To read the previous adventures of Sabine, click here. The story continues below. *** The party came to a halt alongside the Crystalline River when the Speckled Falls came into view. Perched atop the source
To read the previous adventures of Sabine, click here. The story continues below.
The party came to a halt alongside the Crystalline River when the Speckled Falls came into view. Perched atop the source of the waterfall stood a great, if decrepit, stone keep that Onandon proclaimed was, “The Mystic’s Pylon, at last.”
Oh for the love of—that isn’t a pylon. Dahkhal said. Too many towers, not with those ramparts—this is what those damn Mystics always did. They picked a word that sounded good whether it made any sense or not.
Sabine murmured, “You want me to tell him that?”
Only if you want two paragraphs of architecture history spread over the next four hours.
With squinted eyes, Sabine looked to a structure like a great saucer stuck into the landscape next to the keep. “And what is that other shape supposed to be?”
“It crashed from the heavens into this land in a time long before our own,” Onandon said. “Ancient beings from worlds far this one own crashed here, governments from fifty-one different lands tried to cover it up—”
“All right, all right,” Sabine said. “Whatever you’re about to say, I believe you. I promise. Just stop talking.”
“We shall rest here,” Onandon said. “And you may all draw lots for the night’s watch.” The Mystic claimed the sleep of his people could last for centuries, so he should not be considered for watch duty. Sabine had wanted to argue the point, but the big man seemed, as ever, immovable as a boulder.
Sabine took the first shift with a dim fire before her and one of her last skins of Ableman’s cider in hand. The four hadn’t come across any more monsters or opposition save for all the walking. Not one hour after they’d set up camp, Billy stumbled out of the tent he shared with Onandon, ducked into the treeline, and let out a relaxed, “Ahhhhh.”
As Billy clipped his belt and stepped back into the campsite, Sabine called, “Hey, Bill, come here.”
“Huh?” He stood up straight as if frightened and sighed in relief as he looked to Sabine. “Oh. Hey Sabine. What is it?”
“That stuff the other day—Onandon’s way too hard on you. I just thought you should know that.”
“Well, you know, he’s… I don’t know.” Billy took a seat by the campfire next to her and slumped forward. “He’s not a bad man, he’s just been at this for too long. I might be a real crank if I’d been battling evil for generations too.”
“It’s not like he’s been pushing Byrns around as hard.”
Billy looked with pain toward the campfire. “He can’t push her around. It’s a long story but she—she’s got all this power. That was half the quest right there, we had to go out and plead for power from this magical tree, she’s carrying this seed imbuing her with magic, but Onandon says we need all of it to finish off Groan.” After a few seconds of hesitation, he added, “It could have saved a couple of the old party members, if she’d just been able to use it.”
Sabine swallowed at the thought and rushed to divert the subject. “But he still needs you. He still apparently can’t stop this ghoul without you and that sword.”
“This thing’s been nothing but trouble, my pa always thought so too.” Billy shook his head, drew the sword, and tried to see his reflection in its old, chipped surface. “Pa wanted to be an alchemist, but Ma said losing all his friends during the quest messed with his head. All he ever learned to mix were cheap spirits.”
Sabine was about to offer him a sip from her wineskin and then backed off. When she leaned in close, she supposed she could make out the name, “Flion” etched into the metal. If the F was written like a cursive S and the rest of it had sustained wear and tear, she supposed.
“My first ancestor to wield this sword, Itsola, now he was a real hero. He had a real sack of enchanted stones, they tell me.”
After a few seconds of blinking, Sabine asked, “Um, what?”
“Right at his waist, mightiest stones of anyone in this land.” Billy clenched one hand as if to cup the metaphorical magical orbs. “But my family’s lost them to time. What I’d do if I just had stones like his—”
“What would you be doing if you weren’t on this quest?” Sabine was desperate to talk about anything besides the young man’s insufficient sack of stones.
Billy looked away and scratched at the back of his head. “It’s… er… it’s stupid. You don’t want to know where I was when Onandon picked me up.”
“Kid, one of my husbands was set to be a career hog farmer. Try me.”
With red in his cheeks, Billy puffed out a breath and said, “It was a baker’s guild. I was, uh, proofing brioche when he led me away. That’s stupid, isn’t it?”
“Oh please. I don’t think that’s anything to be ashamed of,” Sabine said. “You don’t have any of that stuff handy right now, do you? I haven’t tasted brioche since—” she paused as memories of royal tea luncheons flooded her mind. “Well, it’s been a while.”
“I appreciate you saying that, but no, I’m afraid I don’t have any.” With another long sigh, he rose. “I shouldn’t keep you. I’ll have a shift of my own soon. But thanks for talking to me.”
From within Onandon’s tent came a sleep-talking mumble of, “Mmm, silence yourself, Billy.”
With resignation, Billy sheathed the sword and stood.
“And hey,” Sabine added.
“I saw how you stepped in front of Byrns the other day. I think that took some kinda stones. And I’ll bet Byrns feels the same.”
“I err, well, I—” Billy went red in the face again, scratched at the back of his head, and turned away. “… How did you know her real name anyway?”
“I just know things,” Sabine said. “Like how she’s also not your sister. That’s either the worst cover I’ve ever heard, or House Flion has a three-headed dragon as its sigil.” When he just stared at her, she concluded, “It’s a western kingdoms thing. My point is, I think that bad performance is mutual.”
Billy looked long and hard toward her, swallowed, and pivoted away from his tent and toward Byrns’ tent instead.
Dahkhal asked, Did you see that?
“Ah, to be young and on a love quest,” she said. “And to have not grown sick of them yet.”
He drew the sword, and it had no effect on you, Dahkhal said. I thought it was just too quick to catch anything when the trolls attacked, but he drew it out and it didn’t do a thing.
“Huh.” Sabine frowned as she shook away her revelry. “I wonder why.”
One hour later, in the midst of loud, snoring mumbles from one tent and hushed, tender words from the other, an ethereal blue glow trotted across the Crystalline River. At first Sabine figured it was just a reflection of the moon, but as it grew closer it found shape and girth. She laid a hand on her sword, squinted outward, and watched as an ancient man with a blue-flamed lantern in one hand and a roll of parchment in the other approached her.
“Evening there.” The old man spoke with nonchalance and didn’t look up from his scroll.
Watch your words with this one, Dahkhal said. He looks to be some kind of faerie creature.
“Uh, hello,” Sabine said.
“This the Sham campsite?”
“I’m the Liege Crystalline, and I’ve got a delivery here for the latest scion of Sham.” He reached into his robes and began to fumble around.
“This is a Flion and Wheraipee campsite,” Sabine said. “I mean, Onandon too, I don’t know what his last name is.”
The old man raised an eyebrow and reviewed his parchment. “You wouldn’t happen to be a scion of Sham, would you?”
“I’ve had a lot of last names, but Sham isn’t one of them.”
“Bizarre.” The Liege scratched his beard in contemplation. “And you’re sure no one here is on some great, ancestral quest?”
“They are, but there are a lot of those kind of people going on quests like that these days, you know?”
“I suppose so,” he said. “Of course, there were even more of them before that big spell that re-wrote reality a few years back.”
Sabine flinched at his words and asked, “What?”
“Oh, never mind,” the old man said. “Sorry to bother you. I’ll go check the other side of the river.”
“Hang on!” Sabine ran for the water’s edge, though the Liege did not slow. “What do you know about that spell? Do you know—”
There came a loud, leathery smack from Byrns’ tent. Sabine froze, turned around, and saw the princess as she stepped out of it, the unsheathed Sword of Flion in her hands. The two locked eyes for a moment before Sabine managed to ask, “What, what are you—”
“Stay away from that place, Sabine!” Byrns raised the blade as best she could, clearly not much better than Billy at wielding it. “Nobody else has to get roped into this—too many have died already. I’ll finish it myself!” And with that she turned and ran for the Mystic’s Pylon.