Thursday, February 5, 2015


"Start again. You thought we could track down Tlon in a forest larger than your native country thanks to some map you saw which was made before our grandparents were born."
"Sure did," Dragoneyes said.
"He is near," Cassinder chipped in.
Dragoneyes smiled. "See?"
"The Destroyer. He grows close. He grows more powerful. So... horrible. Blood. Rivers of blood! Mountains of corpses! Stop it! Stop!" My sister began sobbing.
"Who is the Destroyer," Dragoneyes asked.
"Some demon from the future," I said. "Whatever he will do, it's bad enough that Cassinder is scarred by it already."
"Is that we she..."
"Until she saw her first vision of the Destroyer, she was a bright young sorceress whose biggest problem was enchanted a teacup to boil its own tea."
I tried to calm my sister. Dragoneyes scanned through the trees, his eyes glowing orange. It took about ten minutes to calm Cassinder to the point where we could reasonably continue. By that time, Dragoneyes thought he had found Tlon's cabin.
He led us there, branches swinging out of the way before him.
"So, what exactly can you do with trees," I asked. "Can you make them grow."
"No, I have power over wood. Wood is actually a non-living structure. People don't realize it, but a tree is actually a thin lifeform that lives around the edges of a tower it builds,"
We walked in silence for a while as I reevaluated everything I knew about trees. Finally, we reached a cabin. It was surprisingly small. More a shed than a cabin.
We entered. It seemed empty. "He isn't home," I said.
"He will be," my sister responded.
"Tlon has an enchantment on the house to alert him to intruders," Dragoneyes explained. "He should be here soon."
Indeed,  we soon saw a bear lumbering towards the house. Dragoneyes approached him, hands raised (this was the standard gesture to denote that one carries no weapons. A silly notion, of course, since a mage like Dragoneyes could kill a man without ever touching a sword.)
"Tlon Formchanger. Greetings. I am Bashra Dragoneyes."
The bear became a wizened man. "What were you doing in my house, sorcerer?"
"We simply wanted to speak with you."
"Well, I'm flattered. But I don't want to speak with you."
"Shame. Now, here's what we are going to say. The world is threatened by a being named Koteph, shade with the powers of scores of spirits."
"Best of luck."
"He is planning an assault on the Green Tower. The most powerful sorcerer in the world, along with an army of giants, shades, and other monsters. He seeks to capture the tower, and release Ochekol'kan."
"Hmmph. Well, I'm sure you have it well in hand, Dragon-nose."
"For your information, I do. But I would have it even better in hand if there were a shapeshifter on my side."
"No. No. You are going to try to persuade me otherwise, and then the answer will be no."
"Well," I stepped in, "you would be very useful to our cause."
Tlon growled. It wasn't a human growl.
I  continued. "You would be a very effective spy. Nobody would notice a cat crawling amid enemy-"
Tlon took the form of an eagle.
"There would be almost no risk to yourself, and it would be of immeasurable benefit-"
The eagle flapped its wings. Before it could leave the ground, however, a wall of stone erupted from the ground, forming a great stone prison. Dragon eyes used the True Name of fire, and illuminated the  stone cavern's four inhabitants. "You cannot run from us," he said. "And you cannot run from this fight. If Koteph succeeds Ochekol'kan will kill you. She will kill all of us."
"Oh," Tlon said, taking human form. "Kill everyone will she. You think this is the greatest threat the world has ever faced? The arrogance of the young, thinking they live in important times."
"You're right," Dragoneyes said. "Nothing important about a shade of unprecedented power threatening to release a monstrous goddess from inside her ancient prison, that she may annihilate all the peoples of the world."
"Unprecedented. Unprecedented, you say. He is entirely precedented. If you had been alive three hundred years ago, you would know of Orebor the Unclean. He made an army of shades.  Tried to conquer the Red Tower, if I recall."
"I do know of Orebor the unclean," I said. "And you know that he was nothing compared to Koteph. A loose coalition of shades, unable even to oppose the Red Mages."
"Oh, we're bringing up the Red Mages, are we? Well, not two centuries before their valiant battle against Orebor, the Red Mages laid siege to the then-infant kingdom of Irin."
"Simply part of their feud with the Blue Tower. And they wouldn't have done nearly the damage that Koteph is planning. They were simply conquerors, and had no interest in ruling a pile of bones."
"Millennium and a half ago, the sorcerer Duron created a race of wolf-men. They conquered most of what is now your Etoran Empire. A millennium before him, you had Ethnis, the Dragon king. He's the reason this forest is so small. He burnt the rest of it down. And don't get me started on Endnwyn, or Takenor before him."
"An impressive list," Dragoneyes said. "I'd only heard of half of them. But I don't see how this is relevant. How does the existence of even more terrifying conquerors in the past mean that we don't need to stop Koteph?"
"Because if Ethnis couldn't destroy the world, then neither can Koteph."
"It seems like Ethnis did destroy a significant fraction of the world," I countered.
Dragoneyes went on. "And besides. What more pressing engagements do you have? Cowering in the ashes left by Ethnis's defeat? Hiding in the forest where the Red Mages killed your wife?"
"Making this personal, are you?"
"No. Koteph made it personal. He made it personal when he decided to kill every person in the world."
"The world has survived a lot."
"There is a chance it will survive this. A large chance, I like to think. But that chance goes up if you join us now, rather than waiting until he chops down your forest for firewood or kills your cousin for disobeying him."
"First of all, both of my cousins turned into fish and haven't set foot on land for three thousand years. Second of all. I see your point. I will join your silly quest, Dragonsnout."
"Excellent." The great stone enclosure crumbled away, and we found ourselves once again in the middle of the forest.

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