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Universe of G-Minor - Ghibbore Title

Chapter 60

Storm and Lorelei enjoyed another evening of marital bliss before falling asleep around midnight. They woke at the crack of dawn from long habit, refreshed and rejuvenated, ready to hit the road. She wanted another bath before they left though. While they were waiting for the water to heat up she said, “Why don’t you see if Ralt can teach you to heat water with your magic? Then we wouldn’t have to wait so long.” He laughed at her but it did serve as a reminder that as a Ghibbore he could learn magic if he wanted to. He’d mastered one cantrip to light candles, pipes, and campfires; why not a few others? He pondered it thoughtfully.

After a quick breakfast, they headed out to collect their mounts. The stable hands soon had them saddled and ready to go. The two extra pegasi followed them without any urging. Ralt suggested Thomas might like one of them. Storm nodded; the lanky archer probably would at that. He turned Specter Jr out the gate onto the road. Before they could leave though, the innkeeper flagged them down.

“I don’t know if I should be telling you this or not,” Pritcher muttered nervously, “but you caused quite a stir last night with that ‘Army of Light’ business. Some of my customers were actually soldiers; out of uniform perhaps, but soldiers nonetheless. After that shout of yours, one of them took off like a scalded cat.” He wrung his hands. “Don’t know if it means anything or not but, well, there it is.” He scurried back inside before they could answer.

The four of them exchanged worried looks.

Ralt flipped a coin in the air. “Who wants to bet there’s already a messenger on his way to Robling by now? Maybe several of them.”

“At’s a fools bet,” Durin snorted.

“But is it good or bad?” Lorelei wondered.

Storm took her fingers to lightly kiss her hand. “That, my dear, is the probably the biggest question of all.”

“Too bad we don’t know the answer,” she smiled. She liked that hand kissing thing he did. Was that an Earth gesture, or something he’d made up on his own? She’d have to remember to ask him some day.

“I didn’t say it was a hard question to answer,” he retorted, “just a big one. Let’s get going. Unless anyone has any better ideas we should just follow the road until we get to Robling.”

“Until we get used to navigating in the air that’s probably the best idea,” Ralt agreed. Durin rumbled his agreement too.

Storm led them quickly through the main square, ignoring the close looks from the rows of guards in front of Frayen’s keep. As soon as the road opened enough for the pegasi to spread their wings they took off, leaving the ground behind. Once more they found themselves surrounded by a warm envelope protecting them against the icy wind of their passage. They stayed low over the road, following its twists and turns. The snow made it difficult, obscuring the meager track when the trees didn’t. Several times the covering canopy of trees forced them to fly scant feet above the ground to keep from losing the way. But open fields were sometimes just as bad because the snow became a flat featureless blanket over everything.

Still, they made excellent time compared to ground travel. As the sun began to sink behind the mountains they could make out the distant lights and spires of Robling.

They whooped when they saw it, seeing the end of their quest finally looming before them. They made a beeline for the outer parts of the city, staying low above the trees to avoid detection in the deepening night. Storm had decided they’d land somewhere just outside town then wait until the middle of the night to fly high and fast over the city walls. With any luck, they’d make it without being spotted and arrested.

The city started as a massive fortress that was gradually improved and changed into a palace as the years rolled by. Then, walls were thrown up several leagues from it all the way around and an actual city began to grow inside them. Over the centuries the city had grown out to the walls then, past them. Businesses and shacks had sprung up along the outside. Meager and mean at first, they’d gradually been improved, torn down, and rebuilt until many of the buildings outside the walls rivaled anything on the inside. It had spread until the New City outside the walls was more than twice the size of the Old City inside the walls. Blue Street, where they’d instructed Thomas to wait for them, was in the Old City.

Durin spotted a bald knob on a hill about a league outside of town. He led the way, spiraling down until they landed with a spine-jarring thump. There was a squat watchtower on the lower edge of the hill overlooking the city, dusty and abandoned. They shook their heads at the sight. “Roderick is gittin careless,” Durin snorted.

“Or his men are taking advantage of his old age and just not telling him about things like this,” Ralt offered. “My uncle found several men trying to do that to him.”

“I remember ’em,” Durin nodded at the memory. “They got me boot swift and hard in the rear end when he told me about it.” They shared a brief laugh over days gone by.

“In the meantime, it’s perfect for us to wait in until midnight,” Storm told them. “Let’s take care of our horses . . .” Specter snorted and tossed his head, “ . . . sorry boy, our pegasi, then get inside.” He suited actions to words, stripping the saddle off Specter to rub him down. They broke out nose bags of water then turned them loose to graze.

The watchtower was abandoned but stout. It was chilly but the heavy doors and windows kept out the worst of the cold. They huddled together under blankets, eating a cold dinner. There was a cast iron, wood burning stove but even though it probably would have been safe to have a fire, they didn’t want to take any chances this close to the end of their quest. Lorelei snuggled close to Storm. “A warm soft bed last night; cold hard stone floors tonight,” she quipped. “What kind of marriage is this?” she teased.

Durin’s voice floated through the dark. “The only kind ye’ll git,” he rumbled. “Make the most of it, lass.”

Laughter echoed around the small room, Lorelei’s included.

“Settle down, let’s get some sleep,” Storm ordered. “This close to town we need eyes on watch tonight. Durin, you’re up first, then me, then Ralt, then Lorelei.” It was a testament to their dedication to following him that no one argued or even seemed inclined to. He settled down, drew Lorelei a little closer and shut his eyes.

It seemed only minutes later Durin was waking him up. “Yer watch, laddie.” He nodded in the moonlit darkness. The dwarf’s dark shape stumped back to his blankets, rolled up in them and was snoring almost immediately. Storm slide carefully out from under Lorelei’s grasp. She muttered sleepily then was still.

The moon slide behind some heavy clouds. Minutes later a light snow began drifting down. Looking downhill he discovered Robling was hidden from his gaze. He shrugged and dug out his pipe. Using the cantrip Ralt had taught him he lit it up.

“Is that safe?” the wizard asked from behind him.

He turned. Ralt was propped up on one elbow, his gaze fixed on the glowing embers in his pipe. He inclined his head to the outside. “Snowing. Can’t even see the city.”

Ralt nodded. “In that case, I think I’ll join you. It seems like forever since I had a pipe.” He lit up and they stood together in companionable silence for a while, watching the snow. Suddenly he broke the quiet. “It was that night on top of the cliff, I think.”

Storm was puzzled. “What?”

“The last time I had a pipe,” he reminded him.

“Ah,” Storm nodded. “I think you’re right. That was the night I asked you to show me how to use this fire cantrip.”

Ralt smiled around his pipe stem. “Yep.” He puffed furiously. “Want to learn more?”

Storm’s hesitation lasted only a moment. “Sure.”

“Watch this.”

Storm activated his Sight. “I’m watching.”

Ralt wiggled his fingers in a simple pattern, pulling on the weave. Soft fairy lights sprang into existence over his hand. “You can make them any color you want; red is best if you want to read something and don’t want to spoil your night vision. You can use other colors to fool people into chasing them instead of you.”

“How far,” Storm asked, fascinated by dancing lights.

Ralt shrugged. “Everyone is different. I can make mine go about a hundred and thirty cubits before they fade out, more or less.” He dismissed them. “You try it.”

Storm shifted his pipe to his off hand. “Show me one more time so I’m sure I’ve got it.”

Ralt assented quietly, running through the simple movements. The tiny lights sprang on again. “Is that enough?” Storm nodded and he dismissed them again.

Storm concentrated for a moment then wiggled his fingers. A few sparks lit up momentarily. “You’re pushing,” Ralt said calmly. “It’s a pull, not a push. Try it again.” He took a breath then pulled on the weave. A rainbow of fairy lights appeared over his hand. “Good,” the wizard exclaimed softly. “Excellent. Now, try it again, but this time concentrate on just one color.”

Storm dismissed the lights, took a moment to concentrate then focused on green, wiggled his fingers and pulled. A dozen little green lights sprang up.

Ralt nodded in approval.

Storm put out the lights and they stood smoking a while longer.

“Can I ask you something?” Ralt said after their pipes had gone out.


“This, Army of Light thing; is it just for us or would you consider letting others join?”

Storm studied him in the darkness. “That depends. Do you have someone in mind?”


He shook his head in surprise. “Where’d that come from?”

Ralt heaved a sigh. “You didn’t know her before she came down with this illness, but she’s got a fire in the belly for justice and fair play.”

“Thomas told me a little about her one night. I figured her for a Greener,” Storm told him.

Ralt’s eyebrows went up. “Good guess. Sodan would have skinned her alive if he’d known. But it’s not just a passing fancy with her; she really means it. She fell in with these Lord of Light worshipers a few years ago and it changed her whole outlook on life.”

“But how is she in a fight?” Storm countered.

“Better than you’d think,” Ralt told him. “I started training her in secret a couple years ago; she’s got a few spells up her sleeve. But mainly – you’re not going to believe this – she’s good with knives, throwing knives.”

Storm fought to keep the surprise out of his voice. “Really?”

“Really,” Ralt replied seriously. “Right hand, left hand, underhand, overhand, sidearm; it doesn’t matter; she’ll turn you into a pin cushion. I’ve never seen anything like it.”

“Where’d she learn something like that?”

Ralt shook his head. “Beats me. Sodan said she’d been playing with knives since she was old enough to walk. He hated it, did everything he could to stop her but she just went behind his back and kept practicing on her own.”

“A natural born knife thrower, eh?”

“I guess so. She never went anywhere without eight or nine of them.”

“Tell you what,” Storm said, “let’s get her healed and back in shape, then we’ll take it from there. That’s the best I can promise for now.”

“Fair enough,” Ralt agreed. He looked outside at the faint glow of the moon coming through the clouds. “I think your watch is about over. Go on, get some sleep.”

Storm knocked the ashes out of his pipe. “What about you? You’ll have stood two watches tonight.”

“Yeah, but I got more sleep last night than you did,” Ralt grinned widely.

Storm clapped him good-naturedly on the shoulder. “No argument there, but, I enjoyed it more than you did.”

They laughed together. “Go on,” Ralt told him. “I’ll see you at midnight.”

Storm obediently slipped under the blankets with Lorelei. She turned to throw an arm over his chest, then punched him sleepily. “Men!”

* * * * *

It was still snowing when Lorelei woke him up at midnight. Storm decided to go ahead and risk a fire in the stove to warm them up. The woodshed outside was less than half full but it was more than enough for their needs. Soon the little room was turning toasty. They cooked a hot meal then melted snow for the pegasi to drink. A bit over an hour later they were saddled and ready to ride. Durin dumped snow on the fire to put it out.

They mounted up. Instantly the warmth created by the pegasi enveloped them. “Durin, your eyes are best in the dark. Lead the way,” Storm ordered. “Low and slow until we find the city. We don’t want to overshoot it in all this.” He indicated the drifting snow and mist.

The dwarf nodded curtly.

They sprang into the air. Durin led them directly toward where they’d last seen the city lights, gliding so low over the treetops the tips were barely ten feet below their heels. They followed the slope downhill for long minutes. Storm began to fear they’d gone too far to the side and missed it in spite of their caution. Then suddenly it was right in front of them. In fact, they were already past some of the outer buildings before they saw the watchtower lights on the wall around the Old City. They pulled up on the reins to climb up out of sight. The beating of the pegasi’s wings was loud in the still night but no one seemed to hear. By the time they flew over the wall, they were too high to be heard.

They exchanged smiles as the wall disappeared behind them. “Head for the park,” Storm called softly to Durin. The dwarf nodded. He’d been in Robling as often as any of them, which meant, not often, but there was a large, well-manicured park in the Old City. It wasn’t very close to Blue Street but it had room for the pegasi to land then stay hidden. Finding it in the snow-covered darkness wasn’t going to be easy though.

They crisscrossed the Old City again and again. Three times Durin thought he’d found it, but each time it turned out to be something else. They circled back for another run across the city. Storm did some calculations in his head. They’d been over the city too long. Sunrise couldn’t be far away. If they didn’t find it soon they’d have to wait until the next night to try again.

“We’re going to have to fly lower,” he called to Durin.

“Someone could hear us,” Lorelei objected.

“We’re running out of time, we don’t have any choice.”

“I been thinking the same thing,” Durin agreed. “This is taking longer than we thought it would.” He looked over at Ralt. “Have ye got anything ta help us?”

Ralt shook his head sorrowfully. “Not without being seen.”

“Lower it is then,” Durin sighed.

They glided lower, then lower still. They couldn’t see as far this close to the ground, but they could see better. About halfway across the Old City, Ralt started waving frantically, afraid to call out for fear of being heard. He pointed firmly at a street swiftly approaching from the left. Durin didn’t recognize it but gestured for him to lead on.

Ralt banked his pegasus over the street, following its twists and turns. Moments later Storm recognized a warehouse he’d been to several times with the caravans. He pumped his fist in triumph. Yes! Ralt had found it!

Four blocks further a wide space suddenly opened up in front of them; the park! They all sagged in relief.

Durin immediately took over again. He found a flat spot in the dark and led them down to it. The pegasi seemed to understand their need for stealth; they landed more quietly than they ever had before – and more gently. Storm laughed softly, as he patted Specter on the neck.

They found one of the many groves of trees scattered throughout the park. In the summer they provided shade during the hottest part of the day, but now they could use them to hide the pegasi from prying eyes. Once they were secreted away, Ralt cast what he called a marker spell on the grove. It was only visible to the one who cast it and would lead him right back to this exact spot no matter how far from it he was or how long he stayed away.

Storm found himself pondering the number of times he could have used such a spell. He made a mental note to have Ralt teach him that one as soon as possible. Putting it aside he quickly found one of the meandering pathways through the park. It had been shoveled out at one time but the snow was quickly filling it back up. Good, he thought, that will cover our tracks.

“Which way?” Lorelei asked.

He had to think a minute. “Let’s see. The warehouse is back there . . . no . . . that way is, no, that way is west.” After a couple of false starts, he finally got himself oriented. “Okay, this way.” He strode confidently off to the left. The park was bigger than he’d remembered but eventually he found the street. He gave a quiet sigh of relief when he saw the buildings. He was starting to think he’d gone the wrong way in spite of it all but luck was with him and he’d chosen correctly. “Come on,” he said. “The Watchman’s Keep isn’t far. It used to be part of the wall around the old, Old City. I think the park was where the original castle used to be.”

“I thought it was the training field outside the castle,” Durin objected.

Storm hesitated. “I don’t know. That was what; eight, nine hundred years ago? The stories have gotten garbled since then.”

He set a lackadaisical pace as they argued. To anyone who might see them, they appeared as nothing more than some late-night or early-morning revelers. The sky was beginning to brighten ahead of them as they approached Blue Street. They saw the occasional person out and about, but as Storm had hoped none paid them the slightest attention. At long last, they spotted the sign of the Watchman’s Keep.

It was an ancient looking building, the huge stones weathered and gray. A massive tower occupied one end, reaching seven stories into the sky. If Thomas had done what he was told, he’d have a room up in that tower somewhere. Storm laughed triumphantly as he threw open the door and strode in.

* * * * *

A slender figure in wizard’s robes detached itself from the shadows behind Storm and his companions, watching as they entered the inn. The Leader had predicted the barbarian would come to this street eventually; it was the area of town he was most familiar with. All that was needed was a patient spy to wait until he showed up then follow to see exactly where he went. The figure smiled; mission accomplished.

A sheet of parchment was pulled out of a hidden pocket, some arcane words were read from it, then a dazzling oval of light appeared in midair. The figure stepped through the oval, then the figure and the oval both disappeared, leaving the street empty and vacant again.

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