• Chapter Four: The Reunion

    Martin awoke to the itching of feathers in his undershirt. Even though it was a feeling he hated; he lay there a moment appreciating the fact that for the first time in two weeks of travel he was laying on a goose-down mattress as opposed to rocky soil. He lay with his eyes closed thinking about all Lord Nathan had told him the last time he had slept on goose-down. The second night of this trip.

    ~*.The Star of Hope-Inn of a small trading town in southern Maziar.*~

    Martin sipped wine from a chilled pewter mug as he listened to Nathan explain how Lily had come to join himself and Ken.

    "We were travelling along the river Ulonar one night and came upon her dragged out into the night by a crazy older man for Light knows what reason. She was tied up and he was off to one side. We didn't want to leave her to whatever the man was going to do so we charged in and ran him off," Nathan paused for a momment to take a drink of his wine, "After we untied her she thanked us for chasing him off and asked to join us as we travelled to return the favor. We soon found out that she was the type who, once she sets her mind on doing something, will not give up that thing unless its beaten out of her. That's why she got into so many bar-fights." He paused once again to drink some more of his wine only to find the cup empty and held it up to one of the serving maids.

    "So why was it that she wanted to go to the other wagon so badly?" Martin had asked. The only response he had gotten was for Nathan to shake his head.


    After his brief recollection Martin forced himself out of bed and began plucking goose down out of his shirt. The task took him less time than expected. After which he tromped downstairs to meet Nathan for breakfast. Today they would be meeting the others in Neopolis. As he came off the stairs he saw Nathan already seated at a table in front of a heaping plate of beacon, sausage, and herb-seasoned eggs. Martin waved to his friend as he came toward the table.

    "About time you woke up," Nathan said between bites of egg, "or did you have to dig alot of goosedown out of your shirt like last time?" The humor on the man's face overrode the question's feaux concern.

    "I slept in knowing that we hadn't much travelling to do today," Martin replied as he signaled for one of the serving men to bring a plate of breakfast for him. "We're meeting Jason and the others in Neopolis today correct?" Nathan put down his fork and frowned.

    "Actually they sent a messenger ahead asking us to come to Mt. Arithmil instead." Nathan said taking a sip of some strong black liquid from a pewter mug. "I still have the message with me you should read it." He withdrew a scrap of parchment from his coat pocket and handed it across the table to Martin.

    Martin and Nathan,

    We have been followed by the Chyran Stalker, Nateous, and his men. Had to stop at Mt. Arithmil in order to prevent capture. Staying with the Skysabers now. Request that the two of you meet us here to plan new strategy for trip to Neopolis. Do not worry about Lily she has been with us since the night of her disappearance. Awaiting your arrival with some bad news, please hurry.

    Jason Kirsan

    PS: Do not bother bringing the wagon. We can get it later, just hurry.

    Martin frowned at the page. He was afraid he knew what the bad news was and what Jason meant by 'new strategy'. Lord Ken had been captured or else they would just have tried to lose the rogues rather than send a message asking to gather them all in one place as an easy target. For a fleeting moment, Martin wondered how Jason's map was coming along, but then again that wasn't important at the moment. "Ken's been captured," He said handing the note back to Nathan. Nathan took the note and placed it back inside his pocket. He picked up his fork and tried to eat some more egg, but his hands began to tremble and he dropped the fork, egg and all onto his plate.

    "I can't sit here Martin," the ruler of Neonis said nearly breaking into tears, "Not while my son is in the hands of Chyran." He began to stand and walk out the door but Martin was quicker than he.

    "You'll do him no good marching in tired, hungry, and in a rage," Martin said blocking his way.

    "Out of my way Martin," Nathan said to him, fury burning in his eyes, "What do you know of battle and war other than our skirmish with the rogues and your games in Haven?" Martin couldn't stand it. He grabbed a quarterstaff that was leaning against the wall and spun it into Nathan's side with all the force he could muster. Nathan staggered shocked and Martin stepped back and shot the butt of the staff into Nathan's chest landing him back in his chair and toppling both man and chair to the floor. Nathan stood above the fallen monarch, himself filled with rage at the man's slight.

    "I had to flee to Haven at the age of five to escape the War of the Three Houses!" He yelled into the face of the man who had every right to beat him till he couldn't stand it, "I knew how to kill a man with a spear at an age that would disgust you!" he continued gathering momentum, "Jason and I were the only men in Haven with the knowledge to defend it from Chyran's rogues. It was I, Jason, and few others who saved that city time, and time again," He smacked the quarterstaff against the ground between the chairs legs with each emphasized word to drive home his point, "Then you, a man more worried father than Lord, you dare say to me that I know nothing of war." He threw the quarterstaff across the room and out the door and reached out a hand to Nathan, "We will get your son back, but we'll need to be awake, full stomached, and level headed to do so." Nathan stared up at him for a few seconds before taking the offered hand and pulling himself to his feet.

    "I'm sorry, Martin," he said as he righted his chair, "we worked so hard to prevent Ken from falling into thier hands only for them to follow us and take him. Come, our breakfast is getting cold, as is the rogues' trail." Nathan sat down and began to hurriedly eat his breakfast. Martin sat across from him and ate just as hurriedly. He did so as a courtesy to his friend. The poor man was in shambles despite his bravado. It was a tribute to him coming back to his senses that he ate as slow as he did. To his coming back to his senses and to the beatings Martin was able to dole out when needed. Martin smiled to himself as he appreciated a bite of sausage an extra second. They would get Ken back if they had to risk thier lives.

    ~*.Mount Arithmil-Later that day.*~

    Jason stood at the gateway to the Skysaber's compound. He, Laeon, and Lily had been brought there after the battle with the rogues last night. Somehow the stalker, Nateous as he'd discovered the man's name was, had caught up to them with a band of rogues. They had fought long and valiantly but had been crushed when a behemoth rider of all things had flown down, grabbed Ken and flown off toward the east. Worst of all Nateous had escaped as well. Jason watched for Martin and Nathan to arrive so that they could plan a counterattack. Then he saw a cloud of dust that seemed kicked up by galloping horses.

    Taking out his spy-glass he surveyed the road and was greeted with a joyous sight. The wagon with Martin and Nathan not sitting but standing on the driver's bench. It was only a matter of minutes before the two arrived jumped off the wagon and assaulted Jason as to what was being planned. Just what he had expected, no worrying about what happened and what might have happened better. Just what was going to be done about it.

    Lily came forward and said, "The skysabers say they'll help, Jason." Jason nodded to Lily then turned to address the others.

    "Nateous and a Behemoth Rider took Ken someplace to the east," Jason said with the emotionless tone of a clerk giving a report, "What we are attempting to find out is where they took him and how to get him out before we fight the rogues." Jason was already forming a plan however vague. The fact that they needed to get Ken out was obvious as was the fact that the had to get rid of the rogues.

    "We have the skysabers, my lord," Lily said to Nathan, "I doubt they'll be of much help in getting Ken out of wherever they're holding him, but they will be a great asset in wiping out the rogues."

    "And this time I'll be killing Nateous with my own two hands," said a haggard-looking Laeon as he emerged from one of the nearby buildings. There was one glaring difference about him. One of his daggers was missing.

    "Laeon, What--" Martin began but Jason cut him off.

    "Shall we go into the keep and see if they've found the rogue's stronghold?" Jason suggested and Nathan nodded grimly. It was plain on the man's face that he planned to smash the rogues with all the might he had. Jason noted this. If that was the man's intent he could not accompany the party that would get Ken out.

    Once inside the keep the general of the skysabers greeted Nathan with a bow.

    "My liege," he said, "we have found the place where your son is being kept."

    "Stand, Salvear, you have earned that priviledge a thousand times over and never needed to, to begin with," Nathan said.

    "Old habits die hard, my friend," Salvear said. Jason had wondered at the man when he first saw him. The man was taller than most and had eyes that were the dulled-amber shade of dragon scales. His red hair was worn cut short with the exception of the bangs on the left side wich fell to his chin covering an eyepatch of black leather. "If you will follow me to the map room, we will begin planning our strategy."

    They all walked into a large room, the walls of which were painted with large maps of the country that stood on the outside of them. Each wall depicting its own sector. On the floor was a map of the skysabers' compound itself. Salvear led them to the east wall. There was a red-lacquered metal disk planted about midway up the wall in the midst of a small woods.

    "The red disk marks the location of their stronghold ans observed by our scouts," the general said. Jason couldn't help but once again marvel at the maps on the walls. Whereas Lily had marveled that the stone in the walls had been made by mages so that it could attract a specific type of metal-she called it selective magnetism, because where normal magnets stuck to any metal object these walls only attracted the lacquered disks-Jason had marvelled at the skill of the skysabers' mapmakers. That they could retain so much from flying over the country to draw these marvellous maps.

    "So what's our plan, Jason?" Martin asked. Jason jumped and Salvear looked affronted. Jason didn't want to disappoint his friend so he studied the red disk then asked.

    "General, did your scouts bring back a map of the stronghold?" the general hesitated, nodded, and walked across to a desk where he picked up a rolled piece of parchment which he then proceeded to fix with miniature disks. Once he was done he carried it back to the wall and put it in the place of the red disk.

    Jason studied the map for a moment then shook his head, "Can I be left alone here for an hour or so?" he asked without much hope. Martin and Lily looked to Salvear, and Salvear looked to Nathan. Nathaniel Marx looked at Jason for a few moments then nodded his assent.

    "We will take dinner in my study. I will have the cooks send you some food and the drink of your choice while you study the map. What would you like to drink?" Jason began to say wine, but Nathan overrode him.

    "Give him something solid," Nathan said, "I'd say he needs it and has earned it." Jason nodded his thanks and watched the retreating backs of his friends as they left the room. A few moments later a cook appeared to take down what Jason wanted to eat and leave him a large chilled tankard of a liquid that set his nerves afire as he drank it. It wasn't alcoholic it was simply energizing. His sight sharpened a bit and his brain seemed to process a bit more than it normally did. He looked at the map again and noted it's layout. Three large squares that must be the major buildings and on the to right corner was a cluster of about six various sized squares and a circle.

    Shortly after he had begun taking notes the same chef came in with his food and another tankard. Jason thanked the cook and took a drink of the second tankard of that liquid. He determined to find a way to buy a few cases of it somehow somewhere. Next he looked again at the map.

    "This cluster of smaller squares and the circle must be the essential small things that go into a fortification," Jason thought aloud as he took a rather large bite of roast ham, "things like privy chambers, a well, storerooms, and..." Jason cut off mid thought and his face lit up, "and holding cells." The pieces began fitting together. The gears in Jason's head began spinning faster and he began to formulate a plan. A plan to get Lord Kenneth out, finish off the rogues, and allow Laeon to wrap his murderous hands around Nateous's neck for the final act.