LEGEND OF THE SWORD
TALES OF MOMENTS LOST
PROLOGUE: ROUND AND ROUND WE GO
Through the misted windows you can just make out the dark form of
'The Lady Juville' as she lies docked against the smudge of a sunset.
Her sail crew are making final preparations for your voyage at dawn.
You're sat in 'The Apocrypher's Arms', and unassuming little tavern
on the quayside. A serving girl weaves her way through a bustling crowd
of traders, hawkers and sailors to bring another six pitchers of Slamot,
the legendary local brew.
All evening, eyes have been turned your way and nods and wagers
exchanged. Your group seem to be the unacknowledged centre of
attention. Perhaps it's because the six of you are armed to the teeth,
perhaps it's because that last hawker was thrown through the wall. It
would have been the window but Pagan's aim was somewhat vague. Everyone
else put it down to the Slamot: he put it down to the hawker's wares--
the earrings of fallen comrades from afar, some still crimson with the
blood of lost battles. Roland B'manuel, the Innkeeper, usually quite
headstrong himself, had meekly smiled his thanks and dispatched his
daughter towards you again. This time the round of Slamot was on the
house and here she was dodging the staggering hordes for the ninth time.
Or was is the tenth? You had no idea and didn't care. Neither did
Roland B'manuel. It wasn't every night he had a party of the King's
warriors to draw his custom for him.
Belar had suggested you told each other of your recent adventures,
but it had been obvious for three pitchers now that your thoughts are
otherwise occupied. Perhaps those three days on a raft at sea had left
you somewhat subdued, or perhaps it was our anticipation of tomorrow's
voyage west to Anar. Either way, you keep looking out to The Lady
Juville and the ocean beyond. Either way, the Slamot was living up to
As you all reach for a fresh quart, Belar slams his tankard on the
table and begs the customary silence. He asks you all to draw forward
and listen. His breath reeks of ale. You all sit back again. Pagan
falls off his stool.
"When I suggested we might recount our most recent adventures, I
really had something else in mind...similar but not the same...we've all
heard enough of valiant and noble victories...what I wish is our
admissions of defeat..."
"How do you mean Belar?...", asks Daville.
"Well...We all know we've overcome tremendous odds in the course of
our campaigns, otherwise we wouldn't be here. But I tire of bravado and
boasting...even if some of the wilder details are matter of fact, I lose
thirst for glory and triumph...no. What I have in mind are our stories
Borgalius interrupts him.
"It takes a brave man indeed to admit defeat."
"But we have never truly been defeated, else we wouldn't be living
and breathing as we sit here...though at the rate we knock back the
innkeeper's famous Slamot you wouldn't think we cared..." He pauses for
the effect of the quip to register. "...so, let us entertain one
another with tales of...how shall I put this...mystery?...perplexion?...
exasperation? The skeletons in our cupboards, stories consigned to
"I'll take up that challenge, Belar", Daville reassures him.
"I also", adds Cornilius. "If I can remember one..."
"So who shall be first my friends...who shall be first? Brave
Daville here...or you Borgalius...and what of Pagan--can you hold your
ale Pagan, or only your stool...?" Pagan rises to the bait.
"I can hold my own Belar!", a hint of anger in his voice, his eyes
wide with a threatening glare.
Belar calmly places his hands on the table and is about to take up
the challenge but Daville turns to face Pagan and smiles.
"Don't get bitter now, Pagan, it's Slamot we're drinking!"
"And tomorrow will be another day...", adds Cornilius with a barely
disguised grin, "let us draw for the privilege. I have a way of
choosing in mind".
Relaxing for a moment, Pagan is about to take another swig.
"And what might that be friend?", he enquires.
Cornilius searches the folds of his cloak and appears distressed.
"Is this what you're looking for?", asks Borgalius, and produces a
gold coin out of thin air.
"Why you...", Cornilius sputters in amazement. "How on earth..."
"Just a little trick I picked up...I suppose you have the coin in
the tankard routine all worked out?"
Cornilius scratches his head. "I suppose you can read minds too!"
Borgalius glances in your direction and nods as he comments to the
others. "Looks like his mind is somewhere out to sea...somehow I don't
think he'll be saying much. More Slamot, old friend?".
He receives no acknowledgement and no reply. You are indeed somewhere
"Ah well...let's get on with it then Cornilius". Daville takes the
coin from Borgalius and tosses it to it's rightful owner.
"Hey Roland...Roland! Over here!".
The innkeeper hears his call and makes his way towards them.
Daville lowers his voice.
"That B'manuel was once a man of legend you know, but he left for
the South Seas...He's now retired back here...Ah! Roland old friend,
will you do us a favour?"
"What might that be", B'manuel asks, his huge hands clenched and
dug into his sides, "getting a little cold now you've put a hole through
"No, no...", replies Daville, "Cornilius give him your coin...take
our tankards Roland, if you'd be so kind, and drop this coin in one".
Daville turns to us and continues.
"The first man to taste the coin speaks first...for the rest of you,
and you in particular, Cornilius, may silence be golden!"
The Innkeeper calls his daughter and takes the tankards.
"Another round of Slamot by beauty!". He turns to us with a look
of reproach. "Just go easy on my tavern, boys. Alright? I've met more
than a match for you in my time".
"You have no need for further worry", Belar reassures him. "We
will be gone by midnight, we set out on a quest with the dawn tide".
Roland turns his back on you and pops the coin in one tankard before
refilling them all.
"Well, I hope to see you again. I hear you're bound for Anar--
that should be fun. Here, drink and ye shall find!". He passes the
"Many thanks". Daville looks at Cornilius. "Roland, you may have
the coin for your troubles, after we've used it."
"Keep your money!". Roland stands firm. "I expect I'll be billing
the King for more than a wall by the end of your drinking--Good health!"
The tankards are raised to waiting lips and their contents consumed
with a fury. Belar bites on metal and spits out the coin.
"Good, I wanted to go first in any case. Another round of
Slamot!", he shouts out at the departing B'manuel. "Now pray silence
for the speech! This is a story about the time I...", he pauses. No.
This is just a story about time..."
"About time", adds Pagan, twisting the words sarcastically.
TIME AND TIME AGAIN
"King Darius had despatched me to the island of Fivel, some six
weeks east of here. A previous prospecting party had failed to return.
In fact, I had been told that no one who set foot there had ever come
back, so I had a dozen or so Carellian mercenaries with me just in
We had arrived at the western edge of the island and, after leaving
a man to watch the ship, rowed into shore. The place was certainly
strange. A silence pervaded. On the way in, one of the Carellians had
remarked at the absence of any waves on the shoreline. The sea looked
like glass. No wind, no breeze, no bird song. Yet the trees and bushes
Our cartographer and I climbed a rocky promontory and looked
inland. Rivel looked peaceful enough; a misty land, quite heavily
forested, gently undulating, a river winding its way down to the south
coast. To the north there appeared to be some sort of settlement: we
could see thin whispers of smoke standing upright and in its centre what
appeared to be a minaret. Over to the east, across this green emptiness,
the other coast. Rivel could only be a few miles square. The
cartographer did his stuff; taking bearing and making up a rough map.
Nothing special at all.
The twelve of us made our way along the western shore, the wide
beach offering an easier navigation than the unknown forest inland. We
had estimated the journey to the settlement to take an hour at most, but
after two we had still not set eyes on it. Behind us lay our footsteps
and in the long distance our ship; our rowing boat nothing more than
another speck of sand.
All this time we had seen no one. Nothing had moved. No one had
even felt a breeze ruffle his hair--yet over the sea there were white
horses roaming. As I said, our walk seemed to take an exceptionally
long time and I was beginning to wonder whether we had been mistaken
about the scale of the island. But I had been on many expeditions such
as this and I knew the cartographer to be equally experienced. Still, I
felt a real sense of relief when we finally rounded a headland and saw
the village with its small harbour.
We stood together for a moment to drink from our flasks whilst the
cartographer took more bearings. He too appeared puzzled. We both knew
something was amiss but couldn't put it into words. Before we moved on I
decided to play safe and send three men back to bring the ship along the
coast. At least we wouldn't then have to walk so far back, and, besides,
we might need more supplies. I couldn't be sure how long we would be on
Rivel or whether the natives would be friendly. Or indeed whether we
would meet any at all, for we hadn't seen a soul since landing. The
only thing I could be sure about was not knowing what to expect.
The three Carellians were duly dispatched and we proceeded on our
way. I thought it best not to alarm any villagers we might encounter
with the sight of so many armed men so I gave order for a further five
of my mercenaries to wait among the dunes and observe our reception. I
am naturally cautious--these days you have to be.
The remaining four of us walked the final stretch of beach and
clambered up the harbour wall. I counted fifteen brightly coloured
fishing boats lying marooned on the glistening sand. On one we could
see two figure handling nets. We shouted our greeting but to no avail.
They didn't even raise their heads.
We looked around. The wall curved away from us and turned to its
opposite end like a horseshoe. A shallow groove of what I assumed to be
fresh water stretched from a small bridge in the quayside to the harbour
mouth and beyond, across the flats, to the sea. On the quay were other
figures, a horse or two, and a handful of carts. Several nets had been
hung up to dry. But no one looked our way. Nothing moved. All was
silence. Above it all towered the dark spire of the minaret, its gold up
bright with reflected sunlight, shining our way like a beacon.
I jumped down from the wall and made my way over to the boat with
the figures. Still they hadn't moved. I walked right up to the bow.
The fishermen were as solid as statues, their eyes fixed on the tools
they held to darn their nets. But these men may as well have been
frozen. I climbed the ladder up to the boat, and again I called out,
again there was no reply. I touched the sleeve of the nearest but he
didn't move. I walked right around him. He was fixed to the spot. I
stood perplexed. I shook him hard with both hands. Nothing.
As I descended the ladder to the sand I noticed a gull stood in one
of my footprints, its head stooped, its beak piercing the surface. It
too was fixed. So how had it got there? I squatted down to within
inches of its face. I noticed a few grains of sand slowly tumbling from
where its beak touched the ground. I got down flat on my belly so my
nose was almost touching the same spot. The slow tumbling continued.
I heard the dull thud of footsteps on drying sand behind me and turned.
The cartographer was making his way over to me. I waved him over
hurriedly and turned back. Breaking out of the surface was the purple
head of a worm firmly clasped in the beak of the gull.
The cartographer stooped down to see what had interested me. We lay
there like madmen for what seemed like hours watching the curious sight
before our eyes. Movement was almost imperceptible, but the gull had
raised its head some three inches and the worm was now free of the sand.
This movement had taken fifteen minutes or thereabouts. But the gull
had loosened its grip and its feet had now left the ground. It hung
there defying gravity. It seemed to by flying away.
We got to our feet and scratched our heads. I looked up to the men
on the boat above us. They had changed position. They were now
crouched. The one I had shook had his arms crossed against his face, the
other punching the air with a look of blind terror. We were terrified,
too. What on earth was happening, or to be more precise, what on earth
wasn't happening? We began to walk back to our companions and were
suddenly deafened by a deep metallic drone.
It seemed to emanate from the direction of the minaret; a low,
long, resonating sound. I looked at the cartographer in amazement and
then over to my men. They too were staring in the direction of the
spire. I shouted to them, beckoning them to a point where we could meet
midway to the bridge over the quay. The unknown sound stopped, but the
way it stopped, if you can imagine it, was gradual. Almost lingering in
the air. Then we heard it again half a minute later. Fainter this
time, among the rooftops, around and off the harbour wall and out to
sea. An echo. But then all was silence again. We ran over to the
others. The youngest one was terrified, thinking the place haunted, so
to distract him I sent him to fetch our five colleagues from the dunes.
We conferred on what lay before us. The face of an old woman
stared out to us from an open window, but as the cartographer moved
nearer to offer her greetings it was only too apparent that she could
not see him. He shouted directly in her ear, thinking her blind, but
received no acknowledgement whatsoever. I was by now completely
dumbfounded and threw my head back in despair. The smoke from her house
stood perfectly straight above us, reaching further than my eyes could
I was just trying to make sense of this when the sound returned,
equally as loud, but somehow even more disturbing. The three of us
stood transfixed for its duration until we heard the short silence and
again the echo traveling around the wall and into the distance. As our
eyes followed what we imagined to be its course we glimpsed our
colleagues returning from the dunes. Before they reached us the
metallic din had resumed and disappeared twice more. By this time we
had realised it was the slow toll of the minaret's bell. We endured
that ghostly resonance eight more times.
After the others had arrived I gave orders for us to split up into
threes and explore the village. Our party made for the minaret and
climbed the long spiral staircase to the balustrade surrounding its
Looking down was like studying a painting. We could see a group of
old men below us taking a midday drink, all sat like statues, a trickle
of red wine in mid-air curving from a server's jug into an empty glass.
A group of children playing in a small square, a yellow ball clearly
seen above their upturned faces like a little sun they could never
reach. A young couple hiding in a courtyard, locked in an embrace so
passionate they might melt. A boy drinking form the village fountain,
his head completely underwater. Why wasn't he drowning? I stood and
watched him until I was no longer interested in answering the question.
I could see one of my group stood by him now, undoubtedly even more
On the south side of the balustrade, I came across a raven pushing
off from the handrail, its wings arched in preparation for flight.
Beyond it I could see a group of my men working their way through a
market. The only moving objects in what would have otherwise been a
bustling crowd of traders and villagers.
The weather was changing. The distant sea had turned a dark grey
and the haze of afternoon heat was being replaced with the sharp clarity
preceding a storm. It was as if someone was tracing dark lined edges
on all the subjects of our painting.
As I passed along the eastern balustrade I saw what looked like a
treasure; in any event there were four guards stood to attention at its
entrance and its roof was the colour of gold. I shouted through the
silence to the other two groups of men and pointed them in its
direction. We left immediately. This was exactly the kind of discovery
King Darius would appreciate. Half way down the staircase I realised
my shout had caused no echo.
We met at the huge iron gate of the building's entrance. One of my
men was playing around with a guard's face, squeezing his nose and
cheeks, reaching in the mouth for his tongue and pulling it out. He
kicked the man's legs from beneath him and we all laughed as our victim
hovered in mid-air all limbs akimbo. It was easy enough to lift a set
of keys from one of their belts and we entered.
Before us lay all manner of wealths. Large casks of coins and
jewels, statuettes of gold and silver, huge urns of precious stones. so
much that we were puzzled as to why it had been left in what was only a
fishing village on a remote island. But then as so much about this place
was beyond comprehension the answer hardly mattered. As these treasures
were there for the taking, I gave the men orders to begin carrying them
to the harbour for eventual relay to our ship and the King's grateful
The day wore on and we had not shifted a half of the valuables and
by evening were beginning to tire. We were a little concerned that our
ship had not yet arrived off the harbour, but we put this down to the
storm out there. The men must have found a sheltered bay. We helped
ourselves to food and wine from a local tavern and after sharing
observations on this mysterious place, we settled down in the treasury
to enjoy a well deserved sleep.
We awoke at dawn to the sound of gulls. It took me a few minutes
to realise what this implied. Today, evidently, the silence had ended.
I aroused the men and we lifted more of our booty and walked out
into the treasury's courtyard to be met with an extraordinary sight.
The four guards were moving towards us, swords drawn. We had to shake
our heads in disbelief, however, for they were moving so slowly that a
sweep of their swords would take a half a minute. Almost casually we
made our way around them and into the street. Locals were lumbering
towards us at a snail's pace. As they neared us they would slowly lean
away, raising their arms as though they had seen us from the corner of
their eyes. Dogs would slowly bound up to us, teeth bared and biting on
air as they missed our legs. We could now hear everyday sounds, but at
such a long drawn out pitch they were largely undecipherable. A jester
would say the effect was most disquieting.
We spent the rest of the morning making trips between the treasury
and the quay. Our ship still hadn't arrived and I was beginning to
worry. I had to leave two men with the stacked treasures as locals were
attempting to lift them for theirselves. Before long a crowd had begun
to amass and the situation was getting out of hand. I gave orders for
the booty to be transferred to a fishing boat and the rest of us
returned to the treasury to continue with the lifting.
By now it had become apparent that events were speeding up.
Literally. What had once been the prolonged, painfully slow sight of the
locals' movements now appeared to be the deliberate results of careful
considerations. Their activity now made them look so serious and
resolved it was as if they had all turned into philosophers overnight,
having studiously weighed up the pros and cons of every minor action.
Now the guard could actually take hold of us; we had to doubly sure
ourselves of every moment because those sword sweeps were now, if I can
put it like this, missing with more accuracy. It was becoming
impossible to continue with the work. I thought it best to settle for
what we had already secured and leave Rivel. But how? Where was our
When we returned to the quay we found our men had been hacked down.
Upon seeing us the assembled mass turned on us too. Treasury guards
arrived from our rear and we were caught in a narrow street, with
little manoeuvre for sword play. We turned to confront the guards but
their numbers were too great to give our swifter movement any real
advantage in that confined space. Three of my men were cut down before
we had killed a score of theirs. The remaining four of us ran in the
direction of the minaret and fought with the guards to gain entrance. We
pushed their dead bodies against the inside of the door as part of a
barricade against the angry mob outside.
We rested in the balustrades and considered our options. At two I
stopped counting. Fight or die. As this was a choice I often faced, I
could relax. I went downstairs and hacked the living daylights out of
anyone who came near me. I then returned and carried on counting.
If time meant anything here, it was running out. I had just
decided we ought to make a run for a fishing boat when I heard a fearful
commotion. Looking down below we could see locals and guards alike
fleeing in all directions. Some were being hurled against walls,
others screaming in terror, swords were being flung out of hands. The
old men we had seen the day before drinking wine like statues still sat
there as if nothing had happened. Suddenly, their tables were swept
away from them and appeared to fly in to the running torrent of
villagers escaping the unseen menace. Through one crowd we could see a
furrow of space being cut, people on both sides being thrown to the
ground. We heard the doors give way down below and a split second later
my three companions were sucked away from me by an invisible force.
I stood against the handrail of the balustrade wondering whether to
jump. I don't usually go for the third choice. My old friends say it's
because I can only count to two. For me, number three is suicide. I
didn't even have change to rule it out.
A moment later, my feet left the floor and I was rushed down the
spiral staircase at breakneck speed to the grey-blue blur of sky, sea
Belar leans back from the table and smiles before taking a long
hard drink of his Slamot.
"And! And...?", bellows Pagan above the tavern's rumpus. Belar
clasps his hands and opens them as though offering him a gift.
"It was the men from our ship or course. Came to fetch us. As
simple as that...".
"Yes", said Daville, "But what about Rivel. Why is there all that
speeding up and slowing down?"
Belar leans forward again and smiles. "I've no idea."
OUR HORIZONS MADE TO STRETCH
Belar drinks a whole tankard full down in one to relieve his
"I don't think I left anything out. It gets a little harder to
remember each time I recount it. Now--who'll be next?". He takes out
his dagger: a ten inch blade with a handle of white gold. "This
little beauty cost me the earth--or at least one part of it. I was
granted an island off Trait for services rendered but lost it in a
wager. I was given this by way of recompense."
"What did the wager depend on?", asks Cornilius.
"A turn of this knife...Shall we spin it and see who goes next?"
"Yes, but what was the wager about?"
"I met a hunter on Anar--yes, I've been there before--who had a
horn with him. He said it had magical powers 'to open The Ways', as he
put it. I asked him to prove it. He said he couldn't. Not for that
purpose at least. He took out this knife and lay it on the ground and
blew the horn. I didn't hear a sound but the knife started
spinning...spinning so fast I almost lost sight of it. When it stopped
it pointed to me. I bet him my island against his horn he couldn't do
it again. He agreed. It happened again!" Belar lifts his arms in
"What happened to the horn then, Belar?", Daville pipes up, "After
you'd blown it? Huh!"
"Go lose your tongue Daville...I had it stolen by trolls."
"Stolen by trolls!!?"
"Yes! Little swine like you, Daville...", Belar pauses, realising
he is about to lose his temper, "Come on then Daville, prove to us your
"I'd rather spin the knife first, Belar. My story is unworldly.
I don't know whether the likes of you could understand it."
Belar jerks forward across the table and grabs Daville by the neck.
"You'll learn to hold your tongue with me my lad or..."
Cornilius reaches out to grip Belar's arms. "Enough of this you
two, just spin the dagger will you!"
Belar sits down again and spins. The knife comes to rest
pointing at Daville. Belar hisses. "Tell your story now Daville for
fear the next spin leaves the table!"
"I need no threats to tell you mine, just your ears--and if you
take hold of me again you won't have any to listen with!" Daville
slides his tankard over to Belar. "Here, finish this and order some
more,. then shut it--for this tale requires silence."
He calms down and collects himself; clearing his throat. There is
a brief silence after his ball of spit flies past you and smashes a
window pane. Over by the bar you can hear B'manuel cursing.
"I had been travelling through The Lands of Seronia on the far side
of the world. This area had only been discovered a thousand years ago
and was as yet unpopulated to any great extent. Its only settlement of
any size, Seron, had been built before records began. Lying empty for
centuries, the city was still largely desolated. No one knew who its
original habitants were or what had befallen them. Judging by some of
their buildings it would seem they worshipped the stars.
All over Seron are needle pinnacles towering hundreds of feet,
crowned by silver discs which glow blue in moonlight. None has ever
been scaled and no one knows the material from which the discs are made.
I myself tried to climb one but half way up the needles become
encrusted with razor sharp crystals. But Seron has another peculiar
Through the centre of its main thoroughfare runs a groove the depth
of a man. Although no water flows along its course, there are several
bridges. It is as though the groove were meant to be considered as a
stream of some sort. A local who tried to fill part of it in was struck
by lightning. Months later, his son tried. In Seronia, lightning
always strikes twice. The sides of the groove are coloured silver and
are luminous even during daylight. I heard stories of a man who had
walked its length from the mountains to the sea in seven days. At its
source, on the highest peak, lies another silver disc, so huge it takes
half a day to walk the circumference. That man became a leader of the
elders; apparently he never forgot anything he encountered, down to the
smallest detail. He paid a price for this though. He never slept until
King Darius had been granted dominion of Seronia by his father. I
was expected to report back to court with stories of new sources of
wealth just as soon as I returned and had been given a cask of gold in
exchange. What I had to report back was guaranteed to incur Darius's
In the middle of The Lands is a great plain surrounded by mountains
on all sides. It is believed that a vast meteorite smashed into Seronia
here; judging by the smoothness of the basin floor and its foothills.
Meteor showers are so common in Seron that the natives regard them as we
may regard rainfall.
That winter, like all winters, had brought showers which lit up the
sky every night, all night, with short, bright trails of blue and
yellow. Such was their frequency that the former criminals and outcasts
who now formed the plain dwellers had become quite religious, referring
to them as heavenly rain. And in a sense they were. Of the many stones
that survived burn up in the atmosphere, most were full of minerals of
agricultural worth. Even gold had been found in their hard, broken
One night's storm was to beat all others. Most Seronians were safe
indoors whilst only a few younger and hardier souls were out and about.
They had made for the meadow known as The Shower Field to indulge the
old rite of initiation.
Such was the frequency of certain showers that tests of manhood
were devised which were all too simple. All one had to do was stand in
the centre of The Field for as long as possible. The last one left
standing, either through bravery or chance, was deemed a future leader
and paid commensurate respect.
No one knew why this arena had been chosen, except that meteors had
never been known to fall on the settlement itself, only in the area of
The Fied. Over the years, hundreds of Seronia's finest had lost their
lives this way; the impact of a rock from another world on their skulls
signalling a last moment of adolescence. Yet still they came.
I had been out with them on that night. The Field had been
prepared according to the time-honoured tradition. A circle of head-
high torches surrounding up to thirty brave young men standing on
plinths of ironstone. I watched from the perimeter, sheltering in a dug
out under one of the many fallen monoliths enclosing the arena.
The shower had begun at sundown as always. I had patiently
observed the sky's change from a vermillion wash to a blue the colour of
cobalt. Minutes later, chrome trails cut diagonal slashes through the
night. All around I could hear the dull whistle and thud of falling
rocks. Some clean on the heads of the gathered.
The contest progressed amidst the huddled murmurs of observers and
the silent endurance of participants. Bravery was silence in the face
of death. Already twelve had died outright. Three would remain
cripples, honoured cripples, free of labour for the rest of their lives.
Then a greater silence overtook the arena. Eyes gazed starwards and
a single bright light appeared, growing in intensity by the second.
Some contestants stepped down from their plinths transfixed by its
magnitude. A sound of rushing wind seemed to gather all over The
Field, its source unclear; some said it came down from the mountains,
some from overhead, no one was sure. And then it hit. The whole field
cleared, spreading in terror in all directions as the sound became pain.
I cowered under my monolith knowing it would be a big one; you could
tell by the sound it cut. In the centre of the circle the only one
remaining, Daniel, looked up in heavenly recognition as it hit him.
Full in the face.
It was of human form and human height. A matt black statue, dull
and perfect. Although the moon was full, it cast no shadow. Just
The torches flickered to extinction and the stricken observers, I
among them, were cast in moonlight. Yet there had been no moon
earlier. Nothing moved. No one stirred. Then this thing began to spin
and glow a dark blue and suddenly, and I mean, just like that...abrupt,
you know--it stopped! Standing there was a sphere. The shower had
stopped. As far as I know, there's never been another shower since.
The Seronians called it The Sphere...Imaginative bunch, those
Seronians. No one knew if it contained anything, whether it was alive,
whether it was some kind of message. Everyone cared. I merely
observed. None of us could get anywhere near as if it were surrounded by
some kind of invisible barrier. Our wisest would call it a field within
a field. The Seronians called it a pain in the rear.
The Sphere was, to all intents and purposes, dead. It emitted no
light, no sound and remained still and intense. The next morning I got
to within an arm's length of it, but when I stretched to touch it I felt
a warm surface of air which got hotter the more I extended my hand. It
got to the point where I was in danger of severely burning myself. That
was the nearest anyone got to it. As the day went on, the safe distance
decreased. By the time it reached Seron, I reckoned you wouldn't be
able to get within a day's journey of it without being burnt.
The strangest thing of all was that, whilst at first the object
seemed to have no effect and no purpose other than to set up this
barrier around itself, after two days the ground surrounding it began to
change. Plain dwellers came from far and wide to look and consider; all
they could see was the earth in its immediate proximity levelling.
Becoming flat, perfectly flat. By the second.
Within a further two days an area of maybe one hundred strides had
been cleared of all vegetation and relief; all that remained was a
perfect surface, an even plain. Dead level with the accent on Dead.
The land around it was turning dark blue. This was the only sign
of any effect. But what a presence. The Sphere merely remained and yet
was completely dominant. Work in Seronia was suspended whilst various
experts were called in to offer solutions.
I helped with some of the experiments. I thought that these may
provide valuable information for if one of these things landed in our own
lands. All of the results were fascinating.
It was found that the area of levelling spread faster than the
invisible barrier protecting the object. So, we attempted to excavate
this area, hoping to find some means of preventing its increase. When
our picks hit the dark blue sheen they rebounded, knocking one of our
party unconscious. A team of master builders were employed to build a
wall across the path of the levelling. We watched it crumble. When its
rubble met the barrier we saw it spontaneously ignite. Seconds later
dust blew our way and to the sea.
We estimated the rate of levelling to be half a day's walk every ten
days. We began to refer to it as the Glacier--we had to call it
something--if you can name something you are on the road to
understanding it. It had a similar effect to a glacier in that no matter
the slope or relief of the terrain, the flattened area would be
perfectly even. No glacier ever flowed as an ever increasing circle
though, nor did it leave an area the colour of the night sky, but the
correspondence was sufficient.
One day we were out there preparing to dig under the levelling
area; we were trying to figure out how to prepare a hole which wouldn't
be surfaced over before we could re-emerge. Obviously this would mean
digging towards the glacier faster than it was moving towards us.
As we thought this over, the sky turned a golden grey. We smelt
rain on the wind and soon enough we were caught in a shower. We looked
over in the direction of The Sphere and saw a great curve of steam
surrounding the whole area of its influence. It would seem the barrier
stretched upwards too. Perhaps it was reasonable to deduce that it
exerted force beneath it also. We had solved the problem of the
digging. We just wouldn't bother. Where raindrops hit the dark blue
surface they turned to mirrored quicksilver.
The elders of Seron were running out of time and ideas. The
levelling would soon reach their settlement. The only hope we clung on
to was the sole exception to the great rule which was heading our way.
Where the glacier met the groove it had no levelling effect; the
groove's sides would lose their luminance to become the same dark blue
and then the uniformity would continue on its course. We did not know
what significance to attach to this curious anomaly, but knew,
nevertheless, if an answer lay anywhere, it lay there.
We were sat atop a hill overlooking Seron on the final evening; a
full moon rising over the sea. Most Seronians had decided to evacuate
the area and we could see the threaded lines of caravans moving off to
the coast and waiting ships. We were transfixed by this sad sight, long
columns of refugees slowly creeping away with everything they could
carry, their torches giving them the movement of glow worms. We were so
preoccupied by this, and the effects of the mead we'd taken with us,
that at first we failed to notice the gradual change in the view before
As it got darker we began to discern shafts of light beaming up in
to the heavens from the silver discs of the pinnacles. We were rightly
astonished, thinking them at first to be a trick of the light, but no,
as the moon crept higher and the sky became ink, those beams took on a
sharpness...how can I describe this? They were like...no, they were
more like...like veins of quartz in a cliff face, stretching bright and
straight and clear.
We mounted our horses and sped down to Seron to be met by a great
commotion. The Sphere was moving. Across the level. A huge crowd had
massed along the side of the groove. We thrust our way to the edge and
saw it in the distance. It was rolling along the groove towards us,
silently and slowly, heading for the sea. As it got nearer, The Sphere
became larger, and rising so that its base rested on the edge of the
groove. Picking up speed as it grew.
It became immediately apparent to me that we were all going to be
knocked out of the way or killed when it met us, stood by the edge. And
when this dawned on everyone else, panic broke out. Seronians running
in all directions, some falling over each other in the surge. Among
the terror I saw a heap of people who'd been hurt in the crush lying
motionless. the Sphere rolling nearer and nearer. They were going to
be flattened. And then it rolled right through them...or they just
appeared to pass right through it! And when it had rolled past they
stood up, easily, no sign of ever being hurt. Just stood straight up,
looked at their bodies and passed out in shock.
I ran through the crowds searching for a horse. Holy men knelt
all around, praying to some god or other as if we'd witnessed a miracle.
Minutes later I was galloping by the edge of the groove trying to keep
up with the sphere as it made its way to the sea. I never caught up.
As it came to the cliff edge where the groove ended, the sphere burst
out into the air on its way to the waves far below, I braked my mount at
the edge, pulling the horse back so hard it reared and almost lost
control, bucking in a frenzy as I held it back while watching the sphere
hit the ocean. I sat there, still pulling on the reins, the beast below
me in pain, blood pouring from its ears. Down in the waves, a foment
of surf and high pitched straining sound as a hundred small spheres
briefly surfaced and sank".
FROM HERE TO NEW AND THEN
Before you realise Daville has finished, he is standing. "Nature
calls..." He sways slightly, corrects himself, and nature replies.
With all the poise of someone with a wildcat down his trousers. Daville
collapses on the table, knocking all your tankards flying.
"Gods above", cries Belar. "Look at the state of him... someone
help him up."
"I'll help him to his feet", says Pagan, and throws the remains of
a pitcher of ale in Daville's face. This act of supreme compassion has
the desired effect. Daville stands to his feet again, remembers his
urgent quest, and moves. Straight through the window and into the
"He might have used the hole in the wall I provided", adds Pagan.
Belar is hiding his face from the innkeeper's gaze. "There's only
one thing to do in a situation like this."
"What's that?", asks Borgalius.
Belar turns to the bar. "More Slamot Keepinner! Ah hem!
Innkeeper!" An empty tankard comes flying your way and follows Daville
out the window. B'manuel returns.
"Right away sirs. Would you like any heavy earth moving equipment
to go with it...or perhaps a few dozen balls and chains to introduce to
the other customers...get that man back in here before the locals start
thinking this is a tavern. Don't you know it's a school of demolition?"
"Thank you for your kind offer Innkeeper, just another pitcher if
you please and the sight of your lovely daughter will do us fine", Belar
replies and adds, "We will try to keep our house in order from now on."
Borgalius climbs through what is left of the window and fetches
Daville back. When they return, the Slamot has arrived and Belar
"Now where were we?...ah yes! Splendid stuff Daville. Quite the
strangest story I've ever heard...doesn't even bear thinking about.
Now, does anyone left have a tale a little more down to earth?".
There is a short pause as your colleagues look at each other and
then at you. You're obviously still miles away.
"I might be able to fit the bill", offers Cornilius. "Well, you'll
have to make up your own minds. But if it's earthiness you're after
Belar, my tale has plenty of it."
"Not earthiness--I said "Down to earth."
"I know. What did you think I meant? Now, let me think...where
shall I start. At the beginning, I suppose...yes...now, give me
"Our ship lay a league off the south coast of Magesta, an island
off Jagersmain; a land of mystery. The region had been mapped a decade
ago but only from the sea.
I had been sent by Darius, with ship and a crew of thirty, to
assess Magesta's suitablity for exploitation. We had decided to lay
off the coast because of the sketchy reports we'd received from previous
explorers. One such adventurer had lost all his ship's crew when they
had sailed too near to the shoreline. He had only survived because he'd
been in a row boat at the time, the victim of a mutiny. He had rowed
five hundred leagues back home, and was almost dead when picked up by
fishermen. As is usual in these cases, he told his story and died. It's
always the same.
The island was supposedly alive. Physically alive. The coast was
supposed to well up in front of you and swamp you beneath its form.
None of us believed this, but legend has its own truth so we weren't
entirely reassured. I had left the main body of the ship's company and
proceeded to the shore with a boat and eight men. We didn't know what
to expect. We couldn't actually see the coast until we were almost upon
it. We decided to test the legend we'd heard and began to throw ropes on
to the rocks a dozen strides away from us. The sea was calm. Perhaps
too calm, but we stayed our distance. Perhaps this was wise as when the
ropes landed on the shore we were met with an astonishing sight.
The beach responded. Sand hit us, knocking three of us from our
seats. We were covered in 'beach' with no other way to describe it.
Other than confusion. The row boat almost sank. I shouted in vain for
the beach to stop. It was convulsing; its entire length a wave of sand
and driftwood arching in curves and hollows as it mounted and subsided
in turn. This was not exactly the sort of reply I wanted. But it hadn't
finished its answer. Overhead, a granite cliff simply collapsed. Right
out of nowhere. Hundreds of tons of rock falling like some avalanche in
the mountains of Alpatia. Luckily we were still a few strokes offshore,
otherwise we would have been visitors to the Land of Our Ancestors.
What to do? We couldn't step ashore. Meanwhile the sea around us
burst and swelled with a passion all its own. We kept an even keel
adjacent to the coast. Our sole drunk lost his Dutch courage and leapt
overboard. Not much of a loss really, except he took our bottle of rum
with him. We looked down at him writhing in the surf but before we had a
chance to rescue him, or the rum, and we knew which one we were more
concerned about, he'd disappeared. Nothing left but a frothing mass of
blood and red-pink flesh decomposing by the second.
What to do? Not to leave the boat in any event, that's for sure.
We kept rowing along the shoreline and soon came across the mouth of a
river. We hesitantly steered around exposed sand banks, a navigation
eased by the presence of countless young seabirds apparently too tired
to leave their claim of sand. Beneath us, we could see the reason why.
Fish. Thousands of them. A seething mass of mottled tails heading for
the depths. Enough food for ever. It wouldn't have surprised me if the
birds had been too fat to fly. At this rate they would be fully grown
in a matter of days.
On the nearby banks were the saplings of familiar trees and bushes,
not a full grown plant in sight. Beyond them a thick mist. As of yet,
all we had seen of Magesta was coastline and this mist. We had no way
of knowing whether the river we were rowing was merely a strait between
two different islands. This uncertainty was soon cast overboard as an
One of our party, the old sea dog, Passmo, cupped some water to his
mouth and swallowed. He had barely an instant to tell us it was fresh
water before our exclamations silenced him. His hair had turned from
grey to black. Well, actually, it was even more astonishing than that.
He was no longer balding. This was the last water I allowed any one to
drink save for the supply we had on board. Oh, there were plenty of
grey hairs among us but how far would this restoration go? Something
was amiss, yes, but what? Best to be safe I say.
We made our way along the river, not a soul in sight, Passmo the
only member of our party who seemed to be enjoying himself. The scenery
wasn't really changing at all since there was nothing but mist to see,
but in the distance we could hear a roaring sound so ominous we almost
Our worst fears were realised as we cornered a bend in the river.
There before us was an enormous waterfall, maybe three hundred men high;
it was hard to tell with so much steam being forced up from the bottom
of the cascade. I've seen higher falls of course, mainly in Alpatia,
but this one was different.
The massive cascade was pink, if you can believe it, a pink the
colour of dawn. We rowed through the mounting turbulence, gazing in awe
at this unworldly vision. It was obviously impassable. We rowed into
a pool out of the main current, circling in the eddies, using our oars
as levers. There was so much water in the air we were soaking; our
beards turning jet black. The pool was calmer by the rocky bank and we
The mud between the boulders was alive with life. I suppose I ought
to say there was no mud at all for the river bank was composed solely
of...well...let's just say we had to squelch through various slug-like
forms. We were all retching. Really disgusting. Every step a murder.
We ran for higher ground for fear any of us slipped. Just imagine
drowning in that stuff.
After an hour we had cleared the fall and were proceeding upstream;
the river gradually and subtly becoming thinner and shallower. Almost
a stream. We waded across it at one stage to find a better path and were
taken aback by its contents. The stream was now a near solid mass of
Before long the water course practically disappeared as it became a
marsh area. Not a swamp as such; we could tread safely enough but,
again, what we were treading on...well, it's a good job we hadn't been
drinking Slamot. The mosses and gods know what else were covered with
some kind of thick green slime. This and the pinky water--and 'water'
is probably a bit of an exaggeration, were...well I won't go on.
"Try slowing down a bit too", interrupts Belar.
"Sorry...er...so anyway, I just kept thinking this stream will
eventually take us to the highest ground and from there we might be
above the mist and actually get to see the place. After all, that's why
we were here.
At times like this I often wonder why we do these things for
Darius. It's not just the money or the adventure, or the fact that I
value having a head on my shoulders. I'd probably get so bored
otherwise...I'm not saying that my adventures merely help me sober up
between...oh, look, I don't know what I'm saying.
Anyway, after a good hour of re-introducing our taste buds to the
contents of our stomachs we arrived at the other side and followed the
stream further. The water here was clear, free-running but the colour
The mist cleared in patches. Over to what we thought to be the
west we could see snow-capped peaks but that was about all.
Within another hour, we came to the river's source. A large hole in
clear white rock. Bright red water bubbled up and away. A spring.
there was enough room for a man to negotiate the passage way dropping
down before us so we decided to go underground. Don't as me why. It
just looked inviting; besides, I wanted to know what caused this island's
bizarre features and this water definitely had something to do with it.
The views could wait.
We slowly descended what must have been hundreds of feet of smooth
limestone. Although we had left the surface some time ago, there was
plenty of light down there. We could see quite clearly but had no idea
where the light came from. There were the usual stalactites and what
have you, all pink, and we waded across maybe three or four pools. The
caverns had the silence of the dead.
Although it was quite warm down there--and as we got lower, it got
warmer--there was no sound, no water dripping as you would expect.
There were also no stalagmites. Plenty of stalactites hanging around,
sorry about that, but no stalagmites. We couldn't work it out.
Down we went through smooth white passages, the spring water
guiding us. And then I almost hit myself in the face. What were we
doing? I'll tell you what we were doing...we were following a stream
that flowed upwards. I ask you! There was nothing like enough pressure
anywhere here to force water upwards. So were we walking downwards
after all? It felt as though we were, we couldn't think of any other
way of telling.
We stopped to rest and think this one out. It was as if we had
been following this trail instinctively. I couldn't remember ever
having said to myself, "This is what you must do next". I can recall
thinking that the light down there was somehow fascinating: it seemed
to dance on the passage walls, but beyond that, nothing. And on the way
across that marsh I had been so sure of my purpose. To get to the high
ground. Here we were deep underground. What had happened to change
my mind? Nothing had happened. I decided we should move on; we were
only becoming more confused.
As we made our way form the final cavern, the light seemed to be
getting brighter. We could also hear a familiar sound, one which was
totally unexpected. By the time we reached daylight, we were almost
deafened and very surprised.
There ahead of us was a massive pink curtain of falling water. We
were behind the waterfall we'd seen earlier. Somehow we had come full
circle. Odd though it sounds, the source of the stream was the pool of
the falls. We stood in amazement for I don't know how long. Then we
realized there was no way of reaching our boat without swimming. We had
no rope or grappling hoods. So we dived into that pool, under the
cascade and out to the other side...We found our row boat and left.
Someone else could go explore the rest of the island. I'd had enough of
I know my story's short but that experience made a lasting
impression on me I can tell you. Something also which was funny is that
when we got to the boat, there was our bottle of rum standing on a rock!
That scared us more than anything. We'd seen it sink to the bottom when
the drunk fell overboard!
"A gift form the gods, Cornilius...a gift form the gods?", suggest
"Or maybe the last kind act of a dying man who'd dedicated his life
to drink", adds Daville.
"Who knows", says Borgalius, "who knows?"
A CLUE FROM ABOVE
B'Manuel the innkeeper, walks over to your table, taps Belar's
shoulder and points at you. "so what's he on then, Belar?"
"How do you mean, Roland old friend?"
"He hasn't said a word since you came in...And I don't like the
look of him."
"Roland, this is a man of few words, the only survivor of the wrath
"I know that, but what's he on?"
"He was on a raft at sea for three days, if that's what you mean.
Leave him be Roland, he's not causing no harm."
"He's not really here at all", adds Daville.
"I can see that. Hey you...sat in the corner...hey!"
"Leave him be Roland. He'll respond when he has to."
"So long as it's just Slamot he's on...alright?"
"Alright, Roland, and, while we're on the subject, another pitcher
if you don't mind..."
B'manuel stares at you, shaking his head. "You're all the same,
you mercenary types...just make sure Darius pays me for the damage".
"Will do", says Belar, "now, who's left? Borgalius and Pagan,
methinks...who's it to be lads?"
"Let's toss for it, Borgalius", Pagan offers, "here, which side do
you want? Face up or down?". He lifts a bystander off his feet and
throws him in the air.
"Face up", cries Borgalius.
"Face up it is", answers Pagan.
B'Manuel curses cut through the atmosphere, interrupted only be the
groans of the bystander. Borgalius takes a deep breath and begins.
"This tale is going back a bit but I think you'll find it has the
measure of yours.
I was on a voyage across the Northern Oceans on my way to the court
of King Amalthus. I carried greetings and propositions form Darius;
they're still secret so I can't tell you anything about them except that
an alliance was in the cards.
I was expecting a quiet journey; the captain of the Red Star had
given me a State room so I was more than comfortable. Just as well
really; the Northern Oceans are inhospitable even in the summer months.
Each morning I would watch the deck-hands cut ice from the rigging;
by midday it would be thick again. Six times a day they would repeat
that task. Some days I would climb to the Crow's Nest and have a look
The Oceans were a grey blue steel with a horizon fading white.
Sometimes in the far off distance we would pass bleak, dark islands
where whale riders might live. We had no need to call in so we left
them well alone.
I would have liked to have paid them a visit and taught some
lessons but...well I don't suppose it matters now...Darius was mounting
an expedition to Verunis and required Amalthan's assistance with supply
lines before the winter set in. So we didn't have time for any
Some three weeks into the voyage we came across our first sight of
the Frozen Seas and made our way to The Warm Way channel reaching up to
the Pole. From my perch on high the sight was startling. Ice as far as
you could see on all sides; in some places packed into relief the height
of a keep, ahead of us the wide and welcome drift of warmer water.
The Warm Way had its own dangers, not least the icebergs lurking in
the mist, but also the Float Spikes some whale riders would leave out
hoping to split in two any cargo vessel passing through their
One day I took a turn on the bow pole stretching thirty strides
from the bow of Red Star and saw one. It was huge, maybe two hundred
strides long, and only just visible above the water line, its spring-
loaded spikes of sharpened ivory ready to snap at the slightest
obstruction. But we safely navigated the float and threw logs its way to
defuse it. We could see the long white spikes bursting fifty strides
high in vain.
After that, the days passed without much action, though I knocked
up quite a good friendship with the Captain. He'd sailed all over the
world in his time. One trip he'd been on, he'd had to maroon six
wizards on the island of Skyra. Heaven knows how he managed this, but
he reckons that as they sailed away he could see the results of their
anger. They were fighting among themselves; the sky above that island
turned red with flame. I wouldn't have mentioned this but I'm sure he
said one of the wizards was Suzar; maybe I was mistaken, I don't know.
Come to think of it, the Captain reckoned the bosun on that trip never
recovered. He was a changed man.
Anyway, the bosun on our voyage was a little strange too. In the
evenings he would sit out on the bow pole and sing to himself while he
played with a ring off of his finger. He used to drive us crazy with
these never-ending songs. After a while, the Captain ended up confining
him to quarters and I used to talk with him sometimes. He believed
this ring to have some sort of magical power; said he'd found it by
chance, and it would take him anywhere. One night I palmed it off his
finger without him realising, I'm quite good at that sort of thing
Pagan interrupts. "Get on with it will you...I've still got my
story to tell and time is getting on...what about the voyage?"
"Okay, okay, hold on...isn't a man allowed a little leeway? Here
take this and shut up".
Borgalius passes Pagan a purse and tells him to order more Slamot.
Laughter ensues in the little group as you all realise the purse is
Pagan's own, expertly fliched by number fingers. Borgalius's smile is
so sarcastic that for a moment it seems Pagan thinks he has gone too
far. Before he has a chance to lose his calm, Borgalius continues.
"Okay...A week alter a disaster of sorts struck. It could have
been worse but it was enough to delay us. We hit a berg. A large one
straight out of the midnight mist.
Luckily we hit it head on and so the bow pole took the force from
our momentum. As it was, the forward mast collapsed back on to the
main mast. We dropped anchor, still stuck to the berg. The next
morning I climbed on it's summit, roped up with the captain and
navigator whilst the deck boys got on with the repair work. The bow
pole had split a ravine in the berg's side. We wanted to see whether it
was possible to free ourselves without wrecking the bow pole. We would
need it for further spike floats.
I don't know whether any of you have climbed a berg but it's not so
difficult as you might imagine. The ice is usually dry and solid and
you can easily cut out steps. With a little skill you can end up with a
staircase, but you need ropes because those bergs are forever losing
chunks left, right and centre. Sometimes all you have to do is speak
too loudly and a whole wall will come crashing down.
When we reached the top, we stood for a while, whispering of
course, to work out how to approach the job. There was only one way,
really. I volunteered to absell down the ravine and see if I could hack
off the packed ice enclosing half the pole with my small axe. This
would be pretty dangerous but what the hell. Any fear was soon lost.
What I saw down there made me call down to the others at once. A hole
had appeared where the bow pole had split the ravine's inner edge and
through it we could see the green of vegetation. Masses of it. One by
one, we slid along the pole and inside. Immediately the ice on our
clothes and beards washed away; we were soaking.
Before us lay a jungle of tropical ferns, creepers and trees.
Parakeets called out to us and disappeared in fear. The surface of a
deep blue pool ruffled as neon fish swam for cover. We had to strip
down to our underwear, such was the heat. What on Earth had we found?
The chamber was perhaps a good hour's walking in circumference; the
walls curving up and way, appearing to be made of a glassy ice. At any
rate our ice picks made no impression on it. The chamber's ceiling, an
opaque crystalline white, required a full tilt back of our heads to
assess its height and scale. We helped ourselves to oranges and
pineapples--all manner of fruits lay above us in abundance; just the
thing for scurvy.
We were making our way along a trail bordered by creepers when it
dawned on us to ask who or what had made the trail? As this question
struck us, we unconsciously became silent. The dense jungle was
deafening. Bird calls, insect chatter, dripping water, absolutely
We wandered around following the trail as it twisted and curved,
sometimes following the edge of the chamber, sometimes cutting deep
into the foliage, always changing direction. It seemed like it went on
forever...I mean, it wen't nowhere in particular...and then after...I
don't know how long, we came across a clearing in what must have been
the middle of the chamber.
Above us we could see blue sky, clear blue sky, and feel a breeze,
but we were still sweating uncontrollably. At this rate the three of us
would go down with the flu when we left. It took us a few seconds to
focus on what was in the centre of the clearing. Guess what? There,
cut into the floor was a stairway spiralling downwards.
I don't know about you, but there's only one thing to do in a
situation like that. And before you say, 'go down', that's not what I
do. Check your exits. If the entrance is the only exit, then watch for
hidden triggers. What was open might close. That's the way I look at
it anyhow. I went so far as to get down low and check the area for trap-
doors, loose stones, you know the sort of thing. Nothing I could see.
So we went down.
Like I said, the narrow passage had this blue light, but we
couldn't see any torches and it was brighter down there than up top. In
the white walls we could see the shapes of door, but they had no means
of being opened. I kicked one and my boot bounced off like I'd kicked
rubber. We passed maybe ten of these doors and finally, at the very end
of the passage, came across one which had a small window. Looking
through we could see a room with walls of soft lights slowly flashing.
I had no idea what kind of lights they were...like bright coins glinting
in the sun. On one wall was a map of the world. It was traced in
outline with blue. There were a couple of chairs made out of that same
white metal. That's about it though. Again this door was locked in some
way and wouldn't budge...I don't know what we would have done if we'd
got through it...but then curiosity always leads you on.
The captain kept looking behind him...we were all thinking the same
thing: where are the occupants? In the other rooms? Upstairs
somewhere? We could have done with one of those objects you always come
across somewhere which lets you go anywhere.
We made our way back and up the staircase; the sound of the jungle
ringing in our ears again. No clues anywhere, everything appeared just
as we'd left it. We were determined to get through that final door
though. I hate feeling frustrated by something as simple as a locked
door. So we thought the best idea was to go back to the Red Star and
pick up heavy axes and hammers. Then we could at least let off some
The Captain and Navigator carefully slid back along the bow pole
and began cutting ice away with their hand axes. I just kept
watch...the chamber area was becoming noticeably colder and I wondered
how long it would take for the inhabitants to realise and come to seal
the hole. But no one came by the time my friends had cut through and
were sliding along the bow pole back to the ship. I turned and fell.
Into the ocean. I nearly died. As soon as I hit I could feel the cold
grip my heart with talons. That's all I could feel...I guess the rest
just went numb. They say that in the north you can tell the temperature
by the sound your spit makes when it hits the ground. The sound I made
was only too clear. I thought I heard someone else's low scream...But
the sound came from my stomach. I had no air in my lungs...the shock
had left me gasping.
They hauled me out with ropes and stripped me. I was lying there
on the deck being covered in blankets and rubbed so hard I thought I
would lose my skin. The Captain was leaning over and saying, "We are
free Borgalius, free...". I was just about to pass out when the whole
ship jerked violently with everyone losing their balance. The Captain
fell on me, face to face, and I saw his look of terror as we realised
what was happening. The Red Star was being shunted backwards at a
terrific speed, ice cold water from the stern pouring all over us, men
screaming in pain and the roar of shattering timber.
In a handful of seconds we were maybe half a league from the berg.
Above us, we could hear thunder cracking in booms that made the deck
bounce. I lay there spreadeagled, my entire vision filled with the sight
of a tornado plume, with an eye the black of coal. The rigging came
falling down around us, the men cowering under whatever cover they could
find. The captain had disappeared in the first wash of water and I was
left alone; now with the terror in the tornado's eye moving towards the
I propped myself up to watch it descend, throwing up the sea in a
confusion of white water and spray. Through it all I could see the
shadowed white form of the berg crumbling by the second. Moments later
a vast white wall of ice rose up from the ocean to surround and obscure
it. My last memory is of a bright white light silently rising into the
eye of the tornado and out of sight. So bright I had to close my eyes;
they were burnt for days afterwards like I'd been staring at the sun.
When I opened them again, everything was calm. Blue sky and Red Star
on a flat grey ocean.
.........AND A CURSE FROM BELOW
"The ways of other worlds remain unknown", Daville pronounces as
though learnt by heart. "And not for the likes of men".
Pagan shakes his head, smiling, "Now I know why you remain so cool
in the heat of the moment, Borgalius, and so cold blooded!"
"Even if I were to have died in those seas I doubt I'd have more
ice in my veins than you, Pagan."
"I have my reputation to think of."
"And your purse", adds Daville.
"I'm paid according to my abilities, as are we all.. Darius could
afford a hundred men on this quest but he has enough faith in us."
Borgalius looks perturbed. "Well, we'll soon know whether such
faith is deserved".
Pagan continues. "Belar, I'm sure our friend in the corner could
tell us more if only he weren't otherwise disposed."
"We will doubtless be told all in due course...we've now had a
score of pitchers...", replies Belar, as he quickly scans you all for
"I say once for Pagan's story and then away."
"And another for luck", Daville suggests, remarkable, considering
his face is now pressed deep into the bare oak of the table to stop his
head from spinning while he begins the long count to twenty.
"And another for The Lady Juville", adds Borgalius, looking out
past where the window used to be.
"Where are all the women anyway?" Cornilius peers through the
gathered mass of cloaks and uniforms, a view of intense disappointment.
Belar knows the answer only too well, "Locked away of
course...until we've left."
Pagan delays no longer. "Well while we're waiting for our first
final drink I may as well begin. Innkeeper! The Slamot!...Well, I have
met Suzar before, so I know what to expect. I can't say I have been in
his presence though or I wouldn't be here. You don't know what you're
letting yourselves in for. Suzar has an uncanny way of knowing what is
about to happen. I wouldn't say he has the sixth sense but he certainly
has something approaching it. I tell you, I'm not looking forward to
the morrow...my last encounter nearly cost me my life.
There were three of us riding swiftly along the single lane through
Carella Forest. Do you know of Carella?...it's a region once ruled by
the Corsarians...you must have come across them before...what's left of
them. This was before the curse of Pucarious took hold; before they
were decimated. This wizard had been thrown to a giant flesh eating
spider as a traitor. The curse was sweet revenge.
The lane was the only route Suzar could have taken...I had been in
Carella when Leander and Alexor arrived on a mission for Darius. They
needed someone who knew the area and was familiar with the kind of
trickers Suzar was famed for. We had been riding for two days through
that great forest, only stopping to rest the horses and pick up food
form the woodsmen. The ride was quite eventful despite the endless
tracts of forest; every so often the horses would rear up on their hind
legs as a huge Redwood came crashing down before us. No doubt some
magic of Suzar's. Leander and his friend, Alexor, would shout out in
despair as it meant more cutting of dense branches with our axes.
All this lessened our chances of finding Suzar before he made it to
Carella Castle, perched high on a river bluff above the trees. From
there the wizard could control the entire region. They had orders from
King Darius to offer him a variety of bribes and persuasions--anything
short of killing him. They weren't looking forward to that
possibility. One spell Suzar used had killed an entire army. It had
simply started to rain. Torrentially. And with the rain came death as
it burnt its way through the armour and flesh of five hundred warriors.
Carella Castle had been built before anyone kept records. It
offered complete authority over the river traffic which formed the only
means of safe trade in the region. Travel in the forest lane was prone
to danger from the many robber bands inhabiting the area. Let me
see...ten years ago a plague had ravaged the area forcing many to take
to sabotage, theft and kidnapping to make a living. Others had died of
hideous deformities and it was said that one day the whole of the forest
would become a dank and miserable swamp. Don't ask me who said
it...you can never be sure.
We had already killed four outlaws with our swords when we were
ambushed at a ford. If it hadn't been for Leander's quick reflexes in
catching their leader with a knife thrown from eighty strides we
wouldn't have lived to tell the tale. The band had panicked upon losing
an element of surprise and we honestly had no choice but to smash their
skulls with our crushing blows.
I tortured one while Leander and Alexor scouted the next ford
ahead. Among his pleas for mercy, he offered to tell me a secret. I
told him to go ahead. This outlaw said that the body of Pucarious, a
Wizard, lay in a secret crypt beneath the keep of the castle. The
Corsarians had put it there hoping to lift his curse. It had made no
difference. He babbled on about this as though it were of major
importance but it made no difference to me either. I put a knife
We had seen the Castle a short while before the ambush. As we were
now approaching the foot of the tremendous river cliff on which it had
been built, the Castle's tremendous ramparts disappeared out of sight
above us. We were too near to see it. We dismounted and left Alexor to
tend the horses. If we failed to return by sundown he was to return to
the King with the news.
It took us the best part of an hour to scale the cliff. We climbed
together linked by a short rope with just enough slack to take up in the
event of one of us slipping. A fall would have otherwise been fatal.
We eventually reached the top and rested to catch our breath.
We had decided to survey the locale before approaching the Castle
and its occupants. We needed to have our lines of retreat mapped out in
case our deal went badly wrong. We found a couple of likely routes
which offered less hazardous descent to Alexor and the horses, but not
much else. In fact there were no signs that anyone was there. The
stables were empty, no smoke drifted from the roofs, the well's bucket
was bone dry; no sign of anything else down there. We made our way to
the Keep. The Castle was part derelict, looking as though it had once
been successfully breached. But ivy now covered the ruins so it was
impossible to tell the means of the attack. The remainder of the
building was in disrepair, though still a potent symbol of majesty.
Let me see...within the keep was a large tower with what looked
like a room of some sort at the top. Beyond the Castle--indeed, all
around us--we viewed the vast expanses of Carella, a dark green
wilderness. We could see for six days travel at least. We crossed the
moat bridge and entered its outer courtyard. A wide staircase lay
before us, leading to a massive door the height of four men. We could
have driven the King's carriage up those stairs. We hammered our fists
on the great door, and thought better of it. The wood was as hard as
stone. We felt like fools. There was no answer. I kicked out and it
gently opened as if borne on air. We had to light the torches we found
inside; the keep was dank and pitch black. We carried them with us up
another impressive staircase and came to another large door.
On the wall by the side of it were a series of levers. It occurred
to both of us that these levers needed to be pulled down in a certain
order to gain entrance; otherwise some awful trap would befall us. I
took destiny in my hands and reached out. I closed my eyes, trying to
remember where I was. These could have been the last moments of my
life. Believe it or not, I guessed the sequence first time. The door
swung open as light as a feather.
We were confronted by a long defunct banqueting hall. Cobwebs
everywhere. The light of our torches casting brittle pinpoints through
the webs and off the discarded glasses and plates of a last supper;
sparks reflecting in the void like diamonds on black velvet. The whole
castle was so dark it was as if there were no windows. But we had seen
many from the outside, where were they now? Leander jumped up on to the
long banqueting table and to a friese which I imagined would cover a
window. This tapestry, sewn in deep red and gold, was enormous, filling
most of the wall. Dominating the design, and in the flicker of our
torches appearing to move, was the life-size form of a wizard stood
against a background of sunset shadows and two keeps on dark islands.
He held some sort of wand with a crystal hanging by a thread. On
noticing this, Leander thought he'd found a diamond. The crystal was
indeed real, but as I passed my torch up for a closer examination we
realised the diamond was merely glass. Embroidered below this daunting
figure were the lines of a dedication stitched in dark gold: For
Pucarious the Wise May his curse blind mortal eyes May his vengeance
bring you sorrows To all yesteryears and morrows.
Well...I've certainly read better epitaphs than that I can tell
you. Whoever this Pucarious was, he might have found a better
poet...and who on earth would feel like a banquet with that in the room.
Not being a man of letters or finesse, I responded like all lesser
mortals should. With two hard pulls I ripped it from the wall. And
with it so much dust we almost coughed ourselves to death. Lo and
behold there was the window as I had correctly guessed. But no light
shone through and it was still mid-afternoon. I climbed up on Leander's
shoulders to peer through. There was nothing to be seen. Although I
felt the wind and could hear birds, there was nothing to be seen. Just
pitch black. I thought I might have gone blind, though how I'm not
sure, but Leander saw nothing either and so confirmed my discovery. Of
course, you could say it was the curse of the tapestry and yet we could
see everything within the Keep clearly. Perhaps it was just that
We carried on through the hall and up into the tower, our swords
drawn. If Suzar were there, he had certainly disguised his presence for
we could find absolutely no clues of anyone having been there before
us. Save for the dozens of spiders. We entered one room at the base of
the tower which had a giant 'M' burnt into the door. This meant nothing
to us and I still don't know what it meant. Once inside we left pretty
fast. There was a web in there so huge it took me all my strength to
move one of the strands. I immediately felt a distant reverberation.
You could say the tension was mounting.
We got out so quickly we both fell in a heap on the floor outside;
the clatter of our swords echoing far and away along those cold stone
walls. We climbed the staircase to the room we'd seen at its summit, all
the way remarking at the view from the narrow windows. There wasn't
one. When we reached the door to the room we found it locked and
couldn't gain entry. I knelt down to look through the keyhole and saw
tapestried walls lined with the rolls of parchments. A large leather
inlaid desk in the corner meant it must have been a study. An empty
one. By this time we were beginning to feel a little empty ourselves.
Forlorn. Suzar wasn't to be seen and something had happened to the world
outside. We made our way back to the hall. The search was over..."
Borgalius reaches over to touch Pagan's shoulder. "But you don't
seem to have fully explored the place...Perhaps Suzar was carefully
Pagan turn to him and smiles. "Why on earth would Suzar hide from
me? His powers of darkness are unequalled..."
But Borgalius is unconvinced. "You should still have searched the
Keep properly...You might have found further clues..."
The retort is firm; Pagan's smile has gone. "We'll see what you
will do my friend...we'll see--listen. I haven't finished." He takes a
long swig of Slamot. "Let me see...Okay".
"Leander was convinced there must be some secret underground
passages in the Castle...There always were in these places...he'd been
in some where the rooms above ground were only a minute part of the
complete layout...but I reasoned with him. Suzar must have left, he
could feel quite safe confronting us if he wished as his powers were far
in advance of ours, so there was little point in searching this place.
He must have moved on through the forest. Perhaps he was making for
somewhere else...'maybe he knew of a gateway to another world...who
knows', I joked with Leander. We were out of our depth.
No. Suzar wasn't our immediate problem.. What concerned us more was
the view through the windows. Where had it gone? When we arrived at
the outer courtyard door, we held our breaths and hoped. We needn't
have bothered. We stepped out into a void. Our torches began to
flicker and were soon just a dull glowing red. We looked in all
directions as far as we could see--which wasn't very far--or then again
it might have been, there was no way of knowing...we couldn't see a
thing. But the biggest shock was yet to come. When we turned to fetch
more torches, the castle had disappeared...
What do you say now Borgalius, eh? The Slamot got your tongue has
it? No? There we were in a limbo...we could feel the earth beneath our
feet but it felt smooth and flat. Yet before, it had been rugged. I
could hear the dull sound of the river too, but I had no idea from which
direction it came. It seemed to be all around us. Well, what would you
do? We began to walk...and walk and walk. We searched for something,
anything, but found nothing. After what seemed like hours, Leander
began to break. I think he was going insane, couldn't cope...his
conversation got more and more deranged, raving on about the
curse...suddenly he ran off. I never saw him again.
I must have walked for half a day in some direction. I may have
been walking in circles for all I knew. Eventually I just collapsed, I
guess. I was completely exhausted...I'd given up. I awoke to the
sound of horses I couldn't see. Followed by the voice of Alexor almost
on top of me. But I couldn't see him...there was no one there. Then I
felt a hand on my arm and Alexor helping me up, asking what had happened
to Leander. He guided me up on to my invisible steed and along the
We spent the rest of the day looking for Leander, or rather Alexor
did the looking, for I still couldn't see a thing. In the end he gave
up. We had failed miserably. He had no choice but to return to Darius
and tell him the news. He took me with him to tell of the mystery of
the keep which was just as well for as we left Carella for the sea
voyage home, my sight returned. Just like that. So suddenly I was
almost blinded again by the sunlight. And here's the catch my
friends...here's the catch! When I looked back to Carella I could just
make out the cliff top were the Castle stood--once stood--for in that
far distance, the Castle had gone..."
EPILOGUE: CALLING TIME FOR ALL MORTAL MEN
By now the view beyond your table has cleared somewhat; there's
just a bunch of regulars over by the bar. B'Manuel is raking the floor
in a bid to brush away tonight's footprints. Since hearing mention of
the Corsarians, B'Manuel has been working his way over in your direction
and every now and then you see him look up as he overhears another
disclosure. He comes across Daville's body and merely rakes around him.
Pagan has barely finished explaining some of the finer points of his
tale when B'Manuel interrupts him.
"I too have heard of Carella and a tapestry...and I have read the
Chronicles of Anar too...I know of the sword and shield...I know of
their combined power."
"By whose tongue were you told?", asks Belar.
"I am descended from Corsarians...we know these legends from
"Then why did you not talk to us earlier, Roland. You may have
"I have no wish to discourage you from your task. I tell you
this...you will have to defeat Suzar in his own time...the quest will be
long and hard. I know these things."
Belar tries to probe further. "And how do you know these thing to
be true and not mere rumour?"
"I tell you this...Suzar is no mere wizard. If I may be so bold,
Suzar is not simply evil--he is The Evil!"
"Superstition Roland." Belar explains, "We know Suzar to be
fallible. Witness our friend in the corner..." he points to you, "...he
survived Suzar's wrath."
"Perhaps he was meant to...perhaps there's a bigger scheme of thing
here. I tell you this, Belar, take no chances...when you listen, make
sure you hear, when you see, make sure you notice--His power is
unrivaled--He can even change his form..."
As if to prove his point, he looks at you and nods, turning back to
the others. "Even your silent friend here could be Suzar!"
Nervous laughter bounces around the table; everyone sensing the
extraordinary power by which you manage to remain upright. Only
B'Manuel keeps a straight face.
"You may scoff at my words but you will eat your own! Suzar can
change into any form he chooses..."
"Only human form though surely?, asks Cornilius.
"I've heard many truths. That among them!"
"Rumours, Roland. Rumours". Belar refuses to concede.
"We shall see...we shall see."
"So tell us more..."
"The time has past...Gentlemen, I will drink a toast to you! Those
that can stand do so and join B'Manuel in raising tankards--I give you
the Legend of Slamot! To the brave warriors of Darius! May the gods
give you courage!...and clear heads."
He pauses and smiles.
"Now get the hell out of here...you're barred!'
"Be seeing you...", answers Pagan.
LEGEND OF THE SWORD
Welcome to the world of Anar, a magical land full of mystery and
adventure. A land that many have heard of, a land nobody wants to visit.
On loading the game, you will be greeted with the playscreen. Legend of
the Sword utilises a unique screen display format incorporating a number
of innovative time-saving features, as well as the usual text input
The major sections of the screen are as follows:
(top row across)
Select Map mode
Execute command issued via scrolls
(two windows on left)
Location cameo window
Action cameo window
(upper portion of the screen)
Map/Vocabulary window scroll
(mid-portion of the screen)
Candle shows strength of party
(lower portion of the screen)
Main text window
Prompt and input cursor
A: User Options
Move the pointer over the word OPTION to display a list of user options
in the scroll window. Each option is accessed by clicking on the
Clicking on CANCEL will abort an incomplete command which has been
constructed by using the on-screen Actions vocabulary.
Move the pointer over the word ACTION to cause the vocabulary screen to
appear in the scroll window. Click on one of the verbs in the list--the
window will be cleared and replaced by a second set of words, which will
relate to the selected verb.
Depending upon the nature of the sentence that you are constructing, you
may need to select an object or character from a third window. There
follows an example of a three part action (used in conjunction with the
ATTACK, SHOW, GIVE and THROW verbs).
If you wish to attack a character with a weapon that is contained in
your inventory, you may move the pointer over the word ACTION and then
click on the word ATTACK in the action window.
A second list will appear, containing the names of the characters you
are able to attack with a weapon. If there are more than six characters
that you are in a position to attack, you can scroll through the list by
moving the pointer over the top or bottom of the double-ended arrow
positioned to the left of the scroll window.
Click on the character that you wish to attack, and then click on the
If you wish to attack a whole party, or more than one character you may
drag the pointer over each of the names, or click on more than one name.
The character you wish to attack can be deselected by re-clicking on the
character's name. Once you have selected your victim, click on EXECUTE.
A third scroll window will now appear containing a list of weapons you
are carrying, your bare hands. Click on the weapon that you want to
attack the character with--if there is more than one weapon to choose
from, you must click on the word EXECUTE.
If you wish to attack a character using more than one weapon from your
inventory, you will have to drag the pointer over the weapon names or
select each weapon individually, and then click on EXECUTE.
If at any point you wish to cancel any command you are executing via
the scroll window, click on CANCEL.
Note: It is not possible to access all of the objects within a
location via the pointer driven scroll mechanism, and thus it is not
possible to complete Legend of the Sword without resorting to using the
D: Map Mode
Moving the pointer over the Map option will cause the scroll window to
be put into Map Mode. Initially, the map will only show your ship and the
surrounding coastline, but as you explore the land of Anar, the map will
build up as more of the landscape is revealed. The scroll window
itself only shows a small area of the map, centred on your current
location, but as you move around using the compass facility, the map
will scroll with you.
If you click anywhere within the map window, the whole screen will
expand to depict the landscape of Anar. Only the areas that you have
previously explored will be drawn on the map.
Underground and indoor areas are also mapped. Full screen maps of these
areas can only be viewed while you are actually within these sections.
Whilst in the full screen map mode, your position is shown by a cross.
To exit the full screen map, press the Space Bar.
E: Execute Command
Once a sentence has been constructed using the ACTIONS facility, EXECUTE
is clicked on to send the completed line to the parser.
F: Location Cameo
On entering a location, a cameo (or small picture) appears in the top
window. The cameo depicts the location that you are currently at.
G: Window Scroll Arrows
These arrows allow you to scroll through options within the scroll
window when selecting items from the vocabulary.
H: Scroll Window
This window is where the vocabulary options and the game map are
displayed depicting the action that you are carrying out.
J: Move up/down
L: Move in/out
These features are used to move the player up and down ladders and
stairs, in and out of rooms, and in any of the eight compass directions.
If any direction is accessible, it will highlight, giving visual
confirmation of available exits from your location to adjacent
locations. To move in an available direction, simply click on the word
itself, e.g. SW.
It should be noted that hidden exits will not be shown on the icons until
they have been discovered.
On using either the scroll or the movement icons to input commands,
visual confirmation of the input will appear on the text input line.
The movement icons will not function if a command entered via the scroll
window has not been executed.
The candle is an animated visual representation of your strength and
lifeforce. It will increase as you forage for and consume food and
drink, and it will also decrease as you expend energy wandering through
the Kingdom of Anar. On your travels, you may come across certain
magical foods and items which will restore your energy to full strength.
It is vital that the candle is not allowed to burn away to nothing.
N: Main Text Window
It is in this window that textual descriptions of locations, objects,
characters and actions are displayed, as well as commands that you have
entered via the keyboard or the ACTION feature.
O: Prompt and Input Cursor
The prompt > is displayed at the beginning of your text input line, and
the input cursor shows the end of your current input line.
MOVING AROUND THE LAND
To travel around the Island of Anar, use the following movement
NORTH, EAST, SOUTH, WEST, NORTHEAST, SOUTHEAST, SOUTHWEST, NORTHWEST, as
well as UP, DOWN, IN and OUT. These can be abbreviated to N, E, S, W,
NE, SE, SW, NW, U and D. There are no abbreviations for IN and OUT.
If you do not wish to enter the directional command using the keyboard,
the above commands can be given using the movement icons as explained
earlier in the manual.
The EXITS command lists all accessible exits from your current location.
Legend of the Sword also provides a set of high level commands enabling
the player to get to and from previously visited locations and objects
very quickly and without the drudgery of continually having to type
directional commands. These commands are as follows:
GO TO The program will find the shortest route
FIND between your current position and the
location of the object that you wish to
When using a GO TO or FIND command, you may notice something of interest
along the way that you might not really want to rush past. If this is
the case, press the ESC key to stop the journey. Also on your travels,
you may meet some creatures whom the program may give you the chance to
interact with. If this happens, follow the on-screen prompts.
Many actions or commands can be carried out by means of the scroll
window. However, as was mentioned earlier, it is not possible to
complete Legend of the Sword without resorting to use of the keyboard.
The game understands a large number of words which you can use to
'talk' directly to the game, and interact with characters that you meet.
On the most basic level, a verb and noun can be linked together to form
Similarly, more complex commands can be performed by combining a verb
with more than one noun, e.g.
>get sword, knife, and spear
>eat apple, cheese, banana
If the sword, knife, and spear were all the objects within a location,
you use the words ALL, EVERYTHING, or WEAPONS to replace them
collectively. Legend of the Sword also understands FOOD and MEN as
Exceptions are also understood by the Legend of the Sword parser. For
example, you may be carrying a sword, a knife, a spear, a tinderbox,
some rope, a coin and an apple. You might wish to give all the items
except the sword to Pagan. In this case, rather than typing:
>give the knife, spear, tinderbox, rope, coin and apple to Pagan
you may wish to type:
>give all except the sword to Pagan
Occassionally you may find more than one of the same type of object
within a location and therefore it may become necessary to differentiate
between them. This is achieved by the use of an adjective.
For example, you may find yourself in a location containing five keys
each of a different colour: Red, Green, Blue, Yellow and Brown. If you
were to type:
the computer would reply with a prompt of:
Which one? the red key, the green key, the blue key, the yellow key or
the brown key
If you wish to pick up the yellow key, your reply would be
>the yellow key or
In Legend of the Sword it is possible to refer to objects and characters
and HIM, HER, and IT, for example:
>get the heavy sword, examine it, throw it at Pagan and examine him
TALKING TO CHARACTERS
Your party are not a very talkative bunch of warriors, and prefer
fighting to talking. However, if you are lonely and feel like a chat,
or you feel that one of your party is more proficient at carrying out a
task than you might be, you can talk to your band of men in the