered in ale. His clothing was a common brown but his arms showed his strength. His opponent was a man dressed in black leather from head to toe. His black cloak was a very dull color and his hood was held together with a silver chain.

"Boetane, Gelson, what are you doing? Gelson you know you will not beat Boetane at this competition." Boetane and Gelson turned their heads toward Zakarian.

"No, we lightened up the competition. You see Boetane is drinking his dwarven ale and I am drinking my elven wine."

Zakarian laughed and looked at Gelson. "Brother you should know by now that Boetane drinks that dwarven ale like water and still stands to fight."

Gelson looked at the dwarf. "Well Boetane, it seems the odds are more to your side, but we will still continue."

Boetane filled the glasses for the next round. "Yes, now that is the spirit. Come on boy you are wasting daytime."

Gelson looked out the window at the night sky. "See you are already loosing."

"We'll see about that Gelson, now drink."

Zakarian carried on to his quarters.

The Boetane was busy downing his ale. His wife walked stood by the door "Bootanie, time for pinning the axe on the donkey."

Boetane spat his beer all over Gelson. "Sorry about that Gelson .We will do this another time."

Gelson looked at Boetane, squeezing out the ale from his hood and wiping his face. "Yes. Next time I will wear a rain coat."

Boetane rushed down the passage. "Sweetie, you know not to call me Bootanie in front of the men." Boetane’s voice faded as he continued running. 

Zakarian walked up to his quarters. He was about to open the door when a sweet voice approached. "Zakarian. No good nights anymore?"

He looked at his right side. There stood a woman with long white hair. Her eyes black as the night could be. She wore black high boots with black pants. Her shirt was a blue type of silk.

"Shallen I thought you were asleep."

She walked forward and gave Zakarian a hug followed by a kiss. "Where have you been? I looked all over this ship for you." She looked a bit confused. "I have been outside getting a bit of fresh air." She smiled at him.

They looked at each over. But both of them didn’t know what to say.

"Shallen I know I haven’t talked to you much today…"

She put her finger across Zakarian's lips. "I know you are commanding three fleets of men."

Zakarian just kept quiet and gave her a hug and a kiss on the cheek. "Well my lady shall I walk (ed-delete) you to your quarters." He held out his arm like a true gentlemen.

"I thought you would never ask"

As they came to Shallen's quarters, Zakarian took a bow and placed a nobleman's kiss on her hand. Her cheeks almost blushed.

"If you can excuse me lady, I need to look at the shipping plans tonight."

"You may, Capitan."

Zakarian walked slowly backwards turning around, hitting his head on the lamp that was hanging from the ceiling. Shallen let out a small giggle.

"That is if the ship doesn’t kill me first." Zakarian walked away rubbing his head and Shallen waited for him to disappear around the corner.

"I hope this is your last quest. I need a stable footing to stand upon." she said, closing her cabin door.

 

 

 

Smoke came from a burning village. Ogres were running and striking down woman and men. Dog-like creatures called kobolds were eating the flesh of their slain victims. Zakarian stood in the center of this slaughter. His feet bound to the ground by bloody vines. He tried to move, but it was no use.

Among the a black spiked, armoured figure walked toward Zakarian. Along the way, a farmer charged with his pitchfork at the dark figure. The dark figure slapped the pitchfork out of the way, grabbing the peasant and punching him in the stomach, with a spiked gauntlet. He picked up a bloody sword from the ground and held the peasant up with one arm. He walked to a nearby building. There he rammed the sword right through the peasant into the building. The peasant was left hanging in the air. Only the sword held him up. The peasant screamed as the sword started to cut through him due to his own body weight. The sword stopped were his ribcage started. The dark figure tossed a burning torch under the peasant’s feet burning the victim from the feet upwards.

Zakarian woke up in a cold sweat. "Not again." He walked over to clean his face.

"Land-ho! Land, land ahead!" cried a voice from (above) the crows-nest. Bells were ringing on the deck. People were shouting and dancing.

Zakarian rushed up after putting on his pants while hopping on one foot. He looked across the sea. "Isn’t that another island? No, it’s land." Zakarian's eyes lit up like a big torch.

"Steersmen set a course for that land. The new land that shall be called Balren."

"Yes Captain."

Zakarian was looking out to the land when fingers joined his.

"Have we found it?" Shallen was holding his hand.

"Yes, Kortein was right. We have found it. Our own piece of land."

Kortein walked up, joining them. "Zakarian I have very big question. I gave you the direction to sail in right?"

Looking confused at Kortein's question, Zakarian responded, "Yes you did."

"Why then do you need me? I mean I want to continue my studies but you keep dragging me along to your quests."

Zakarian looked completely blank. "To give us light and if there aren't any damsels to save, we save yours then."

Walking up in his chain shirt, Boetane placed his battle axe back into it’s sling.

"You know he has a point there. It did look funny when that goblin was latched on the back of your head, and you could not get him off."

Zakarian smiled. "Well if some dull bearded Dwarf was watching my back as he was supposed to. I would not have this bump on the back of my head, as he smacked me with the back of his axe, and still he missed the creature." Kortein looked at the Dwarf with thin slit eyes. In return the Dwarf carried on laughing.

"Sorcerer, I thought you could remember things. My title is Dullbeard not Dullbeards. I only have one beard." 

The three ships set a course for land.

"Captain, we are close enough. The sea sand is preventing us from coming any closer."

Zakarian turned to all the men on the ship standing proud and tall. "Well what are you all waiting for? Let’s get off these ships and get used to solid ground again."

The ships readied their longboats to go to the shore.

Crates among crates were loaded onto the long boats which were then lowered and rowed toward the beach.

Zakarian jumped out of the boat as soon as it touched the shore, carrying Shallen to the beach.

Boetane also leapt out of the boat bearing his wife. After he put her down he rushed back.

"I am just going to help getting the rest of the supplies off the boat. I’ll be back soon my dear."

As he was walking off to help with the crates, "Don’t fall!" Boetanes wife shouted.

"Me fall? Dwarfs are stable…" He slipped on a piece of small reef and fell flat onto his back. He stood up covered with seawater. "On solid ground." He twisted the water out from his beard.

"Beware, smelly when wet." Kortein remarked as he floated over the water.

Kortein continued onwards leaving Boetane.

"Coward you are afraid of water, so you do your little spells.". Boetane placed his hat back on. Water ran over his face.

"No I just don’t like getting wet." Kortein continued onto the beach.

Zakarian called all his companions together. "Listen here we have a lot to do. Kortein, help the men setting up a patrol post, we don’t know what waits for us. Gelson, collect all the commanders so that we can decide what we do from here. Boetane, you and Shallen can plan a party for tonight. I think the rest of the people need it."

Shallen gave Zakarian a light smile. "Just like a man to send a woman off to the kitchen."

Zakarian pulled her closer. "But you know that your food is the best, Shallen. Well, let’s get going, we have a long day ahead of us."

Gelson and all the other commanders that were following him came together. They all looked ready to kill.

"Well people, after twelve seasons of hard travelling, we have finally made it. But this beach is much too open and we need to start a permanent base. I will ask Kortein if he can’t find out were the location of the main town is. We will also need scouts to search the area for any tribes or hostiles. But tonight we relax. We shall continue with plans tomorrow. Any questions?"

They were all silent until a grey, breast-plated commander came forward.

"Zakarian. We will need to look for a place to start a dock, because the area around here has too many reefs."

Zakarian looked up to Corrion as he stood tall before him. "Very well, Corrion, take the amount of people you need and look for the first dock. We will find a main route to the docks afterwards."

Corrion saluted. "Yes Sir."

Zakarian looked at everybody as if someone else might have another idea. "If nothing else then, let us set up the camp." Zakarian grabbed his brother around the neck and gave him a hug. "Let’s go little brother."

Soldiers surrounded Kortein. He was busy giving instructions, showing them the points. They left him to follow his instructions.

"Kortein." Zakarian walked up to him a little bit out of breath. "Slow down my friend, you will kill yourself. I wanted to ask you something but not in front of the rest. What is troubling you?"

Kortein smiled as Zakarian sat down. "Remember those dreams."

Zakarian took a deep breath. "Yes."

Kortein started to rub his chin. "Well they're back and they seem more real. I could almost feel the heat."

Zakarian picked up a stick and started probing it into the ground. "I told you, you must take those herbs of mine."

"No, I think this is just a mental thing, I need to get out of my head. But it seems more stronger than ever."

Zakarian folded his hands. Resting his head. "Well my friend I am sure it will pass like the rest. But if you ever need those herbs you have only to ask."

Kortein smiled at him. "I know, but to another point, could you maybe see where we need to set up the main camp."

Zakarian looked up. "I will look into that."

Kortein patted Zakarian on the back. "Thanks Kortein and thank you for not telling anything to the rest. Especially Shallen." Zakarian looked at Kortein if he was his bigger brother.

"The pleasure is all mine Zakarian. Now let’s get going."

The smell of food roamed in the air. A large fire was burning, surrounded by tables. Tents covered the beach. Music started as the bards began to play their harps, flutes and kuraks. Everybody was starting to join the party, celebrating that their sea journey has finally ended.

"May I have this dance?" Zakarian stood with his hand reached out to Shallen.

"You may."

Zakarian and Shallen went off to the dance circle, leaving Kortein, Gelson and Boetane alone.

"When was the last time you asked me to dance?"

Boetane turned around in his seat. "Well let me see. Huh." Boetane looked down counting on his fingers.

"Stop counting and let’s go dance." She dragged away Boetane.

"I guess I will see you all later." Drinking the last drop of his Elven wine, Gelson looked at Kortein and then back to the glass. "Tell me Kortein. What happen to my brother?" Gelson's eye penetrated Kortein's head.

"Nothing why?" Kortein put down the piece of meat he was eating.

"No, Kortein don’t tell that. There must be a reason why my brother left me at the woodelfs."

"Ok if you must know he went after you’re parent's killer. I meted him along the way there." He began eating another piece of the meat.

"Yes, but for eighty seasons long?" Gelson's eyes turned from brown to almost red.

" I can see that you want answers and I gave that to you it took a little bit longer than expected." He continued to eat the piece of meat.

"I think more than that happened." His eyes showed that he was tired of hearing the same story.

"Well let me put it this way young Gelson, somethings are left untouched for a reason. Now if you would excuse me I have work to do." Kortein stood up and walked of(f).

Gelson took his dagger and slammed it into the table.

"What’s wrong little Brother." Zakarian walked up to him.

"Maybe he had too much of that elven wine?" Standing there drinking and laughing was Boetane.

Gelson stood up and walked away.

"Boetane, you and your big mouth!" Zakarian ran after Gelson, leaving Boetane behind.

"Some people can’t handle their drinks. Oh well, where is my drinking challenge tonight?!" said Boetane.

 

 

Gelson sat down on top of a sand dune and lit his elven pipe.

"Gelson are you alright?" Zakarian came walking up to Gelson sitting down next to him.

"Tell me the truth why did you leave me so long at the woodelf’s," he said, not even looking at Zakarian.

"Well it was a long, bloody battle and trust me if could I…" Zakarian wanted to place his hand on Gelson.

"Bull! Zakarian. Why didn’t you take me with you? I could have helped you." Gelson said, taking a long tug from his pipe.

"Because I couldn’t live with myself if I lost you too." Zakarian tried to calm him down.

"Yes but how do you think I would have felt if I lost you? Boetane may have watched over me -there but he can’t replace you."

Zakarian's tongue was tied. He couldn’t get even one word to say to his brother.

"Well? Answer!" Eyes were looking ready to cry and tear out Zakarian's h(e)art at the same time.

"Sorry Brother, but trust in what I tell you. It was better that you weren’t there. I am truly sorry." Zakarian put his brother’s head on his shoulder and held him while his brother cried.

"I know I left you behind but I am here now." They both sat there on top of the dune.

"Zakarian?" Gelson wiped the tears away as they both turned around and saw Shallen walking up to them.

"There you are. Come on you two, we only have this party. Who knows when Zakarian's going to let us party again."

Zakarian stood up. "Are you going to be alright?"

Gelson just nodded his head. "See you two love birds back at the party. And remember I have dips on being the best man." Gelson smiled. "I wouldn’t have it any other way brother. Go, I will see you both at the party just now."

 

Zakarian and Shallen walked away to the party.

"You have that look on your face again" said Shallen, leaning on Zakarian.

"I am just concerned for my brother. He had a hard past."

Shallen stopped Zakarian, looking deep into his eyes. It almost looked like she was trying to get his soul out.

"No Zakarian, that part that you still don’t want to tell me. I can’t be with you if you keep having that look and not telling me what is going on."

Zakarian took away a strand of hair, which blew into her face. "I will tell everybody when I…" Zakarian took a long breath. "Well let’s go join the party and enjoy the night. We have a lot to celebrate."

The two walked off.

"She knows that you are not telling her something Brother, the same thing that you won’t tell me. Don’t let this come between you two," thought Gelson sitting and taking another tug of his pipe.

 

"What happen here?" Zakarian stood behind Boetane.

"I just got forty gold pieces." Boetane smiled at Zakarian with his ale wet beard.

"You know they can’t handle that dwarven ale of yours."

"Yep they didn’t even last three rounds." Boetane was proud of himself. "At this rate I will become the riches dwarf here."

"Well we first need to set up a shop here before you can spend your gold." Said Zakarian smiling at him.

"Darn you. You always have to spoil my fun." Boetane gave a grin.

 

"Do you know where Kortein is?" Zakarian held Shallen tightly.

"Yes he is standing there looking at the forest the whole time. What a way to waste your time. He could be drinking and he studies rather." She said, taking a big gulp from his mug.

"Well that is our Kortein. My love you will have to excuse me." He gave her a kiss on the cheek and ran off to Kortein.

"Kortein sorry to disturb you." Zakarian sat himself down right next to Kortein.

"Yes. I have talked to the guides who aren’t pleased with us because we kept asking them were we should go. They told me that we must travel east till we find the unicorn's horn." Korteins eyes made a thin slit. He frowned at Zakarian.

"That is good to hear but that is not the reason why I am here. You are a priest as well." Zakarian had a thin smile and (his) eyes were open for an answer.

"Yes, that I am." Kortein eyes opened with his eyebrows pointing down a little bit.

"When we find our place and the fort is up, I want you to marry me and Shallen." Zakarain's eyes opened up even more.

"Well this is a little sudden." Kortein gave Zakarian a slap on the back. "Of course I will." Kortein's hand was shaken by Zakarian.

"Thank you old friend. You have to excuse me I need to get back."

 

Music faded and the only thing that continued were a couple of drunken souls. But they also faded and went to sleep. Sunlight started to fill the sky and birds began to chirp. Everybody was starting to eat breakfast. Some were busy getting rid of the alcohol of last night. The campsite was showing life again. Zakarian joined the rest of the people at the table, giving Shallen her morning kiss first. "Well we got a long day between us six".

"Five." Boetane replied.

"Why so Boetane?" said Zakarian bending his head into Boetane’s direction.

"Well my wife wants to travel with the wagons when we go. The adventure has left her bones."

"Well we go today. According to Kortein we must travel east from here." Zakarian put some breakfast onto his plate.

"Let me guess. The gods told him." Boetane rolled his eyes toward Kortein.

"Yes that is right and I shall not question them twice if I were you."

Boetane quickly raised his hand in front of his chest. "I was not questioning the gods again I was just making sure." "Damn lightning." Boetane carried on eating and Kortein kept a straight face.

"We are going to be travelling a day ahead from the wagons, so that if we encounter something we can warn them. A small group is going to stay with the last ship here while the other two look for the best side to start a dock." Zakarian looked at everybody expecting a reply.

"I told you he was a slave driver." Shallen kissed him on the head. Zakarian smiled back.

"Boetane and Gelson, help Kortein work out the amount of supplies they are going to need. Shallen and me will get the horses ready. See you all when the sun is a quarter up in the sky."

The five continued to eat and then left for their duties. The sun came to the point that the company should start traveling.

Boetane, Shallen, Kortein and Gelson were sitting waiting while Zakarian gave final instructions to the rest of the commanders.

"Well? Shall we continue onto our journey?" Zakarian climbed into the saddle. "Let’s hope the woodelf’s gave you a good lessons in how to survive, Gelson." Zakarian gave his horse a small kick to the sides and started to ride off. Shallen followed.

"Well if they didn’t. Then we will starve." Gelson followed with Boetane and Kortein behind him.

"So long as I have my ale I will survive any terrain." Boetane tapped the four small barrels tied to the pony.

"Yes, being drunk will keep away vultures." Kortein rode up next to Boetane. They looked at each other and laughed as they disappeared into the wood.

"All that I am concerned for is when that pony will fall over due to the weight of those barrels." Gelson replied.

"Then I will empty them along the way young Gelson."

The trees cleared after a while. A plain opened before them. The grass was just high enough so that Boetane’s head stuck out. Purple, white, blue, orange and red flowers were in bloom everywhere. The five continued into the plain. The sun started to blend with some of the flowers. The sky had gone from a blue colour to a red and orange.

"We will set up camp here." Zakarian brought his horse to a stop and dismounted.

"It is about time, my butt was starting to kill me." Boetane moved his short legs off the pony and dropped off struggling to keep his balance.

Shallen started a fire and Boetane helped skin the rabbit that they got from their supply.

Gelson decided to take the first patrol while Zakarian and Kortein where talking about the hopes for this land, as they were all sitting busy eating.

"Something is in the north." Gelson sat down next to his brother pointing with his leg.

A head quickly disappeared into the grass.

"How long?" Zakarian put down his plate.

"For a little while." Gelson looked at the spot again.

"Boetane stay here with Shallen and Kortein. Gelson let’s walk back, you go in from the right I will come from the left." The two disappeared to the back.

"I hope their going to save some of the action for us. I’ve been stuck on that ship for long enough without any action." He took out his axe and placed it next to him. It was quiet and the light breeze could be heard.

"NOW!" Zakarian shouted. They both leaped out of the grass. The creature curled itself into a ball and kept it’s hands in front of its face. "Do not hurt. I will not hurt you. No fight."

Zakarian looked like he just saw a ghost. "You speak crude common?" He took a closer look at the creature. The creature’s body was built like a human's, covered in rags. The skin had a green tone and the face looked like it was smashed hard against a door.

"A Half-Orc, that means that there are savages here."

"Stop, speaking fast. You hurt head." The creature grabbed its head.

Zakarian and Gelson sheathed their swords and helped the half-orc up.

"Where is your home? Place where there are people looking like us," said Zakarian helping the Half-Orc up.

"Tribe throw me out. Say me ugly and bad. Me live everywhere now."

He stood their dusting off all the dust.

"What do you think? Shall we take him? We need a guide in this land and lucky we can understand him." Gelson was waiting for an answer.

Gelson stood their hands crossed.

Zakarian stood there for a time and nodded his head. "Yes we do need a guide. What is your name?" he asked, looking at the half-orc.

"Me Doera. And you?"

"This is Gelson, I am Zakarian. Care to join us to eat," he said, talking very slow to Doera.

"Ya I will." Doera's eyes lit up as his lower teeth showed.

They walked back to the rest that were sitting, waiting for them.

"We found our stalker. Doera this is Boetane, Kortein and Shallen."

Doera stood back and rubbed his toes into the ground. "Hi, me Doera." He looked at the Dwarf. "Why he small?" Doera pointed at Boetane.

"I am a Dwarf and do not keep going on about my size. I have gutted things bigger than you."

Doera started looking a bit confused but lifted his head and took a deep breath. "That smell good."

"That is our supper for tonight, rabbit stew." Gelson handed him a plate. Doera took the plate from Gelson and looked at the food.

"Where’s rabbit?" Doera scratched the food side to side.

"Don’t worry just eat." Zakarian took a bit from his plate. Doera started eating and cleaned the plate with his tongue. "That’s good." He gave back the plate to Gelson.

"Just put that plate in a different bundle. I don’t know where his mouth has been." Kortein sounded displeased.

"At least we know we are not alone." Zakarian turned to Kortein.

"Kortein don’t be like that. We might need him as a guide."

"Well mark that mug as well." Kortein pointed to where Boetane was sitting.

"Boetane no." Zakarian went up to Boetane, standing with his arms crossed.

"When I am just introducing him into some Dwarven culture. Maybe I will make a drinking buddy out of him." Boetane looked at the mug.

"You Doera buddy? Yes." Doera clapped and wiggled his ears out of joy.

"Just watch out. And don’t drink him under the table Boetane." Zakarian sat down next to Shallen.

"Will do," said Boetane, filling the mug of Doera. Doera took a sip of the dwarven ale.

"Good." Doera downed the whole mug with a single gulp.

"Slow down. I don’t have enough to feed an army." Boetane looked at the empty mug and stared back at Doera. "It seems we will become good friends."

They all talked to Doera helping him a little bit with his speech and telling him about the place they came from. It was getting very late and Zakarian, Shallen and Boetane climbed into their tents to get some rest.

Gelson was looking out for any danger that might be lurking out there. Kortein was working on his morphing spells.

"What you doing?" Doera was leaning over Kortein(')s shoulder.

"Get away," said Kortein, pushing Doera away. Doera fell to the ground and a speck of earth fell into Kortein's mixing bowl.

"Boetane right. You no fun. Me go to sleep." Doera was waiting for a response from Kortein.

"Let’s see if I can morph myself into a dragon to scare him." Kortein picked up some powder and threw it over himself. "Kaster forgen sammer sane!" Smoke appeared around Kortein, and as the smoke grew, a growling sound came from it.

Doera looked as the smoke cleared and saw the growling earthworm.

"GROWL!" The worm growled at Doera, moving towards him.

"Hmm food." Doera reached toward the worm. Kortein looked at himself to see that he (had) morphed into a worm.

"OH NO!!! Back you fool!! GELSON HELP!!!!" Kortein cried, fleeing for his life.

"Come here food," said Doera, running after him.

Gelson came running, stopping Doera. "Where is Kortein?" Gelson held Doera back.

"No Kortein but worm. Look" Doera pointed at Kortein.

"It’s me you fools. Turn me back," said Kortein, slithering up to Gelson.

Gelson started to laugh, holding Doera back still. "Everybody come see this."

Everybody woke up, replying almost at the same time. "What is it?"

"Look" Gelson pointed to the ground.

"It is a worm. So what?" they cried, looking at the earthworm was Boetane.

"It is me you IQ for a dwarf." Kortein shouted. If Kortein had arms at this state he would have been flinging them around now. But all he could do was to jump up and down.

"Kortein?" Everybody started to laugh.

"Alright. How do we de worm you?" Zakarian tried to look serious. Covering his laughter.

"Just throw that purple powder over me." Said Kortein. Pointing his body to a pouch.

Zakarian fetched the purple powder and threw it over Kortein. A purple smoke cloud formed. Kortein walked out of the cloud.

"Thank you for saving me from this BEAST!"

Everybody pointed at Kortein as he walked off. "What is so funny now?" said Kortein, crossing his arms with his eyes thinly slit.

"Nothing, worm man." Zakarian walked up to Kortein laughing. He lifted up Korteins robes. The lower part of Kortein was still in worm form.

"I will fix this, see you all tomorrow." Kortein ripped his robes out of Zakarian's hand and slithered away.

The sun already started to highlight the plains grassy fields. Zakarian woke up to the sound of Shallen's laughter. He lifted his head and saw Doera and Shallen sitting by the pot.

"Morning people." Zakarian gave Shallen a kiss. ‘How did you all sleep?" he said, throwing in some coffee and sitting down next to Shallen.

"Me make rabbit … stew." Doera handed a plate to Zakarian. Zakarian looked at the food first and took the plate. His eye questioning Shallen. Shallen nodded her head. Zakarian took a mouth full and started chewing slowly. Hoping that it wasn't poison. Zakarian swallowed the food. "Did you help him make this?" Zakarian took another byte.

"Yes I did but he added his own herbs afterwards, which made it taste a whole lot better." Shallen patted Doera on the back.

"Tell me Doera. What did you put in here?" Zakarian ate more of the stew.

"I tell when all eat." Doera looked just like a child, making its first meal.

"Well morning, Boetane and Gelson. You must taste Doera rabbit stew, it is delicious." Zakarian handed them both plates. Boetane and Gelson held their plates as Doera threw in some rabbit stew.

"Hmm." They both nodded their heads.

"Morning Kortein, do you want some dirt. Sorry some stew." Boetane laughed and gave Gelson a shoulder bump or two.

"Well laugh all you want. I will get my revenge on this beast."

Doera held out a plate for Kortein. "Doera sorry. Made rabbit stew to say sorry."

Kortein looked at the plate and then at Zakarian. Kortein took the plate and started to eat "This is good. This will make up for last nights event."

Everybody was munching away on the food that Doera prepared.

"So tell us now. What was your secret ingredient that you added?" Everybody looked at Doera as if he just did a magic trick.

"I did as Shallen told. And I add this." Holding his hand out to the group. They all went closer to take a look what herb was in his hand. Shallen started to throw up while the rest started to swear at Doera. Kortein just started laughing at the earthworms Doera was holding.

"What Doera do?" His face looked very confused.

"How can we say this nicely? Never ever add worms to the stew again." Zakarian tried to get a grip on his stomach.

"Let’s all just drink coffee and go." Everybody quickly went to get their cups.

"I make." Doera walked over to the coffee pot.

"No." The whole group cried in one voice. Doera stepped away smiling like a child would.

Everybody climbed onto his or her mounts, ready for the days travel. Doera was on the back of Zakarian's horse. They set off for the day’s travel.

As they traveled on, Boetane was telling Doera more about the world beyond the seas. Mostly he talked about what a fine collection of Dwarven ale the Dwarfs had. And how it must stand for two hundred and forty years to be called ale.

"Zakarian. When will you reveal my surprise for me?" Shallen picked up a little bit of speed to be next to Zakarian.

"I will reveal that soon." He said, smiling as if his secret was going to change the world.

"Stop." Gelson stopped his horse and looked up to the sky. "Kortein can you see what that dot is."

Kortein picked up his staff. "May the eagle be my eyes." The creature came closer to Kortein eyes. "Griffon. Down with the horses."

Everybody got off their horses and laid them down, and covered them in the grass.

"What griffon?" Doera's eyes were lit up like candles.

"It is a creature that will eat you. Now keep quite." Boetane explained fast.

Doera's body started to tremble. Shallen tried to calm him down by stroking his head as a mother would her child.

After a while a shadow went past them. An eagle cry came from the sky followed by a slight rumble on the ground. Gelson took a peek. The Griffon was walking close to them.

Doera saw two huge claws next to him. He started to tremble. As the griffon was making ready to fly away, Doera stood up and started running.

"Help me!!" He ran like the wind. The Griffon turned in the direction of Doera, leaping through the air.

Two arrows came out of the grass, hitting the Griffon in the eye and one in the brain. The Griffon fell to the ground.

"Is it dead?" Doera came closer to the creature. The creature was breathing slowly in a bloody voice.

Zakarian came closer when the creature started to leap at Doera again. Zakarian pulled out his sword, gutting half way into the Griffons neck. The Griffon fell down again.

Doera was frozen in fright. Meanwhile Boetane stepped in and cut off the head.

"Now it is dead." Boetane looked at Doera as he put away his axe.

"Thank you." Doera replied to everybody.

"Good shot my brother." Zakarian cleaned his sword.

"I will do better next time. That was the worst shot I ever took." He stepped over to the beast, pulling out his arrows. He saw that he missed the Griffon's main brain vane by less then a hair strand.

"Let’s continue. Luckily it is a male and not a female otherwise we needed to sort out a nest of these Griffons." Zakarian helped Doera onto his horse.

"Are you alright Doera?" Shallen rubbed Doera’s back.

 

Nighttime fell again over the skies. Doera was still a little bit scared that another Griffon would come to get him.

Zakarian and Shallen were working together on preparing the supper. Kortein was helping Gelson by providing light on a target board and moving it around while Gelson was aiming.

"Come Doera it is time that you learn how to defend yourself." Boetane held a battleaxe in front of Doera.

"What this?" Doera took the axe from Boetane, standing up.

"Well my friend this is another dwarven trademark. Dwarven battle-axe. Treat it well and you will live. Now come. I will start you on a couple of blocking exercises."

Doera and Boetane stood a little distance away from the camp.

"I hope the rest of the people are going to except him." Shallen rested her head on Zakarian's shoulder.

"I hope so as well. He is a good person but he is still a child." Zakarian rubbed Shallen's shoulder.

 

They all went to sleep a lot earlier.

 

In the morning, they all sat around the fire drinking their coffee. After getting the horses ready.

"Kortein. Didn’t the gods give any othersign?" Zakarian climbed onto his mount.

"No. They only gave me the image of finding the unicorns horn." Kortein climbed onto the saddle.

"I hope they do not expect us to see a real unicorn. They are so rare to find." Boetane tightened the barrels to the pony. "At least Doera will defend him self with the axe."

Doera blushed as Boetane said that.

They continued to ride for three days through the grassy plains.

They reached a forest. It was mostly pine trees but it stood for miles far out to the right and left.

"Well at least it looks as if the wagons would pass through here. Let’s hope it doesn’t become any more denser than this." Zakarian continued to lead them.

"Look pretty flower." Doera jumped off the horse, walking off to the flower.

"Doera. We will travel on a little bit and make a lunch spot. Don’t take too long." Zakarian and the rest disappeared around the tree bend.

Doera was busy picking some flowers. A green vine crept around Doera's neck, tightening and picking him up from the ground.

"Bad plant." Doera tried to break the vine with all his strength but the vine was too thick. When he looked down he saw that the tree had split. In the split was a mouth. Splinters formed razor sharp teeth. Doera put his feet out so that he couldn’t go in. The tree moved him a couple of times up and down but Doera legs were too long. A green vine came out of the tree’s mouth grabbing him by the leg, trying too pull him in.

 

"I wonder what is taking Doera so long?" Zakarian was busy taking out the lunch from his saddle. "Kortein would you go check on him please." Kortein turned his eye and climbed back onto his horse.

"Doera!" Kortein kept shouting. "Were is that Half-Orc?" He kept on looking, shouting Doera’s name.

"Kortein." Kortein looked up and saw Doera stuck in the tree split half way. He saw the vine strangling Doera. He started rubbing his hands together and taking them away slowly. A fireball started to form in his hand. He pushed his hands towards the tree. The fire started to engulf the tree. The tree threw out Doera and moved the vine into Kortein's direction. Kortein lifted his hands and his eyes started to turn blue. As he pointed down to the ground, a huge lightning bolt struck the tree in half.

"Come Doera. let’s go." Kortein climbed onto his horse.

"Thank Kortein. I almost eaten by tree." Doera's eyes looked very happy that Kortein came.

"Don’t mention it. Come on, the others are waiting."

They rode off to the lunch camp.

"You see tree eat me. After I picked flower. Kortein came and burned it. Tree threw me out of mouth and lightning came destroying." Doera was talking with his hands and showing everybody.

"Slower my friend, you will tie your tongue in knots." Zakarian and Gelson calmed him down.

The sun was starting to set as they continued on their journey. The forest started to clear and they could see a big boulder in the centre of the forest’s circle.

"Doesn’t that look familiar my friends?" Kortein pointed out to the boulder.

"Yes, it is a big rock. Even Doera can tell you that." Boetane replied to Kortein.

"No Boetane. What does the shape look like?"

The rest joined Boetane to make out the shape. After they came closer they saw that the boulder had a spiral line running down, making it look like a Unicorn's horn.

"We have found it. Tonight we can celebrate with what we have. Kortein, tell your gods we are thank-full."

They rushed nearer to the boulder and started cooking food, opening wine and ale. Zakarian and Shallen pretended that music was playing and danced around the boulder.

"Now all that we are going to need is for the rest of the wagons to arrive." Zakarian grabbed Kortein by the shoulder.

"We must also start the layout for tomorrow. I think we should make this the centre piece." Zakarian laughed.

"Yes indeed we have a long day tomorrow. But let us enjoy tonight as you said." Kortein put his arm around Zakarian.

Continued...