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The Song of Steel

Book One - Chapter 26

By W.R. Logan


Copyright 2004 W.R. Logan

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Bigsby Littlefoot


“SO WHY ARE THERE NO ZYDER in any of the other

kingdoms?” Tomment asked Bigsby.

“That is a long story,” the zyder answered.

“And we have a long road ahead of us,” countered


“Good point,” chuckled Bigsby. The boy had become

his constant companion since Sylvia distanced

herself from them. He enjoyed the boy’s wit. “Well,

the zyder are not well liked among the two races

that sired us. Neither the brownies or the nymphs

would allow us to live among them.”

“That’s awful,” Tomment commented. “Not

even your parents?”

“Only till we were grown,” Bigsby explained,

“You have to understand that both races are very

magical beings. They see our lack of any magical

abilities as a weakness, a curse from the gods for an

unholy union.”

“So they left you to the woods to die?”

“Yes, but the zyder banned together and made a

strong settlement for ourselves. We learned to make

ales and shape wood. The humans loved our


“Then why aren’t there more of you in other


“The zyder are not made for battle.” Bigsby saw

Tomment look at him with a smile. “Well, most of us

I mean. The humans soon found it easier and more

profitable for them to take us as slaves instead of

buying our wares.”

“Oh, I’m sorry,” Tomment said.

“This was all before my time.”

“So no one would help the zyder?”

“Only King G’Leaze. My mother fled to Kings

Overlook when our settlement was broken. She

begged the king to help her people. The king offered

the zyder a place in his kingdom and the protection

of his realm.”

“At least the tale has a happy ending,” Tomment


“Not if Kings Overlook falls,” Bigsby reminded

him. “There is still a good market for zyder slaves in

the free cities.”

“King G’Leaze will find a way,” Tomment assured


Bigsby hoped Tomment was right. The Steel

Tide was no small opponent. Even with the Peasant

Army, there was little hope for victory, and now

they were missing. He found no signs of battle in the

valley. All three armies were just gone.

“So what do you think happened in the valley?”

Tomment asked, as if he were thinking the same


 “I don’t know.” Bigsby answered. “Only thing I

can think of is the Vale men somehow surprised

them and took them captive.”

“Never heard of an eneth being taken hostage.”

“I didn’t say it was a good idea, just the only one

I have. We should know more when we get to


“There is this spell, I haven’t learned it yet, but it

can transport whole armies across hundreds of miles

in a blink of an eye.”

“But why would someone want to transport all

three armies?”

“I didn’t say it was a good idea, just an idea,” countered

Tomment. They both laughed at their inability

to come up with a reasonable explanation.

“Think she will let us break before we reach

Toth?” Tomment asked, rubbing his lower back. The

road had become more stable, but it was still far

from comfortable for the girl and the mage.

“I doubt it.”

“How does she think we are going to find this

assassin in a city we’ve never been to?”

“Somehow, I get the feeling if the killer is there,

he will find us,” Bigsby said. “Remember, she was

his true target.”

“Maybe we should be hiding her, instead of delivering

her to him.”

“Not many places you can hide from Hemlock,

or so I’ve heard,” Bigsby said.

“Still, why make it easy for him?”

 “Caitlin G’Leaze once told me,” Bigsby explained,

“if you don’t want to be hunted, become the


“Do War Masters always speak in riddles?”

Bigsby took a moment to consider the question.

“Yes, always,” he confirmed. To most people the

boy’s constant questions would have been annoying.

Bigsby however, found it refreshing. Not many of

the zyder cared about things around them. Their

lack of curiosity made them boring. Bigsby much

preferred the company of an outsider to his own


The party was able to see the city in the distance

for quite a while. The flat, open landscapes of Vale

made it appear to be just a half-day’s ride. They had

been riding for almost the whole day, and didn’t

seem to close the gap at all. The dream of being in

Toth by mid-sun passed them by.

It was near nightfall before the group made the

gates of Toth. The gates were closed for the night

just after they passed through. Another hour and

they would have spent the night camping outside

the city walls. From the looks of the inside, Bigsby

didn’t think that would have been a bad option.

The smell of sewage was overwhelming in the

streets. A beggar staked claim to each street corner,

and often physically fought off the intrusions of others.

Dirty-faced children ran up and down the

streets, begging and stealing whatever they could.

Alleyways were filled with the dead or dying as the

city folk walked by uncaring. It was worse than

Bigsby remembered it.

The sights didn’t seem to bother Sylvia. She rode

on, ignoring the cries of hungry beggars and starving

children alike. The girl never looked back to see

if her party still followed her. Bigsby didn’t think

she cared one way or the other. When Bigsby and

Tomment made the decision to head for the Valley

of No Night, she didn’t even bat an eye. She just

asked Bigsby which way she should ride for Toth,

and took off without so much as a “Goodbye.”

They all knew it was Hemlock who killed Ser

Larkel. Sylvia was the only one not bothered by the

thought of battling a famous assassin. In fact, the

zyder had the feeling she meant to do it alone.

“Sometimes I think you are trying to lose us,”

Tomment told Sylvia. Bigsby and the mage brought

their steeds to a run to catch up to her.

“Sometimes, I am,” Sylvia replied.

The honesty of the answer shocked both men

into silence. Bigsby knew it would fall to him to

keep the girl out of trouble. The assassin would

come looking for her, and he would have to be


They rode on, looking for the good side of town;

however, the whole place appeared to be in the

same disrepair. The party picked an inn in the middle

of the walled city. Called “The Grinning Griffon,”

it looked to be the best choice. It had fewer patrons

lying on the ground outside the door, at least.

Bigsby was the first to enter the inn. The inside

came as a shock to the zyder. It was as fine as any

inn in Kings Overlook. The floor was covered in a

thick red carpet and the walls were adorned with

beautiful paintings. It was not the hovel the outside

promised. His fellow travelers had the same reaction

to their new surroundings.

“Wow!” Tomment exclaimed. “Didn’t expect


Sylvia made her way to the front desk without a

word. The man at the desk worked diligently, scribing

in a large book. He didn’t lift his head to acknowledge


“All rooms are filled,” he snapped.

“Every room in this whole inn?” she questioned.

“The whole inn,” the man confirmed. “It has

been booked by the merchant Tradine. Only mages

under his invite are welcome.”

“Oh, Tradine, why didn’t you just say so?”

Tomment said. “You should have me on the list.”

The man looked up from his book for the first

time since they entered the inn. He gave Tomment a

half-hearted look. “You’re just a boy,” he sneered.

The sigils on the boy’s body began to flare. A fireball

formed and floated above his palm.

“Stop wasting my time with mere parlor tricks,”

the man instructed. “Tradine needs real mages capable

of enchanting weapons.”

“Like this one?” Bigsby asked as he pulled the

Red Tide. The blade glowed softly in the dim hallway.

The zyder concentrated on the blade, making it

grow twice its size. Then he willed it back to normal

length. “The boy made this.”

“Don’t let his age fool you,” Sylvia added. “It’s a

youth enchantment he has not quite perfected.”

The possibility of a youth enchantment sparked

an interest in the man. His mood changed immediately.

The book he was writing in was all but forgotten.

“A youth enchantment,” he said. “That is interesting.

How old are you really?”

“Much older than you, my friend,” Tomment

said, taking Sylvia’s lead.

“I would be very interested in such an enchantment

when you perfect it.” The man stuck out his

hand at Tomment. “I am Vallen.”

“I am Tonoth,” Tomment lied. “And this is my

daughter, Siam and my bodyguard, Perra.”

“I must say, I’m glad to see you,” Vallen told

them. “You are the first to show. I was beginning to

think not one mage would answer Tradine’s call.”

“How many were invited?” inquired Sylvia.

“Everyone who shows a satisfactory sample of

work, and that sword will do fine,” Vallen announced.

“There are so few mages outside of the

free cities who still work with weapon enchantments.

Not much of a market for them, you know.”

“When will we be meeting Tradine?” Tomment

asked. Bigsby was wondering the same thing. This

merchant could be their best link to the owner of the


“Oh, you won’t.” Vallen dug below the counter

and pulled out a box with a sealed note. “These are

your instructions. Make the item described and

bring it to me. The first mage to bring me a successful

enchantment gets five hundred gold pieces.”

 “Five hundred gold pieces,” Bigsby repeated,

trying not to let his astonishment show.

“Here are your room keys,” Vallen said, handing

three keys to Bigsby. “It’s a suite with three bedrooms.

I hope it will do.”

“I’m sure it will be fine,” Tomment told him.

The room was more than fine. It was the best

room Bigsby ever stayed in. All three beds were

made with fine silk sheets, and a table of mixed

meats and fruits greeted them in the sitting room.

Bigsby and Tomment forgot all about the box. They

ate their fill of the fresh food before they remembered

the assigned task.

“Do you know anything about enchanting

weapons?” Sylvia asked Tomment.

“No. It’s not even a subject taught in the Great

Hall anymore,” he stated. “I just thought we might

get some information on Hemlock’s dagger from

Vallen. I didn’t think I would actually get the job.”

Sylvia opened the sealed note and read the instructions

silently. Then she lifted the lid to the box.

She studied the contents with an anxious expression.

“What is it?” Bigsby asked.

“I think you two better see this.”

Bigsby examined the dagger in the box. It was

made of the finest steel. Etched along the steel were

small flowers that ran the length of the blade. The

knife looked to be an exact replica of the one in Sylvia’s

sheath. He grabbed the note and read the

words, already knowing what they said.

“Produce one hemlock-enchanted dagger,”

Bigsby read out loud.

 “I think we found our assassin,” Tomment said.

“Or at least a link to him,” Bigsby agreed.

“So what now?” Tomment asked.

“We give him the dagger, take the money, and

follow this Tradine to Hemlock,” Sylvia said.

“How are we going to find Tradine?” Bigsby

questioned. “Vallen said we aren’t going to meet


“He has to pick the dagger up sometime.” Sylvia

pulled the dagger from her belt and placed in the

box. “And when he does, I will be waiting.”

“You mean, we will be waiting,” Tomment corrected.

Bigsby noticed Sylvia didn’t agree to the mage’s

statement. She seemed to be lost in her reflection on

the steel blade. He could see the girl wanted vengeance.

The zyder also knew, vengeance could destroy

a person. When Hemlock was dead, Ser Larkel

would still be lying in his grave and Sylvia would

still be alone.

I only hope you can fill that hole in your soul when

the assassin’s death fails to heal you, Bigsby thought.

“We better get some rest,” Tomment announced.

“Because tomorrow, we kill a legend.”

Or die at the hands of one, Bigsby thought.




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