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It was a busy day at Merlin’s castle for the wizard’s major domo, the owl. He was taxed with arranging for the comings and goings of everyone.
Dunfallon, Gibley, and I arrived on Conjil just missing Rumble who had left on Rayjil to retrieve Noralei and the High Fairy from the repository. The owl had us settled before their return with the exception of Conjil. She was a bit skittish when left in Cluyjil’s pen – probably upset by his lingering scent. When Gibley and Noralei introduced her to Rayjil, she perked up and became a problem in another way – for the two dragons became feisty and wanted to play.
Dunfallon took it upon himself to amuse them. And soon had them romping between the courtyard and the garden. (It certainly amused me and Rumble as we stood there watching and catching up with one another).
I later caught the High Fairy and inquired after Merlin before he locked himself away in the wizard’s library. He replied that Merlin was following up on black bird sightings which were pointing him on a path to Dromadil.
So, it may be a while before the master returns to his castle.
On Merlin’s advice we rapidly visited the lower offshoots. All of them showed signs of goblin habitation – but not recently.
In the last and deepest branch we found what we sought. The goblin king. He was much larger than the others (and Dunfallon said much uglier). Unlike them he was not shackled. All that secured him was a rope similar to the one that Hawk carried and had been used to tie down the ship’s rudder.
The goblin king was unconscious. A fact that I attributed to the power in the rope. This left us with a dilemma. Release him first and chance being eaten. Or somehow waken him, declare our intentions to help and exact a promise from him to aid us in payment for his release.
Noralei applied some of the red ashes to his nostrils and that brought him out of his trance.
He was very grateful that we were willing to rescue him and his people.
With a bit of apprehension Rumble released him from his bonds.
Then we set about freeing his people from their shackles.
Ragonil’s other five friends helped in the search for the owner of the vessel. A friend of a friend of an acquaintance of one of them landed us on the doorstep of the owner this morning.
The rather gruff elf listened to our pleas with little patience. Especially when we mentioned we wanted to sail to the land to the north. No one he knows wants to go there.
At that point I brought out Nililitil’s passport and exercised the option within it to purchase the vessel at the king’s expense.
The owner was none to happy but we negotiated a price with him with Ragonil’s help.
I wrote to the High Fairy and reported our progress. Then joined the others down at the quay to prepare the ship.
Many hamlets and farms dot the valley we are traveling through. It is very lush (so much so, a fairy could not enchant better growth).
The elves were so hard at work they barely looked our way as we passed by.
Rumble did engage one to check the conclusions we base on his reading of his map. The map indicates that the road we are following is splitting off from the river it has paralleled since the capital, continuing toward the coastal mountains.
(My pendant is not favoring one over the other).
The elf was glad to stop what he was doing and talk to Rumble. He said he would definitely not follow the river if our destination is the port on the far side of the mountains. He warned that the river enters some very wild lands of deep canyons that are extremely difficult to traverse.
Each of us thanked him for his kindness. When it came Dunfallon’s turn, the surprise on the elf’s face at the sight of a pixie brought a smile to each of us.
It is hard waiting, when every spark of your being longs to be off on your appointed path.
Such was my unease while pacing the rampart and scanning the skies towards the dark crystalline tower (for we see now more clearly its form).
My attention was arrested by the sight of a troll emerging from the woodlands to the east. His presence was about to be challenged by a troop led by Navril in that quarter.
Recognizing the troll, I swooped down to interpose myself between the two. Thus I kept the Laguayilians from assaulting our great friend Geog.
The High Fairy had informed him about our whereabouts. He has sought us out to come to the aid of his brother Grimace. His twin had disappeared with other trolls from their valley, and Geog fears that the enemy may be conjuring up another army of undead trolls.
When we brought him into the city Rumble and Noralei were by turns elated to see him and distressed to learn of his plight.
The complications surrounding our departure have worsened.
What to do?
We had finally passed all those red spots on the map when I received a message from the High Fairy that we must return to look for dragon eggs.
None of us were happy at the prospect of doubling back through that area – and for something as dangerous as dragon eggs.
We are to summon Merlin who will risk a transport in this instance. That thought went a long way to calm our apprehensions.
Rumble surveyed his map and concentrated on the biggest spot and we set our course accordingly.
It looks to be a day away. None of us are looking forward to another night here.
It seems that Merlin has been distracted since he brought us here. Usually he has time to walk in the garden or up on the ramparts with me. And we have long and rambling discussions before he gets to the point. But I’ve only seen him in passing.
He called for Noralei this morning and set her on a task in his workshop. All hush hush – behind locked doors. (I tried).
Neither Rumble nor Dunfallon have heard any rumors despite many attempts. The pixie did hold a long audience with his mentor the owl. And he was as tight beaked as the others.
(Dunfallon was pleased to announce that he has enlisted his wisdom to come up with a plan for reparations ).
I do believe he will come up with something yet.
I checked the scroll this morning. There at the bottom a message from the High Fairy awaited. I was not expecting it as it has been several days since I sent one to him. It was short and to the point – just to notify us of the name and description of the human whom we must contact at Azhnastria.
We will know him by his one eye and his name – Nimrood.
I shared this knowledge with Noralei and the boys. Rumble noted from his studies that Nimrood is a family name, passed on from father to son.
Still I wish we knew more. More fodder for thought on the empty road.
Can we get in to see him?
Will he be friend or foe?
The return of Noralei today did much to dispel the depression we have been under since the battlefield. Merlin brought her to us himself. We all thought she looked marvelous. (Especially Dunfallon). But she demurred and would say only that the time she spent in Merlin’s castle was responsible for any changes in her humble appearance. At that point she turned and thanked her host for all the new things that she had learned from him.
This prompted Rumble to ask Merlin just what had the project been that required her skills as a smith.
Noralei immediately begged the favor of Merlin to be the one to answer him.
Merlin assented with a smile and a nod.
And she unfolded a great bolt of cloth which stood tall on its own and soon surrounded the entire party. And she stated simply that it will keep all fairies within its confines safe from the effects of any iron weapons.
I was stunned by the timeliness of this remedy.
How did our wizard friend know?