child_m.gif (3208 bytes)ye of Dral

CHAPTER 2- THE VISITOR

Morandor took another swig of the tankard, before replacing it on the altar. It was time he was getting back- he’d been here all day already, and with Grendel away, there were a lot of chores to do at the tower. Damn that boy. He always picked the worst moments to leave him in the lurch. It was spring, plenty of cleaning to do around the tower. He sometimes suspected the boy planned his departures to coincide with any work that needed doing. Still, he was the first to admit that Grendel needed time away. There were a lot of rumours going around about the lad at the moment. Some said he was a bandit, others a murderer. Most were probably untrue, Morandor suspected. Not all, mind; the boy had an unnerving capacity for causing trouble.

 

Morandor wiped the beer from his long beard, whilst idly running his finger along the altar’s engraving- an eye within a triangle, the symbol of Dral. The Shrine had been abandoned long ago, since the Order had moved their temple to a larger, more public location. But Morandor still liked to visit it sometimes. He’d been visiting it a lot recently, though he wasn’t sure why. Lately he’d been feeling his age. Once, when this shrine was in its glory, Morandor had been the High Priest of the Order of Dral. And a damn good one, he didn’t mind admitting. He’d stepped down voluntarily, following the death of his wife. Ah, sweet Talia, how much he missed her. He’d buried her under the altar in the Shrine, as befitted a former Seeress. Talia had asked for it specifically. He touched the altar fondly. "Well, Ol’ girl. Won’t be long now!" he said to his wife’s tomb. "Not long."

 

Soon he would bring Grendel here. The prophecy needed to be fulfilled, and everyday Grendel was proving more and more that he was part of that prophecy. A very important part. Morandor suspected that Grendel was the One. He’d sent Amelia to tell the Order that he’d found him, The Avatar. Amelia herself had confirmed a lot of his beliefs. Yes, soon Grendel would be brought to the Shrine, and the prophecy would be fulfilled. The first of many, anyway. Scratching the lice in his beard, Morandor picked up a lump of cheese off his plate and nibbled it. He stared at The Eye of Dral, carved elaborately on the wall at the far end of the room. Sometimes he felt it was watching him. The ancient texts said that the Stare of Dral was both a blessing to the Ordered, and a bane to the Chaotic. Morandor wondered which category he fell into. Finishing the cheese, Morandor took another sip of beer.

 

"Baron Calenil?" The voice made Morandor jump, and he spluttered his beer over the altar. He turned around quickly to see who had entered the shrine. No one had visited this place in a century. Only Morandor, and Amelia. Standing in the door way, in front of the cracked stone steps which lead to the surface, was a young man. He was tall, and very slender, and dressed in a dark green cloak. His hair was short and blonde, and spiked at the sides, and his eyes shone a bright blue. An enchanting blue. "Baron Calenil?" the lad repeated loudly. His voice was silky, and melodious, and reminded Morandor of a songbird. Or a snake.

 

"No need to shout lad. I’m not deaf. Nor am I demented, despite current opinion." Morandor said, a little too harshly. "What are you doing here? And where did you hear that name?" It had been many years since Morandor had been called that. Many years indeed.

"Your Eminence, I’ve come a long way to find you. All the way from Salpamas. I’m so glad to have finally......"

"I didn’t ask for your life story, boy!" Morandor interrupted. "If I wanted to hear about someone else’s life, I’d certainly have asked someone with a little more experience under their belt. Like Old Scora, or Galen the Great. Or Dral himself. Most certainly not a snot-nosed little boy with a very bad hair-do." Morandor smiled, though his missing teeth made it more of a scowl. "Now, answer my questions."

The boy, a little crest-fallen, straightened his robe proudly. "I had a dream, Your Eminence, two moons ago. It was......"

"I said not your life story, you fool-boy!" Morandor said. "There were two questions. Only two. Quite simple really. I’ll repeat them if you want. What are you doing here, and w....what ever the other one was. Can’t quite recall."

The boy scowled, barely hiding his indignation. "I’m trying to tell you. I had a dream, your Eminence....."

"Don’t call me that! Morandor will do. Its my name. Its sufficed all this time, and it was given to me specifically. Might as well use it. Forget these old titles that don’t mean anything outside the land where they’re used. Not even within the land sometimes. In Ilmanor, titles don’t tend to count outside the house you live in. Besides, I don’t even own that title anymore. I think they gave it away. Or sold it. Its not mine, anyway."

The boy’s face was red now, as he struggled to control his temper. "I had a dream, Morandor. I was told......."

"Haven’t I heard this bit before?" Morandor asked.

"Listen you old fool........" the lad shouted, before realizing who he was talking to.

"There’s no need to shout. I’ve already told you I’m not deaf." Morandor said. "So, you had a dream did you? Well, out with it boy. I haven’t got all day. You young people think you’ve got all the time in the world. Takes you forever just to finish a sentence!"

 

The boy ran his hand through his hair in frustration, and looked at The Eye of Dral, as if to ask for help. "I had a dream, Morandor. A prophetic one, I think. In it I was told to seek the one who was once Baron of Calenil. I was told I would find you in the Old Shrine north of Hamton. I was told you’d been looking for me."

"Looking for you? I don’t even know you. To be honest, I can’t see anything to differentiate you from any other snot-nosed wretch. You all look the same. Apart from your hair-cut. Nope, I haven’t been looking for you. And I couldn’t have found you if I did. There’s easier ways of obtaining little boys, you know. I suppose you’re old enough to be told. Well, when a man and woman....." Morandor began to make obscene gestures with his hands

"I know that, Morandor!" the boy said patiently, as he felt his hair sub-conciously. "I don’t know what the dream meant. I was just told that you’d been looking for me. Looking for a long time."

"And who told you this?" Morandor asked sceptically. "In the dream that is."

"Dral." The boy said simply.

Morandor laughed, and took another sip of his beer. "Dral. The God Dral, or another one."

"The God. Dral. High Lord of Sorcery."

"I know who He is. I was his damn high priest before your grandad was born, boy. " Morandor said, offering his beer to the lad. When the lad declined, he shrugged and took another swig. "My poor lad, I think you’ve been mistaken. Dral’s an elusive god. He rarely even meddles in the affairs of Mortals. Why would he talk to you?" Morandor made the question sound more like a belittling statement.

"I don’t know. But it was him. I know it."

"Son, the High Dral is a very compassionate god. He helps his followers a lot, grants them their desires, and other such godly things. But he never appears in person. The only people he is said to communicate with are the High Priests, and the Avat.......By the Gods!!!" Morandor said, standing up suddenly, and spilling the rest of his beer over the altar. He hurriedly wiped it up, whispering an apology to his wife.

 

He dug through his possessions, and pulled out a large purple-bound book. He scrambled through the pages. "Could I have been mistaken? Could I have chosen the wrong one?!?" he said to himself. He snapped the book shut, without actually looking at any of the pages. He turned quickly back to the boy. "What’s your name, lad?"

"Zardock." The boy responded.

"Very well, Zardock. Why should I believe you? Have you any proof?"

Zardock smiled, showing milk-white teeth. "Dral told me to tell you something. But only to mention it if you asked."

"Out with it then." Morandor said, looking in his tankard. He wished he had more ale. He certainly needed it right now.

"He told me to tell you ‘The Three Orbs burn bright. The Stag is loose.’"

 

Morandor’s eyes grew wide, and he staggered backwards, holding himself up with the altar. The Three Orbs. A prophecy told to Morandor, and only Morandor, by Dral Himself. He’d told no one. Not even the new High Priest, Aradin. Not even his wife. If Zardock knew this.........Damn. He’d been training the wrong boy all the time. But he’d been so convinced. Grendel had a natural affinity for magic. He was a very quick learner. Even quicker than he himself had been. How could he be so mistaken. No, there was something special about Grendel, he knew that for a fact. Even Amilia had confirmed it. And she was never wrong about these things. But Zardock knew things he couldn’t possibly know.

Morandor sat down. His head ached, and he needed a drink. He knew he should have packed more ale. He felt like vomiting. Even the cheese looked unappetizing.

 

"Zardock, how would you like to come and train with me. In my tower. I can teach you things. Things you may need to know." Which one was the right one? Whether Zardock was the One or not, he knew a lot. He needed him nearby, where he could keep an eye on him. And if Grendel wasn’t the right one, still he was a good Mage. Morandor could still keep him as an apprentice, long after Zardock went off to fulfill his prophecies. "I already have an apprentice, but I’m sure he won’t mind sharing. In fact I think you two will get along quite well!" he smiled. How could he have been so wrong?

Zardock just shrugged. "If that’s why I’m here. I know a little of the Art anyway. A little. It would be good to learn more!"

‘That’s just great.’ Morandor thought bitterly. ‘He already knows a little of the Art. Morandor wondered if he’d have made the same mistake even if Grendel had had ‘I’m not the One.’ tattoed on his head. "Alright then, Zardock. I’ll take you to my tower. I’ve got a spare room. I’m sure you’ll be comfortable."

Zardock just shrugged. ‘Ungrateful lout.’ Morandor thought. ‘Could at least act enthusiastic.’

"Very well, go and wait outside for me, Zardock. I’ll be out in a minute."

Zardock smiled. "Yes, sir!" he said. Taking one last look at The Eye, he went up the stairs.

Morandor sighed to himself. It had been a long day. And a thirsty one. Had he made the right choice? The prophecies said the One will come, and the Bearer of the Orbs will know him. The One. Not the bloody Two. Still if the prophecy said he would know him, Morandor didn’t doubt he would. Eventually. ‘When its too bloody late,’ he thought bitterly.

Picking up his things, Morandor stood over the alter and stroked it affectionately. "I’m still an old fool." He said to his wife. "Still an old fool!" Glaring at The Eye, and daring it to laugh, Morandor walked up the steps, feeling sorry for himself.

‘Still, look on the bright side,’ he thought. ‘Now the chores will get done twice as fast.’