Copyright © 2002 Chris Gonnerman. All Rights Reserved.
The trip to Tjarik's fortress took two days; so we had to make camp that first
day at the edge of the jungle. I untied Silla and together we prepared the
site. I gathered firewood nearby, keeping an eye on my unwilling assistant,
then placed it in the circle of stones she had arranged. With a few words of
magic I had a pretty little campfire.
We ate our ration of jerky and warm water in silence, for as I have said, she
could not speak due to my Compulsion spell; and I had little interest in talking
to a silent person. Then, I placed my bedroll on the ground, and motioned her
onto it. She looked suspicious, but of course I had no plans such as she was
"Silla, I can't trust you to remain with me, so you must lie down here and I
will bind you. Please don't resist." She did as I said, and I bound her hand
and foot. Naturally no gag was needed, for only threat of death would overcome
From the smoke of the campfire I summoned a Spirit Guardian, a nature spirit
bound to my service for the night, and charged it to wake me if any men or large
predators approached. Then, secure in this arrangement, I rolled up my cloak
and used it for a pillow. Sleep came surprisingly easily.
The night and the next morning passed uneventfully. We moved from the jungle
onto the barren blackened stone of the volcano, following an old lava flow which
stretched out like a cracked roadway toward the fortress visible in the
distance. As we grew closer I saw a flaming barricade around the fortress.
"Who needs a moat," I said to no one in particular. As we neared the gate, the
flames abated in that area and they opened. Two guards came out, and one
immediately took charge of the girl. Before the other could close the gate I
said, "I am Zam Nar, a wizard, and I would like to meet your master Tjarik."
"Wait," was the only word he said, and he closed the gate. Quite a while
passed, but the flames were not reignited before the gateway, so I had hope.
Finally the same guard again opened the gate, and said "Come."
I followed. The fortress was along the lines of a fortified manor house, rather
than a proper castle such as you might be imagining. The guard led me to a man
in finer clothing whose manner identified him as a steward.
"I am Dalderi, assistant to the Mage of Flame. He is occupied now, but wishes
for you to meet him for the evening meal." As he said this, Dalderi led me
through several rooms and hallways. I made note of the dining hall when we
passed it, and also of the stairs in both directions. Quarters on the first
floor were assigned to me, and I was encouraged to bathe before supper.
Naturally I did so, for I had not had a good bath since Ta Charka.
I had considered from every angle whether or not to place defensive enchantments
on myself, or on Silla, but finally I decided against. I had two good Flame
Resistance spells prepared at twofold power, and a twofold Kinetic Shield spell
as well, each needing a single word and no gestures to activate. The extra
Flame Resistance was simply because I expected Tjarik to have the counterspell
ready. If I placed the spells on myself I knew he could detect them, but there
was no spell I knew of to reveal another caster's prepared spells.
As I was drying off from my bath, I looked out the window and saw that there was
an interior courtyard, perhaps twenty yards square, with a pillar in the middle.
The pillar was smoke-blackened, as was the paving around it, and as I leaned out
further I found a pile of human bones, also blackened, just below and to the
right of the window.
This, I thought, could be useful.
I dressed for supper just in time for Dalderi to arrive and take me
there. Tjarik was already seated, and did not rise as I entered.
Then, as now, this is an indication of contempt. I ignored it.
"Master, this is Zam Nar, a sorceror," said Dalderi.
He looked up. "Ah, Zam Nar. Your apprenticeship is over, then?"
"I decided to end my time in the wilderness after I learned of my
"So it is true that Solomoriah the mage-slayer killed Tigris and King
"Indeed, sir. I have decided to seek retribution against Solomoriah,
and as I have learned that you are a powerful man I have decided to
come here and seek to learn from you."
"Young man, I would be delighted to help you. However, tomorrow I
must again make sacrifice to the God of Flame, and any such activities
must wait until then."
By now Dalderi had brought the first course, a soup. I wondered if he
cooked it himself or if there were other servants. "I understand,
sir. When will the sacrifice take place?"
"Exactly at noon tomorrow I will light the flames."
"I'll be there." The conversation shifted to other matters as the
courses came and went. I drank lightly of the potent wine Dalderi
served me, to keep my wits. I was lucky that Tjarik didn't ask me
anything about Tigris I didn't know.
Late that night, I left my bed. After using the chamberpot I went to
the window in the bath and looked out, apparently taken with the full
moon. Actually I needed the light to check my ring; and it was not
orange. I stepped back into the darkness and silently activated my
Invisibility spell, thanking the stars that Tigris had revealed that
trick to me.
I dropped over the side, into the courtyard. The bonepile was quite
large; for a moment I was overcome with the sadness of it, and then
with rage at the waste of lives. After I recovered my self-control, I
released the spell of Animation I had prepared. Fortunately the spell
takes care of sorting out the bones by means of the principle of sympathy.
The spell animated five of the skeletons; I silently commanded them to
remain down, and was relieved that there was only a slight shifting of
the bones. The fortress was small enough, I reckoned, that I could
call them by force of will anywhere within the walls; but I would
probably only need them in the courtyard, if my plan went as I hoped.
My return to my bed was uneventful; I dismissed the Invisibility while passing
through the window, which was in deep shadow.
The next morning I awoke with the sunrise, and prepared spells to replace what I
had cast. I prepared no necromancy, of course, in case I should be watched.
Dalderi brought my breakfast to my room. "Tjarik is busy, Zam Nar, making
preparations for the sacrifice. He instructs that you meet him in the courtyard
before noon. Do you know the way?"
"Indeed, down the hall past the bath, then turn right and out the door."
"Then I don't need to instruct you. The master prefers you stay out of the way,
as you are not versed in the procedures he is performing. If you wish, he has
instructed me that you may have access to the library."
I took him up on it, and after perusing the tomes and scrolls which appeared the
most used, I realized why Tjarik performed sacrifice after sacrifice: He
believed that the Flame-God would grant him greater magic power in return for
the spirits of the virgins. Even Ket knew better than this; evidently Tjarik
fell under cult influences at an early age, and now that he had reached his
personal limit of power he wanted more.
Ket, by the way, performed sacrifices to the Demon Lord in return for his
undying existence. I fully believe that there is no other way he could have
achieved such an undead form.
Perhaps half an hour before noon I went out to the courtyard. It was hot. The
two guards, who I had finally decided were all there were, brought Silla out.
She was naked, and her hands were bound. One guard (the tallest) tied her hands
over a bronze hook protruding high up on the pillar, and then began wrapping a
long, thin rope around and around her, giving her no room to move. He obviously
enjoyed it, but he didn't waste much time fondling her. The other guard left,
then returned with a large urn, which he handed to the taller guard.
As he tipped the urn and poured the honey-colored liquid over her, I realized it
Tjarik entered shortly thereafter, wearing robes embroidered with arcane symbols
with which I was unfamiliar. He had been meditating, I assumed, as he had that
blissful look that many get when they perform the ancient disciplines. Then he
I had to act. "Tjarik, look! Your servant hasn't bound her securely!" I said.
Before he or the guards could inspect her bonds, I trotted over and tied the
very secure knot another couple of passes. Secretly I also focused my
mind and released one of my Flame Resistance spells, to protect Silla.
I returned to my place, wiping my oily hands on my pants and looking down, so I
would not give myself away by smiling. Tjarik said, "Are you finished now, Zam
Nar? Or must I wait for you to fix her hair also?"
"Proceed, O Mage of Flame," I said with all the fake sincerity I could muster.
He turned toward her, raised his hands before him with fingers spread, and spoke
two words. Flames appeared at the tips of his fingers. He stretched out his
hands toward her, and a mighty fan of flames spread out from them. He was three
or four yards away from her, but the flame sheet easily reached her, and the oil
burst into flame. I braced myself, expecting him to realize shortly that she
wasn't being killed by the burning oil on her skin, when she screamed out, "Save
me, Solomoriah! Save me!"
Ah, I thought, threat of death will overcome the Compulsion. Of course she
didn't immediately realize she was safe; she surely thought she was burning
Tjarik turned toward me, his fingers still flaming, and I spoke the word for the
other Flame Resistance just in time; the sheet of flame left me unharmed. My
staff smoked but my clothes were undamaged.
I quickly cast my Force Bolt, but he must have already cast his Kinetic Shield.
He was pushed back but appeared unharmed. The two guards decided that
discretion was the better part of staying alive, and fled into the fortress. I
could see Dalderi watching from the doorway.
Tjarik pointed at me and spoke three words, and I felt the Flame Resistance
faltering. Before he could follow up I cast Paralysis, and saw him struggling
to resist it. I followed with another Force Bolt, and this one shattered his
Kinetic Shield. Unfortunately I was out of those at that point.
He stood up, the Paralysis gone, and I played my trump card: I called the
skeletons into action. "Arise, my servants, and slay him who burned you alive!"
Tjarik did not know, and I didn't feel like telling him, that the Animated
undead were not controlled by the original spirit or soul, but by a nature
spirit bound to the task. He had every reason to think that the clattering
monsters approaching him were truly seeking vengeance.
He cast another flaming sheet spell (I don't know the real name, as I never
learned the spell), but the bony things were not affected. I knew that only
force attacks, antimagic, or physical weapons could damage them, but evidently
As the nearest skeleton clutched at him, he cracked, turning to run from the
courtyard. I turned to Silla, who had stopped screaming when she realized she
was not dying, nor even being harmed. The oil was still burning fiercely, but
my Flame Resistance still protected me enough to help her. The ropes against
her skin were unaffected, just as my clothing was protected, but where they went
around the pillar they went out of the protected area and were burned through.
As a consequence, I had only to lift her up off the hook and cut her bonds with
The guards and Dalderi had fled ahead of their master. I told the
still-flaming girl, "Go to the bath, through that door and left, and immerse
yourself to put out the fire. Bar the door and remain there, and I will come
"What about you?" she asked.
"I must slay Tjarik."
I ran into the fortress then, in search of Tjarik. I assumed his rooms were in
the upper level, so I ran straight to the staircase, and was rewarded by the
sounds of the skeletons. I found them scrabbling at a door, so I ordered
them out of the way and blasted it with a Force Bolt. No, I didn't have any
more prepared, but the spell is short and I had time to cast it.
Tjarik turned toward me, from the tome he had been frantically searching. I
could see his terror as he realized I was a necromancer and he had no place left
to run. I smiled, and walked into the room.
"Solomoriah, please," he pleaded, kneeling, "let me live, and I'll grant you any
boon you ask."
"You are reprehensible, Tjarik, for though I am a necromancer, I have never
sacrificed an innocent. Your time is up." I drew back my staff and struck at
him as if I were stabbing with a spear. I hit his head, and he fell hard onto
the floor. He was dead; I checked to make sure.
Some who have heard this story are outraged at this point; for Tjarik was a
beaten foe, so surely I should have restrained him and turned him over to the
authorities. To them I say, what authorities? There was no national nor state
government, no police to call, no court he could be tried in. Should I have
turned him over to the elders he had controlled by means of fear? No. His
guilt was evident, and I was the only person who could carry out his punishment.
I sent the skeletons to wander the fortress and attack anyone they found other
than Silla and I. Then I set about finding all his spell books and scrolls.
His room was full of shelves, with books and sorcerous nicknacks all over them,
in terrible disarray. Truly this was a treasure trove! I had looked at perhaps
half of the items when I saw a small box on a high shelf. It looked valuable,
and I wondered what he kept within it.
I got it down to a lower shelf, and lifted the lid. Inside was a small, white
lizard with large dark eyes. I had one timeless instant to realize what it
was, and curse myself for a fool, before the darkness fell over me.
It was a Basilisk, and I had been turned to stone.
My last impression was of falling...
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