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As they headed southeast, the broken boulders and scrub gave way to proper forest. The trio skirted the edge of the tree line, ducking inside for cover when anyone got too close. It wasn’t likely that they would encounter any more trouble this far from the capital, but everyone agreed it would be better to play it safe. When they reached the ford across the Lundee river, they had expected it to be guarded, but there was no one in sight. They wasted an hour while Rieki scouted for an ambush, but there was none to be found.
They crossed the river which marked the border between the forests of Westwood and the southern plains of Barsan. Cravan knew a blacksmith who had set up shop in one of the border villages, and they managed to unload some of the heavier junk in exchange for some food and a small keg of ale. The town had no inn, so they spent the night in some farmer’s barn with the horses and ducked out early the next morning.
They rode for three days and nights to the mountain pass at Illmadress and crossed over into the kingdom of Keshab. They could see the rays of the last hour of sunlight reflecting off the tiled roofs of the Temple of Light. Even at this distance, the tower that gave the city its name rose above the valley floor like a thorn stuck in the side of the world. The Temple was the tallest building in all the Seventeen Kingdoms by far. Any less, it was said, would be an insult to the Goddess herself.
The sight filled Mor with excitement and dread. The Temple Library was one of the greatest ever assembled, rivalling the Magic Academy itself in its acquisition of historical tomes. While the books inside where not available to the layman, Mor had previously established his credentials when he’d run errands there for his old master. With luck, the Records Keeper would remember him, and he would not need to through that lengthy process again. That was not what worried Mor though.
His eyes panned down from the spire to the cluster of estates that sat on plateau above the valley floor. On of those was the home of Pertwin, a minor lord and a major pain in the ass. On the companion’s last trip through Hightower, the noble had made a spectacle of himself by loudly and drunkenly misquoting the epic poems of Yanos the Wanderer to a somewhat attractive but disinterested serving girl. When Mor could stand it no longer, he had corrected the lord’s faulty memory. Embarrassed at being shown up by the mage, Pertwin had challenged Mor to duel then and there.
Instead of accepting, Mor had punched the man in the nose. Already tipsy from drink, Pertwin had collapsed in a heap on the floor, and the wig that he used to cover his bald pate had come unseated and rolled across the floor. Mor had compared it to a mangy badger before tossing it into the hearth fire to the uproarious laughter and applause of the entire tavern. All but one that is, for someone had slipped out and informed the guards, and the trio were forced to fight their way out of the city. Later, when Pertwin had regained what little sense he had, he had put a sizable bounty on Mor and his companions should the ever set foot in Keshab again.
“There it is,” said Cravan. “It’s not too late to change your mind, you know.”
“Are you going to forget the debt as well?” asked Mor.
“Don’t be daft,” answered Cravan. “If you’re stupid enough to make that wager, I’m stubborn enough to hold you to it.”
“Let’s get going then,” said Rieki. “We want to enter the city before they close the gates for the night.” She spurred her horse to a gallop and the others followed after her.
They rode hard and made the drawbridge just as twilight turned to dark. The guards, eager to get home or to the tavern, hardly gave notice to the three travelers in a rush to get inside before nightfall. Only one challenged them to state their business. Mor claimed to be a traveling merchant with his guard and guide. The watchman seemed suspicious until Mor tried to sell him one of blades they had recovered from the dragon. He went on and on about the unparalleled sharpness of Aborjani steel until the bored man waved them on.
“We should get what you came for and get out of the city at first light.” Rieki kept her voice low to not draw attention to them. “I don’t relish the thought of public executions, especially when I’m the one on the gallows.”
“But it might take days to find the correct passage, or even to find the right tome,” said Mor.
“Days?!” whispered Cravan hoarsely. “You never said anything about days. I figured minutes, maybe hours. We can’t stay here for days.”
“I can’t be sure,” said Mor. “I might get lucky and find what I’m looking for right away, or I might not. I won’t know until I can get in there and talk to the Keeper of Records. If he knows what I’m looking for we might be able to leave in the morning. If he doesn’t then…well, let’s worry about that of it comes to it and not before.”
“You are being very nonchalant about our impending deaths,” said Rieki. “I suggest we go straight to the Temple and not waste any more time.”
To be continued…
If you like this story, consider getting a copy for your self. The Problem with Prophesy is currently selling pre-orders at Inkshares until March 3rd, 2015. I’m publishing the first few chapters here as a teaser. If the book reaches 750 pre-orders before March 3, 2016, it will receive professional editing, design, distribution, and marketing. For more information visit Inkshares.com.