6 - A Stop in Talon

6 - A Stop in Talon

A Story by Stories Of Atlas

The latest story from StoriesofAtlas.com


'A Stop in Talon'

Chapter 1

Lightening crackled at her fingertips. Her hands hung by her side and the tingle of the dancing light caused her to flinch. The lightening stopped momentarily as she continued to walk. Nobody had seemed to notice, not even she seemed to realise the burst of energy from her hands. A few steps further down the path accompanied by the sound of hooves stepping on cobbles and the silent crackle of lightening returned to her fingers. She didn't look down, nor did she raise her hands, the feeling was like pins and needles, an everyday feeling that needed no investigation. She clenched her fists a few times, letting the blood rush back to her palms and the energy died away once more.

“G'rak?” she said, her soft voice suiting the surroundings perfectly. “When are we going to stop?”

Her Dwarven companion had wandered on ahead, much used to travelling alone.

“Soon lass” he called back “There be a sign post ahead, we'll head towards the nearest tavern”

“Will we be stopping there? I hate camping” she said

G'rak patted a small purse on his belt which jangled loosely, the few coins within tumbling over each other with plenty of space.

“Errrrr, we'll see Sky” G'rak mumbled “We'll see”

The sun was beating down and the path was dusty. Spring was in the air and the surrounding meadows were in bloom, blossoming, bursting with beautiful life. A cold breeze blew and sent a shiver down Skys back.

The duo made their way at an easy pace across the cobbled pathway. Sky let her mind wander as she watched the birds flying around manically, carrying twigs and grubs to hurriedly build a nest. She smiled to herself, freedom felt good, the air on her skin and rushing through her hair. Since she had been freed from her prison in the tower she had vowed to never take freedom for granted.

“Looks like there be a town down that way” G'rak said, pointing a finger down a wider road.

They both stopped their horses and rested for a moment.

“Have you ever been there before G'rak?” asked Sky

G'rak read the sign again, etched onto the wood was a beautifully written “TALON”. He scratched his beard and exaggerated his thought process.

“Hmm” he said “You know what lassie? I don't think I have”

They both smiled to each other. G'rak would often tell Sky of all the places he's visited on his travels, a seemingly never ending list of obscure towns and villages and hovels that can't really be described as either. The old Dwarf loved telling stories and Sky loved to listen absorbing every piece of information he had to offer.

His brow knitted in thought and he raised a flask to his lips, water spilled carelessly from the funnel and wet his lips and beard. Sky left her horses flank and wandered into the grass, G'rak watched her go and smiled at the change in her. She looked healthy and young, full of energy and joy.

Sky leant down to pick up a dandelion, pursing her lips to blow it's gentle petals into the air.
“Remember you make a wish before ya do that” G'rak said smiling and looking away.

Sky paused and closed her eyes before blowing the white fluff into the meadow breeze. The petals played on the wind raising higher and higher, until they had disappeared from sight.

The pins and needles returned to Skys hands once again, finally frustrated she raised her hands from her sides, the lightening in her palms spread and expanding before her eyes leaping in enormous arcs from fingers tip to finger tips, from hand to hand. She looked from the bolts to G'rak. He had turned away to attend to his horse and her eyes darted back to the lightening. She stretched her hands wide allowing the bolts to extend, creating a bridge of electricity that extended and contracted at her will.

She looked up just in time to see G'rak turn to face her again and she quickly put her hands behind her back, hiding the bolts from view.

“When did you last feed your horse?” G'rak asked

“Ermmm” Sky thought to herself “I think it was when we rested by that cave about ten miles back”

G'rak nodded and turned back to his horse, putting his flask of water to it's lips.

The electricity was still in her hands and Sky turned her back to G'rak to inspect it further. The magic was flowing stronger in her since the escape from the tower but she still couldn't control when it appeared and when it doesn't. The bolts had contained themselves to her individual hands now, they rose in waves from her wrists and crackled with energy as they left her fingers.

She smiled with breathless excitement and marvelled at how it didn't hurt at all. With her right hand she made a fist and her hand instantly engulfed in flame. She gasped loudly in shock and pushed her hand as far from her body as possible, waving it to try to put it out before she realised that she couldn't feel any heat from it, let alone pain. The burning flames and crackling electricity seemed deafening loud to her and she formed a fist with her other hand, amazed again to see it erupt in flames. Her curiosity was getting the better of her. This was new to her, she wondered what would happen if she drew her hands closer. The flames grew and grew in size and ferocity just as she felt G'raks hand on her shoulder.

Suddenly panicking she shot her hands away from her in one movement, pushing the flames up and away from her. They left her hands in an enormous ball of flames

“What in saviours name?” he began but stopped.

“Oh no” Sky shouted as the flames burned towards a field, screaming through the air like a meteor. She raised her hands more through instinct than design and the ball of fire began to ascend sharply.

G'rak looked from the flames to Sky and to the flames again, his mouth agape in shock.

When the meteor had raised far above Atlas Sky clapped and it erupted with an explosion of of silent bright fire. The shock wave knocked them both to the ground and a hot wind burned down on them both.

There was no pain, a tingling sensation, pins and needles but no burning. G'rak picked himself up, coughing loudly. The heatwave seemed to have sucked all the moisture from him but upon first inspection he had escaped unharmed. Sky on the other hand was on her hands and knees, tears streaming from her eyes and breathing hard. G'rak ran over to her and helped her sit down.
“Calm down lassie” he said reassuringly “Slow your breathing down”

Sky just nodded, panic still showing on her face, she was unable to look anywhere except her hands. G'rak saw the bolts of lightening dancing on her palms

“Look at me Sky” G'rak said “Look at me”

Sky slowly raised her face, her eyes still locked on the hands. He gritted his teeth tightly and took her hands in his. The electricity seemed to escape Sky's hands and slip through between his fingers. It darted across the backs of his hands and sunk back down like insects crawling with blue and red flashes pulsing and arching in beautiful patterns.

“That's it, slow down” he said

Sky finally gave him his eyes. As soon as she did a big smile crossed her lips and she burst into laughter. The lightening stopped almost instantly as confusion rose in G'rak

“What's so funny lass?” he said, a little confused

She let go of his hands still laughing louder and louder just pointing at G'raks beard.

He raised a hand to touch it. The static electricity had caused his hair to frizz out around his head with Skys touch.

“You look like a flower” Sky said through tears of laughter as she fell onto her back laughing.

G'rak grumbled and cursed under his breath as he poured water from his flask into his palm in an effort to smooth his hair down to his head.

After much grumbling and laughing G'rak finally got his hair and beard calmed.

“I didn't know you could do that lass, did you?” he asked

Sky looked at her feet as though she was receiving a telling off

“I've seen lightening on my hands before, that's never happened though” she said finally.

Sky had sat up in the patch of grass where she had collapsed laughing, she examined her hands and rubbed them together. There was no sensation in them now, numb as though she'd slept on it and slowed the blood flow to her digits. G'rak paced over and sat in front of her sighing heavily as he eased his old bones down to the ground.

“We need to make some decisions” he said, a grave look across his face.

Sky looked up at him, still unable to hide a smirk as she remembered how crazy his hair had been

“This is serious lassie” G'rak said “We need to talk about this magic you have”

“What's the matter G'rak” she said “It was an accident, I didn't hurt anyone”

Around them the birds were singing, the blue sky contrasting beautifully with the yellow and green spring meadows. The world was full of life and joy but G'raks face was solemn and serious.

“I know you've been practising” he said


“No, let me finish lass” G'rak interrupted “I don't blame ya but it's too dangerous for so many reasons. That cult, that Pan fella he found ya once he can find ya again, word travels fast and if someone sees you firing light from your fingertips he's gonna find us even quicker”

Sky looked down at her hands, tears rushing to her eyes. “I'm sorry” she said

“Don't be” G'rak said. He raised a hand to her chin and lifted her gaze to meet his

“You'll look after me though? If Pan comes for me again”

G'rak smiled softly “I can do the best I can lassie, but I'm an old Dwarf, there's only so much I can do. We need to keep quiet and figure out what to do is all”

Sky sniffed and closed her eyes tight, fighting the tears away.

“So, no more magic?” G'rak said

Sky couldn't bring herself to look into G'raks face. She felt a crushing blow in her heart, the magic surging through her veins, giving her life, the promise of amazing abilities and exciting adventures lay within her but she was being asked to deny it all, to forget that she had these skills, to be normal.

“At least until we get you somewhere safe” G'rak added, sensing her sorrow

“Ok” Sky said tentatively

“No more magic?” G'rak asked

“No more magic” Sky repeated clenching her fists.

G'rak smiled and let out a sigh of relief. “That's a good girl” he said reassuringly. “Now lets go get us some booze”

“Can we?” Sky asked, wiping her tears from her eyes

G'rak glanced down, realising his young company.

“Well” he began “You can have a half a human ale, that stuffs like water anyway” he let out a laugh and lifted Sky up from her seated position. “Talons only a couple of mile away, we'll be there in no time. I'll lead your horse as well, you get some rest”

“Ok G'rak, I'm starving”

The pair collected the reins to their horses and continued down the road. The sound of laughter gently fading away along with the clip-clop of hooves tapping against the cobbles and the rich sound of birdsong ever present and ever beautiful as the breeze wafted along the meadows. The spring sun beamed down on the land, hinting at summer heat, fighting through the cool breezes that were all that remained from the winter.

Farmers and farmhands worked busy deep in the field. Hidden away from sight by green and gold crops that rose to the skies. The wooden structures of Talon off in the distance with plumes of smoke from chimneys strained the sky like the trails of some great snake escaping from the houses. The sound of music wafted softly through the fields.

Chapter 2 �" plump out the conversation with the sweet seller and the music scene

G'rak and Sky entered the village of Talon to the sound of the hustle and bustle of a busy market place. Smiles on the faces of merchants and customers alike as they chatted noisily and went about their business. The village itself was picturesque in its standing, wooden houses built around a large green where a few children played under the watchful gaze of a local school matron. The shop fronts in the centre of town held heavy signs which showed icons of what was for sale. The tailor bared a large cotton reel, the butcher a large haunch of meat.

Sky gasped at the beauty of the scene, such an idyllic area and such a perfect little village. The smell of spring was in the air, flowers and blossom and fresh pure air.

G'rak noticed the wonder in Skys eyes and smiled. He halted the horses and motioned for her to climb down.

“Why don't ya go and look around lassie?” he said “I'll sort out a place for the horses”

Sky smiled broadly and said “Ok” in a sing song voice that put a smile on G'raks face.

Sky began to skip away

“Oh and Sky!” G'rak shouted after her. She spun around again and tilted her head inquisitively

“None of.. well, none of you know what” G'rak called. Sky just laughed and nodded vigorously before turning and skipping away again.

The market place was busy with all the villagers crowding around various stalls. Stall holders called out over each other, advertising their wares, constantly shouting out numbers, weights and prices that began to sound like a secret code to Skys unknowing ears. The sound was intoxicating and Sky span around happily watching people handing over gold coins in exchange for anything you could imagine. The smells of exotic meats, of baking bread, of fresh silks and most of all people surrounded her. The time on the road hadn't prepared her to be surrounded by so many sights, so many wonderful things in one place seemed like the most unnatural thing that could occur, but it all seemed so fresh and exciting to her young eyes.

“Little girl!” one of the marketeers called out “little girl!”

Sky turned to where the voice was coming from. A stall holder was leaning forward over his wooden table and was smiling broadly at her. He was a jolly man, a bald head that shined in the days heat and a large white moustache that seemed to glow in front of his red cheeks.

“Why don't you come and take a look at my wares?” he asked, spreading his arms proudly over his counter.

Sky walked up slowly, the stall was covered in small sweets of every shape and colour.

“Whoa” Sky gasped in amazement. Even the air smelled sweeter at this stall.

“You are right to be amazed” the stall holder smiled “I have travelled across Atlas, procuring where I go all of the rarest, all of the sweetest, all of the brightest, the sourest, the smallest, the largest the roundest, squarest most incredible edible selection for you to digest. My stall, this stall is the sweetest stall you will have ever set your eyes on”

Sky began to salivate as she looked over the delicious delicacies. Her eyes focused on a tray near the middle of the stall. She pointed “What are those?”

“Ah” the shopkeeper smiled again “The young lady has a keen eye for obscurities” he lifts the tray out of the wooden stall and picks up a large red sweet, it glistens in the sun light. He motioned for her to come closer, looking around him cautiously and in a hushed tone he continues “This is as precious as a jewel from an ancient crown, this is a cherry sweet so succulent that only the most perfected pallets can taste every nuance in it's range. Have you by chance heard of the Elf Naibu?”

Sky shook her head, her eyes not leaving the sphere of sugar between his fingers

“Naibu dedicated his life to making sweets, it is said that after he perfected this he entrusted the making of just five hundred to his closest and oldest aid Tairon. Upon the orders completion he tore the recipe up murdered Tairon and took his own life, lamenting that he would never make anything so pure, so sweet, or so perfect again”

Sky gasped again, wiping the drool from her lips

“I have travelled long and far for customers for his particular sweet. I've turned Kings away from my stall because they weren't worthy of Naibus' craftsmanship but I sense in you, yes, I can see it in your eyes that you might just have what it takes.”

“Really?” Sky asked, her eyes as big as dishes

“ Yes” The shopkeeper smiled “And you may be able to take a taste of Naibus' greatest work for just two gold coins”

She shook herself free from the trance and patted her pockets

“But I don't have any money” she said finally

The shopkeeper looked crestfallen and dropped the sweet back in it's tray “Then get away from my stall” he said finally, the illusion he created collapsing instantly.

Sky turned away from the stall and shuffled sadly along the street towards the village green. It was much larger than expected and at one end the schoolhouse stood tall. There was a bell tower attached too it and from the street you could see a mighty bell swinging on it's axle, not making a sound yet but being a nice place for a variety of birds to sit. Sky wandered onto the grass, smiling as the grass gave a gentle relief to her sandalled feet that the cobbles weren't providing. Two boys were playing with a ball, kicking it to one another and then calling “change” before charging each other down with tackles. Sky just tutted to herself and shook her head as they carried on their little game, not noticing her. She cast her eyes back to the market, there was no sign of G'rak, “Probably having to show his papers again” Sky thought to herself.

She wandered over to a bench and sat down in the sun and thought back over the last month. Since the escape from the tower Sky had been inseparable from G'rak, he had taken her in and swore to look after her until they could work out what to do next. Aracel had been a distant memory, she still didn't know much about him and G'rak refused to tell her anything about him apart from that he was “troubled” which was an unusual word for G'rak to use. She didn't tell G'rak but she was relieved Sky didn't trust him, she caught him looking at her a few times as though she was a threat, his eyes flashing with menace. A shudder shot through her spine just as the most wonderful music started playing.

The sound danced around the park like a butterfly, it seemed to drift and sway and arc through the air as though it were dancing on the breeze. It filled Sky with a breathless desire to dance, she looked around from doorway to doorway for the source of such beautiful music, it was hard to track down as it seemed to emanate from all around as though it were the wind itself. Her eyes finally locked on to a piper sat on the grass in the corner of the green in the shade of the schoolhouse. Not many people seemed to notice him there, the two boys playing ball had left it alone and wandered over to investigate the sound as well. Sky rose to her feet and followed the sound over to the strange man in the corner. His fingers glided over the instrument at his lips, his eyes were locked closed with concentration and a smile of contentment showed across his face. The two boys had sat cross legged in front of him, swaying slowly to the music, they were laughing and joking. Sky moved closer until she was standing just behind them as the music dived and whirled around her, it was almost tangible in the air as spirals and shapes of all colours, as though the music was communicating some strange message to her.

The boys turned around to her and motioned for her to sit with them, patting the ground next to them. Sky circled them slowly and began to sit

“Ah! There you are lass” a voice called from nearby “I've been looking for you” G'rak was stood behind a little picket fence nearby.

“Oh” Sky said, shaking her head free from the music “I've been listening to the piper play. He's great isn't he”

G'rak tilted his head and looked over at the piper. “Ah, music all sounds the same to me. C'mon lets get some food”

Sky nodded her head enthusiastically and ran towards G'rak, leaping over the fence that separated them. G'rak caught her and stumbled back

“Careful girl, I'm just an old Dwarf mind”

Sky laughed and they both walked together hand in hand towards the nearest inn as the music washed away like a tide.

* * *

The pair settled down inside the inn, the warm oak table glistened with spilt drinks and reflected the crackling embers that erupted from the fireplace. The flames were the most exciting part of the bar as Sky cast her eye over the lethargic patrons, the perfect come down from the excitement outside. A couple in the corner were animated in conversation which was carried in hushed tones which seemed to be the way all talking was to be carried out under this roof.

“Barman!” G'rak shouted over the silence “A pint of whatever be in ya barrels for me and water for the girl”

G'rak turned back to Sky to ask her what she wanted to eat ideally but before she could offer a reply a pasty man had come from around the bar and had bent double over G'rak

“How can I help you sir?” he asked, his voice as wheezy as his appearance

G'rak looked the man up and down

“Who are you?” he asked

“I'm the barman” was the reply

G'rak turned to him once again and cast his eyes over him

“Well go get your dad, I want to order some drinks” G'rak told him in his loud Dwarven voice

The barman's face fell and he wandered back to the bar to fetch some drinks for his newest patrons.

“Nice town” G'rak said finally

Sky just smiled and looked around the inn once again. It was a cosy place, she'd seen bars and hotels of all kinds since she had been on the road with G'rak. Aracel had insisted on sleeping rough most nights but when he left she and G'rak decided to take in the local culture a lot more and join the community along their travels.

She rubbed her fingertips against the palms of her hand, they were itching furiously, as though creatures were burrowing into her fingertips.
“Are you ok lass?” G'rak asked

“Hmm” Sky asked without saying a word

G'rak just nodded to her hands

“Oh, don't worry” she said softly with a smile “It's the magic, my fingers start to miss it”

G'rak smiled a smile that was corrupt with worry

“If ya ever need help with anything just ask” he said calmly with compassion in his voice.

His kind words were halted suddenly by the barman slamming two glasses onto the table

“One gold twenty five silver” he muttered holding out the palm of his hand in front of G'raks nose

G'rak growled faintly and rushed a hand into his pocket to retrieve the coins and slammed them on the table with defiance. The barman muttered something under his breath and attempted to pick the coins up but was unable to grip one of them. He scooped it off the table resulting in his receiving hand being doused with spilt booze.

G'rak winked at Sky who covered her mouth with both hands, stifling a laugh as the barkeep slunk away. There was a warmth in G'raks eyes when he looked at Sky, he'd only been travelling with her for a couple of months but he already loved her like a daughter. He watched her take a sip of her water and was reminded of the time he had found Aracel, nursing him back to health and trying to help him remember his past.

“Are you ok G'rak?” Sky asked, her voice echoing around the glass at her mouth

G'rak looked up from the table where his gaze had fallen “Aye lassie, just thinking is all” he attempted a smile. “Lets sort some food out anyway, and see if this place has any rooms free for us”

Chapter 3

Sky lay on the bed with her calves dangling over the edge, her hands interlocked over her belly letting out the occasional contented sigh. She moaned happily, plump from the meal they had just eaten. G'rak was busy emptying a bag which seemed primarily full of weapons. This was his ritual every night at every bar. He would examine the room slowly and methodically, noting exits and places to hide, he found things in rooms that were never supposed to be found, secret doors, attics, cellars all sorts but that was not the reason for his attention to detail. G'rak was convinced that they were being followed, that the cult leader Pan would be on their trail and they had to keep moving and be ready at all times. He lifted a heavy axe from the bag and inspected the edge, still sharp he concluded and placed it next to the bed with a dull thud.

“We've been on the run for ages G'rak” Sky said “Is this still necessary?”

G'rak didn't look up from his work, he didn't respond, he just carried on. He took a knife from his belt and placed it under the pillow of his bed.

“G'rak?” Sky asked again

He let out a sigh and sat on the bed next to her, facing away

“I'd never forgive meself if those monsters took you away again” he said “While you're under my care lass no harm will come to you again. I'll make sure of that” he turned around and gave her a soft smile which quickly turned to concern when he looked into Sky's eyes.

“What's the matter?” Sky asked

G'rak was unable to speak for a moment, he just stared into her eyes, eyes that used to be soft and brown where now glowing blue light, as though her eyes had turned into magical orbs inside her head.

“You...your eyes” G'rak managed to say

Sweat had started to bead on Sky's forehead and her face had turned pale

“G'rak, I don't feel so good” Sky complained, her voice fading

“It's ok girl” G'rak said, taking her hand in his “It's just the magic, it's just trying to get out, you have to fight it. Do you understand?”

Sky nodded and curled up on the bed. G'rak placed a hand against her forehead. His mind racing not knowing what to do in this situation. He decided to fetch a damp cloth and try to keep her temperature down.

He ran over to the sink and doused a cloth with the water, running back he placed it on the back of her neck. Sky was shivering on the bed, curled up in the fetal position, the soft blue from her eyes shining down on the bed. She was covered in sweat, G'rak had never seen a fever come on so quickly, her hair was matted to her face, he carefully pushed each strand off from from her face. He hadn't seen her like this since they rescued her from the tower, so weak and vulnerable, he put the cloth to her forehead and wiped a tear from his eye.

“You'll be ok lass” he said quietly, almost for his own benefit than for hers “you'll be ok” he repeated. She let out a sigh and past out into sleep, the blue aura still showing through her eyelids. She shivered silently on the bed, the occasional groan passing through her lips unconsciously. The blue light that had changed in her eyes pulsed through her eyelids and the occasional crackle of electricity jolted through her body, her body convulsing and contracting with uncontrollable force but which seemed painless.

G'rak let the damp cloth rest on her head and buried his face in his hands for a moment. He turned back to her and checked her pulse, just in case. She was still alive, her heart was racing in her chest. Her mousy brown hair was dark with sweat and she still shook violently with the fever. G'rak stood up from the bed and wrapped her up in a blanket hoping not to wake her, his brow knitted with concern. He couldn't understand how quickly she had taken ill, he was breathless with exhaustion already and confusion, a hundred thoughts hit his mind and he didn't know what to do next.

He crossed the room to the window and peered out on the little town, the sun had began to set and a million stars filled the sky already. “There must be a doctor here” he thought to himself as he closed the curtains “perhaps I can persuade them to keep our presence quiet”.

Even though he wanted Sky to be healthy, he wanted her to be safe just as much. It was because people knew of her abilities that she got captured the first time, G'rak wasn't going to let that happen again.

He swore to himself that he would find a doctor tomorrow if she wasn't better and he would do what it takes to keep him quiet about her.

The thought of what he had to do struck him with fear but he forced it to the back of his mind. He picked up a chair from the corner and brought it closer to Skys bed, seating himself in it. His axe was close just in case and he sat and watched her sleep, squirming uncomfortably whenever she moved or groaned with pain.

* * *

Sky woke up suddenly, the sweat pouring down her face, her skin felt freezing cold but her body was on fire. She made small movements, afraid to do anything but felt the urge to shake herself free from this torture. Her eyes opened softly and she was able to make out the figure of G'rak sat nearby in a chair, fast asleep. She allowed herself a smile but a twinge of pain shot through her body like electricity and caused her to wince in muffled agony. Hours seemed to pass by and she rocked and shook through the turmoil, not wanting to wake G'rak from his rest. Eventually she gathered enough strength to sit up in bed, there was a glass of water on the bedside table that G'rak must have placed for her earlier after she passed out, she gulped it down and felt much better for it, the water seemed to douse a fire within her body. Throughout her movements her ears had rung noiselessly, an internal buzz of energy, the throb of her pulse beating against her ear drum. As she sat up she felt herself calm down a lot, the buzz changed to a hum and from a hum to a silence,

Sky sat on the bed, her skin slick with fevered sweat but she already felt better. Her fingers itched still, she wanted to scratch her skin off to stop the crawling sensation inside her body. She ached all over but she was beginning to feel better.

“Maybe it's over” she thought to herself. She pulled her knees up to her chest and hugged her legs to comfort herself, hoping that she'd been through the worst of it when a noise started to seep in through the walls. She instantly recognised it as music, gentle at first, almost none existent but the sound became louder and louder but always seemed so delicate and wonderful, as though it were coming from everywhere and nowhere at the same time. The music poured from the walls and dripped from the ceiling and filled the room like a soothing wave of beauty, the pain that she endured was all behind her and forgotten, all that existed was this single thing, this beautiful sound that became her everything.

The pain drifted from her body as though it had been a dream and she found herself compelled to stand. She looked towards the sleeping Dwarf, still in his chair, still asleep, unaware of the music that had filled the room. Sky stood up from the bed, her body swaying in time too the music as she relaxed into the mysterious song. Her pain had subsided and all that was left was the music, the song that she wanted, she needed to understand to hear it at the source. There was a soft breeze teasing the curtains away from the open window.

“The music must be coming from outside” she thought to herself, but somehow she'd already known that, as though she were in a dream, privy to information that she had no knowledge of before. She swayed towards the window, her arms floating and raising, losing herself in the music, her face frozen in complete contentment. The music grew louder and louder in her ears as the tempo increased to a dizzying speed. She reached a hand forward towards the curtains as she approached, gripping it between two fingers and as she drew it back she was left in complete silence. Silence that echoed around the room louder than the music had been waking her from her stupor, waking her and freezing her in the moment, the moment of looking down onto the street beneath her, looking down at the figure of a man staring up at her, a man shrouded in shadows but with eyes that burned deep in her mind.

Sky froze for a second staring back with wide eyes full of fear and confusion, their eyes were locked together firmly she was unable to look away. The eyes that seemed more animal than man, that seemed to glow in the night. The figure just stood there, safely engulfed in shadow and mystery, silently beckoning her to come to him. Sky turned away quickly to escape him but he was there, in front of her, in the room his eyes full of madness, a face contorted with an evil so pure. She tried to scream but nothing came out. G'rak still sat asleep in his chair as the shadowy figure glided forward towards her, floating forwards becoming larger and larger, staring at her with cruel reptilian eyes. He reached forward to grab her and Sky screamed, she screamed and yelled with fear until her lungs burned in her chest and the tears dried from her eyes. She screamed louder than any music, than any voice, a scream that was primal and was born of pure fear.

“It's ok... Sky....Sky.... You're ok. It's just me”

The voice was faint and she only just heard it. When she opened her eyes again the shadowy figure seemed to melt away and all that was left was G'rak rushing over to her, holding her wrist with concern. She looked around confused, she was sat by the window, the light of the morning was shining into the room and G'rak was there, and she was there and nobody else was in the room.

“It's ok, it was just the fever” G'rak said again, holding her hand

Sweat was glistening on her skin and her heart was still racing but she managed a soft smile of relief that the dream was just that, a dream. A terrifying nightmare that felt so real.

“I'm ok” she echoed G'rak “I'm fine”

Chapter 4

G'rak wrung his calloused hands as he waited at the top of the stairs. The bar beneath him was filling up, the midday march of hungry workers looking for a meal and a drink to quench their thirsts. The Dwarfs dry tongue was the least of his worries as he paced a short distance across the landing. He hadn't slept since he had found Sky screaming in the corner of the room last night. She had passed out again shortly after. G'rak felt the nausea raise in his throat as he felt completely powerless to protect her.

The doctor had asked him to wait outside as he inspected Sky. G'rak couldn't help but imagine the worst, the sound of her screams, the sight of the fear in her eyes was still vivid in his mind, he'd never seen her so scared, not since the tower. He looked down from the balcony for a moment at all the patrons in the bar, happy, unknowing and he wondered to himself.

“How do I get into all this?”

Before he'd discovered Aracel those years ago G'rak had been a fairly normal Dwarf, living in a small time out of Arcadia with his wife. Now all of that was gone, a fugitive, a wanderer, protecting the world from a huge secret and protecting a girl from saviour knows what kind of dangers.

He could hear coughing and muffled voices in the room but had no knowledge of what was being said, twice he thought about pressing an ear against the wood but he had forced himself away at the last moment.

G'rak closed his eyes and turned his back on the door. His worry was taking over, he needed to focus. He wasn't just Skys friend and mentor, he was her protector as well. He needed to focus on that. Since she had fallen ill he had not been paying attention to his surroundings, he didn't know who was in the other rooms, he didn't even know who was in the bar. At this thought he opened his eyes and gazed down from the balcony, scanning his eyes down at the patrons. Six men were sat at the tables, four of them together the other two at a table by the fire. Workers in from the fields by the look of their clothes. One of them with a weapon beneath his overall, from the size of the protrusion caused by the hilt it was probably a dagger. They were all eating. The bar staff, a man and a woman, probably husband and wife posed no threat and a man sat at the bar, cast in shadows far from the crowd and away from the window. He had his his back to the rest of them, an instrument of some kind protruding from from his belt, his shirt tucked around it.

G'rak allowed himself a sigh of relief that the place seemed secure. He promised himself to not let his vigilance slip again.

“Sky has to come first” he kept telling himself.

The door to the room slowly creaked open and G'rak turned to see the doctor closing it again slowly.

“Will she be ok Doc?” G'rak said, unable to hide the panic in his voice

The doctor was wiping his hands with a tissue which he replaced into a waistcoat pocket. He pinched his nose and pushed his spectacles back into place.

“I've never seen anything like it” he said, seemingly to himself

“Will she be ok though?” G'rak repeated

“Hmm” the Doctor looked up “Oh, it's hard to tell, she seems to be under attack from something in her blood. Like a virus is eating her away, but nothing that I've seen before. Maybe it's something to do with where you've been”

“Nowhere” G'rak said defensively “Well nowhere unusual, We've been heading south from Mageton”

“Hmm” the doctor said again, rubbing his chin with his hand “Funny you should mention that”

“It is?”

“The only time I've read about such a reaction outside of lotus leaf addiction of course was from an old book of curses, from the bad times”

G'raks face turned pale as the doctor continued

“It spoke of an illness brought on in the natural order of magi who weren't practising their magical abilities. I almost wish it was that”

“What do you mean” asked G'rak

“Well if it was that then it would pass and she'll be fine. It takes a few days for the magic to pass out of the subject as the arcane blood is replaced by normal blood cells and that causes the symptoms. But seeing as a case of that hasn't been reported for a thousand years I have no idea what will happen here.”
G'rak tried to not let his relief show. “Thank the saviour she'll be ok” he thought to himself

“I've prescribed her some pain killers” the doctor continued “I'm afraid that that's the best I can do”

“I understand, thanks Doc” G'rak took the mans hand and shook it vigorously, transferring some gold pieces in his palm as he did “I'll let you know if there is any change”

“Please do” the doctor said as he walked away, pocketing the coins “And Mr G'rak?”

“Yeah Doc?”

“Please don't leave town for a couple of days”

G'rak rushed into the room to see Sky. She was sat on the bed, the fever was still obvious in her pale exhausted face.

“Well?” she said as she recognised him

“You'll be fine lassie” G'rak said with a broad grin on his face “The magic is leaving your body and causing you to be sick but in a couple of days it'll be gone. You won't be sick and we can stop running” G'rak hugged her tightly, not noticing the confused look on Skys face

“That's wonderful” coughed Sky, trying to hide the pain in her voice.

“What's the matter?” G'rak asked

“It's nothing” Sky said, pulling away from the embrace and laying back on the bed

“Don't you want to be better?”

There was a silence in the room for a few moments. The sound of the busy bar could be heard through the floorboards and the marketplace outside was full of cheerful shouting. A world apart from the paranoia and fear that followed G'rak and Sky.

These thoughts ran through her head as she lay back. She could be a part of that world, the normal world, not being chased any more, not having to run, she would be safe.


“I'm just not used to thinking about not having magic any more. These last few months since you and Aracel saved me from the tower have been amazing, I can do amazing things and it feels right, it feels like me I feel like I mean something, like I'm special”

G'raks face fell “I'm sorry lassie, I didn't realise. I've just been so caught up with keeping you safe I didn't let you decide what you wanted to do. I just made the decisions for you.”

“It's ok G'rak” Sky flashed him a smile “You've always done what's best for me, I'm lucky to have you looking after me”

G'rak smiled back at her. “What do ya want to do?” he asked

Sky chewed her lip in thought for a while, weighing the choice over in her mind.
“I want us to be safe” she said finally with a smile

G'rak hugged her again.

“We'll get through this then, you won't have to deal with the fever for much longer”

* * *

G'rak wandered around the streets sullenly. Sky was still in the room above the bar, waiting for him to return with some food and drink. He patted the coin purse hanging from his belt which jangled listlessly against his leg. The doctor had cost a fair bit of money and there wasn't much left for the two adventurers who didn't have time to stop in one place to work.

The market place was just as busy as it was yesterday, people barged through the streets to the shouts of sale from the vendors. The music of the town spinning in the air, conversations, children playing and the sound of a mandolin being strummed softly from a nearby doorway. It was a beautiful little town, G'rak stopped to admire every facet of it, from the buildings to it's peoples, it reminded him of his childhood, growing up in the Dwarven village in the Elvish territory. The communal spirit of exiles, the joy of being with his own people, of being in a place where everybody knew who he was, G'rak son of Dunt and Marta.

The smell of fresh bread drifted through his nostrils and he began salivating at the prospect of food. There was a bakery nearby, one of the few shops that had moved from the market place and into a building on the high street. G'rak approached it almost subconsciously through hunger, his fingertips still patting his coin purse. There was fresh bread steaming in the window, bread of all kinds white bread, brown bread, cheese naan, nut bread, there was even Elvish oat bread and Halfling reed pitas.

“Afternoon” came a light cheerful voice from inside the store.

“To you to” G'rak replied “You have an amazing range of bread here”

The store owner looked down at the loaves proudly

“Why thank you, I do try to cater for all needs”

G'rak just smiled back and went back to admiring the loaves.

There was a shriek from behind him somewhere, a womans screams they came quietly at first, distant but grew louder and louder.

“What's that?” The store keeper asked, leaning as far out the window as was possible

“I'm not sure” G'rak said as he turned back to see the shopkeeper distracted.

As she approached it became clearer what she was screaming

“Johnny?, Johnny?” she called out occasionally stopping to ask people “Have you seen my son? Have you seen Johnny?” Her face was covered in tears and she was clearly distraught as she ran through the street.

G'rak took advantage of the moment and deftly slipped his hand down into the warmth of the bread tray, picking out a couple of loaves and slipping them into his bag, careful not to be spotted.

“I'm gonna see if I can help” he said to the store owner and backed away, feigning innocence.

As he left the store with the intention of talking to the woman he lost his focus for a moment and almost walked straight into her. She grabbed him by the shoulders and almost shouted into his face

“Have you seen my boy?”

G'rak took a hold of her by her elbows

“Calm down my love” He said in a low calm voice “What does he look like?”

Her eyes were darting back and forth, looking from face to face

“He was just playing ball this morning on the green, just as he does everyday. Now I can't find him”

G'rak tried to get her to focus on his face “What does Johnny look like?” he asked again but just as last time she was distracted.

“I have to tell the guard, maybe they've seen him” and with that she released her grip and continued running along the street, towards the guard house G'rak assumed.

G'rak watched her go for a few moments, wondering if there was anyway he could help. He hated not doing anything, but he had enough problems on his plate and he'd left Sky alone in the room for long enough already. He wandered back towards the inn with the loaves safely concealed in his bag. There was something about this town that had started to play on his mind. The street was busy, it was a market day and yet nobody else had stopped to talk to the woman, to try and help. Instead she had latched onto a complete stranger. G'rak chewed his lip as he walked, his mind lost in deep thoughts that he tried to push to the back of his mind. Decades of travelling had made him suspicious, but it had also taught him to mind his own business. He needed to focus on Sky, of getting her healthy and back on the road as soon as possible.

He turned his head back towards the bakers store, just in case he had been spotted. No signs of anyone reporting him. He turned his gaze back on the inn, failing to notice the figure that was stood in the alley, just off the main street. The figure who had been watching him the whole time from the shadows, the figure that smiled to himself as he watched G'rak enter the inn once again. He scrawled a piece of information into a notebook and disappeared back down the alleyway.

Chapter 5

The night fell quickly once again on the sleepy town. G'rak had returned to find Sky sleeping, the fever still raging. He busied himself in the room, mopping her brow and whenever she stirred letting her take a drink of water until she fell back into slumber once again.

When Sky finally awoke the room was cast in darkness. G'rak had once again given in to his exhaustion and had dropped to sleep in his chair, his chin propped up by a hand, his elbow resting on his knee as though in deep thought.

Sky awoke suddenly and sat bolt upright. Her hair, drenched with sweat, hung heavy across her face and she pried it away with her fingertips, fingertips that used to tingle with magical energy now felt swollen and ached with a dull pain. She made fists with her hands and swallowed a wave of nausea that gripped her throat.

She sat on the bed and let the thumping in her ears subside. The dizziness of sleep and the fog of reality were spinning together around the room and she had to concentrate to decide which was which. Shapes and patterns leapt from her feverish dreams following her into the waking world and they danced before her eyes.

She blinked slowly, her lips parted in a daze as she followed the patterns around the room. Allowing the fever to distract her until she shut her eyes tight and shook them from her mind, sending beads of sweat scattering around the room.

“Why is this happening?” she thought to herself. She wanted to scream and shout and cry until it all went away and she could stop hurting again. Her hand drifted to her arm subconsciously, running her fingers over the scars left by the needle in the tower.

“Why does this keep happening to me?” she cried silently, not wanting to wake the sleeping Dwarf again.

The bar beneath was quiet except for the sound of clinking glasses. It was late but the innkeeper was still cleaning up downstairs. The noise became quite relaxing. The rhythmic sound of somebody working was soothing to Sky who rarely had the chance to listen to such things recently. The normal sounds of everyday life had been replaced by the sound of hooves on an unknown road, the sharpening of weapons in preparation for the worst.

Sky suddenly became aware of how uncomfortable the bed had become. Being host to a fevered fourteen year old had doused the mattress in cold sweat. The smell filled her nostrils and she squirmed dizzily to the edge to get away. Her feet fell heavily to the floor as she leant forward as far as she could to try and overcome the spinning of her mind without laying back on the bed which had become more of a prison than anything else. She wanted to stand but felt uneasy about it.

She sat up once again and let the room slow to a stop. G'rak was still snoring in his chair, looking like a Dwarven king on his throne, Sky was amazed at how noble he looked when he wasn't clowning around. His wrinkled face seemed to hold an infinite wisdom, a wealth of stories and knowledge from his past. His face lacked the kindness that was betrayed in his eyes.

She offered him a little smile before rocking herself to her feet. Standing on the cold wooden floors barefoot had never been so difficult. Her head was hit with a haze once again and she tried to stand perfectly still, her knees bent, he hands outstretched ready for a fall. But she remained upright, swaying slightly, but upright nonetheless. The memory of the other night past through her mind, the music that had featured so predominantly. The room seemed extra quiet without it, as though it were missing something as fundamental as the walls or the fixtures. She was still wearing the same clothes as before, the blouse clung to her skin, as did the baggy trousers, they were slick with sweat and she couldn't wait until she could shed them and find something new to wear, or at least clean these. Her skin still felt hot and she decided to move to the window to benefit from the breeze.

Sky padded along the floorboards. The clammy skin on the soles of her feet sticking as she stepped. The curtains gently wafted into the room, teasing her with a breeze that she couldn't yet feel. The window felt like a million miles away and the journey was painful. The trip wasn't in vain though, as she approached the breeze hit her, cooling her skin, making her feel human again. She closed her eyes tightly and took the last couple of steps to the window leaning forward against the window sill, basking in the refreshing, pure country air.
She slowly opened her eyes again and looked into the night sky, a million points of light shone from above, the blue swirls of space were all around and plain to see. It was so spectacular, so beautiful that she forgot about her pain for the first time since it had begun. She lowered her gaze to the rooftops, the soft plumes of smoke reaching for the heavens could only be seen as bumps and indentations on the inky black.

Something on the street caught her eye and her head jerked instinctively to focus on it. Terror filled her as standing on the street was the same shadowy figure as the night before. He stared up at the window silently. They both gazed at each other, Sky feeling the impossibility of the situation the maddening confusion of it. She barely blinked but when she re-focused again the figure was gone. At once she thought that her fever had created another illusion, a hallucination, a cruel trick created by her treacherous mind. She shook her head clear but then she heard it, the sound of footsteps loud and rapid. She craned forward outside the window to see further down the street she could just see a long shadow disappearing down an alleyway.

Sky didn't give it a seconds thought, she was filled with rage, an instant hate born of frustration. She opened the window wider and swung her legs over the ledge. Gripping the woodwork tightly she slipped down to full arms length and let herself fall to the ground.

She landed clumsily, blood rushing to her head and she became dizzy but she shook it off. Not stopping to think about her own safety she ran, ran through the night. Along the street towards the alleyway where she'd seen him disappear. In the back of her mind she could hear that same song, the song that used to be peaceful and relaxing was now playing at speed, spinning around and round her mind, she felt as though she was losing control, like madness was taking over.
Her bare footsteps fell silent on the road, she could still hear the heavy boots ahead of her but even when she turned the corner into the backstreet she couldn't see anyone at all.

Sky ran down the street, her heart was pumping hard and she barely even noticed the pain which shot through her as her feet pumped into the hard cobbled ground. She followed the sound of the boots, the rhythmic thumping ahead that seemed to set pace for the song that circled her, that was all around her, that was everywhere but only truly from within.

She looked around her wildly, unfamiliar shops and houses, she had no idea where she was, what she was chasing. Was this part of some insane hallucination? Was she losing her mind? That song, spinning around and around in her head, was she just obsessed?

Her heart was on fire inside her chest and a dull nausea finally caught up with her. Her rapid steps slowed to a jog, to a walk and finally to a halt. She bent over double, trying to get some grasp on reality, trying to decide what was real and what was not, she felt like she was being torn to pieces from within and she didn't know how to stop it.

The world seemed to slow down, the dull ache that she had come to know suddenly flowed back into her body, washing over her and filling her body with exhaustion. She looked up into the sky, the silver moon had started to peek from behind a heavy cloud, it's point facing directly at Atlas, making the moon look almost spherical. Ancient folklore said that a round moon was a good omen for the future. She allowed herself a smile. The ridiculousness of the situation fell on her and woke her from the stupor.

She turned to walk back to the hotel but the sound of something across the street made her stop still. Something moved a few feet away. She turned around slowly and peered into the darkness. The end of the alleyway was a few yards away and after looking into the bright moon Skys eyes were not accustomed to the dark but as she stared she couldn't believe what she saw. The dark figure, a dark shape walked into view. It had clearly not seen her and was walking away but as it did it stooped over, it's back became hunched, it's body contracted and shrunk. It happened so silently, the clothes on it's back seemed to change from cotton to hair sprouting from it's back. The circular head became elongated and the ears grew pointed.

Nausea grabbed Sky by the throat and she vomited, much from shock as from her illness, the bleary figure of a fully grown man had transformed in front of her eyes, what stood there now was a wolf.

The creature had padded away around a corner leaving Sky to look on in shock. She stared at the alley, her mouth agape, thoughts crashing through her brain, unable to process what she had just seen, the maddening sight that had seared into her vision in the silence of the night. The silence that was now interrupted by the light playing of pipe music.

It came softly at first, as it always did, before sweeping into her mind, it's whipped around her like the wind, raising her up and dropping her down. Before she realised it she began to sway gently, unable to fight the grip that the song had over her. Her heartbeat slowed and she calmed as she let the music waft into her soul becoming the only thing that existed in her world. She followed it mindlessly, walking towards the corner without really thinking. Her eyes were fixed on the spot where the wolf had disappeared from sight and as she got closer and as her vision became more accustomed to the dark she could tell that once again she was alone. She turned the corner without really worrying about what she saw, the music was filling her soul once again, she felt safe, confident. Her eyes locked onto a door frame, light came from the gaps between the wood and the music played louder than before, it seemed more real here, like it really existed in the world and not just in her mind. She approached the door slowly, as though she had walked here a hundred times before, as though she knew the occupants, as though she lived here. Her palm pressed against the hard wood and pushed it open, a soft creak and then a sight which stole her voice, that stung her soul and that she would never forget.

The insanity of the scene before her paralysed her body. Her mind froze in pure horror. The small room lit by candlelight was host to a wolf who sat amongst a shrine of bones, it's jowls were dripping with blood and flesh from the body of a small boy who lay lifeless and half devoured on the floor. In the corner of the room, sat on a barrel was the piper from the park, his instrument was at his lips but the playing had stopped, his eyes were locked on Sky, who stood motionless in the doorway.

The stench of death poured from the room, as though it were trying to escape. Sky didn't have time to react, she was frozen by the insanity, she didn't move when the wolf lazily turned it's head to her. Entrails hung from between it's teeth and the fur around it's jaw was coated in thick inky blood. She didn't move when the piper laid his instrument down and stood, she couldn't move when the wolf slowly transformed back into a man again before her eyes. She couldn't even move when she was grabbed and pulled inside. The fear, the shock, the music, it had all confused her, paralysed her, taken control of her and now she was trapped under their spell. She tried to raise a hand, she tried to get the magic to flow from her fingertips but she nothing came, her focus was gone, she was defenceless.

Chapter 6

Before she could re-act they were upon her, a tight grip around her wrist, a sharp jolt sending her careening into the corner of the room, the cold sharpness of a blade to her throat and the rough chaff as her hands were bound behind her back. Her captors said nothing, they made no sound, all the time just staring at her with those impassive, animal, evil eyes. She was transfixed in her fear, the blackness of horror was drowning her senses, she was still in shock from the madness that was happening around her, the madness that she was now trapped in.

“Who are you?” she eventually said, her voice soft. The two figures stepped back from her and stared at her. They said nothing, they just stood in silence and stared, their eyes shining with menace, reflecting the light from the candle which flickered from the corner.

“What are you going to do with me?” her voice starting to quake with fear. As the figures exchanged a silent glance Sky began to open and close her hands behind her back, trying to get some magic, some flow of energy. Her abilities were her only defence and they had deserted her. How could she have been so stupid as to risk losing them. She cursed herself under her breath as she flexed her biceps and made a fist as tightly as she could but with still no effect. She tensed the muscles in her arm and released, trying to get the blood flowing, trying to awaken the arcane energy within her but to no avail.

The two men crossed the room and almost disappeared into the shadows, one of them returned to the corpse in the middle of the room and ran a finger across the floorboards. Sky watched in horror as he raised it to the light, the drip of deep scarlet from a blood drenched finger. He turned to Sky slowly and softly pushed the finger past his lips to the knuckle and pulled it out again clean.

Sky felt the vomit raise once again in her throat. Who were these sick madmen? What did they want from her?

She cast her eyes away from his and doubled her efforts to coax a little magic energy. She refused to give up whilst she had any strength left, she wouldn't disappoint G'rak or Aracel who were counting on her and made sacrifices for her. She examined the room as she had seen G'rak do many times. Looking for a clue, an inconsistency, a way out. There was a stone fireplace in front of her, it wasn't lit and the room was freezing because of it, the windows had all been blocked by large pieces of wood nailed into the frame, as well as thick curtains which hung torn and aged. The floor was a mess of broken furniture and bones with teeth marks set deep into the chalky white.

There was hardly anything. These men lived in squalor, just there sick perversions.

She peered into the dark of the furthest corner, she could see what looked like two cupboards stood against the back wall. As her eyes got used to the dark, as her pupils grew accustomed she realised the truth of what she was looking at. Stood in the corner were two coffins, they both stood empty, the lids propped up alongside them.

The questions spun through her mind again “Who were these people?” her mind ached and her heart beat heavy in her chest.

It was the silence that terrified her the most, they didn't make any noise.

The second appeared once again from the corner, he looked more alert, as though suspicious of some unheard sound. He tapped his friend on the shoulder and he instantly looked towards the door, the candlelight highlighting a trickle of blood running down from the corner of his mouth. He wiped his mouth clean and his head twitched to the side, his human ears had become a wolves ears which twitched towards the door. He stood straight as a bolt trying to discern some unheard sound. Sky stared at them, something else was different. Their eyes had changed. Where once they had aggressive reptilian eyes they now seem to have wide alert eyes, she found it difficult to place but they seemed more like an eagles eyes than a snakes, they seemed afraid of something. They stood still and silent as always but they seemed defensive. And then Sky heard it as well, a definite sound from outside, it could have been anything but it sounded like a footstep.

“G'rak” Sky instantly thought to herself. One of the figures turned sharply to stare at her. His eyes once again becoming as a snakes.

“G'rak” he asked with a voice that seemed to have no source. His lips moved but the voice seemed to be as quiet as a whisper in her ear and at the same time as loud as a shout in a cathedral.

“G'rak? G'rak? Who is G'rak? G'rak?” the voice repeated over and over in her mind. She stared at the two men in the centre of the room, both were now looking at her, both mouths moving in unison as they repeated the question over and over, both loud and quiet at the same time.

She didn't have time to answer as the door burst open under G'raks heavy boot. The blade of a heavy Dwarven axe emerged through the door followed by the Dwarf himself. He looked around the darkness of the room, finally his eyes landing on Sky.

“Oh my Gods, there you are” he said rushing over to her. “What's happening?”

Sky was transfixed and still, her body shaking staring into the centre of the room.

“What's the matter lass? Who did this too you?”

Sky slowly tilted her head towards G'rak and her eyes eventually followed “They..they.. they just disappeared.

G'rak looked confused “Who di...” but his question was interrupted as Sky screamed loudly. G'rak didn't have time to turn around when he was sent flying through the air by an incredible force. His axe flew from his hand and skittered across the floor. He bounced off the back wall and crashed through a small table.

“G'rak look out!” Sky screamed once again

“What the he...” he began as he tried to jump to his feet but was once again knocked to the ground as something charged into him. The warning from Sky at least gave him a better chance to react and as he fell he was able to roll to the side, avoiding an inevitable third attack. His reactions weren't as fast as they used to be but his enemy was still surprised as G'rak dived forward for the opposite corner and put a good distance between them both to give him a fighting chance.

G'rak spun on his heels and faced his attacker for the first time, his fists clenched in front of him ready for anything. But when he saw it his face fell and so did his fists. “Oh no” he said dejectedly.

“Watch out!” Sky shouted

What stood before them both was the lithe body of an enormous snake. The reptiles body almost filled the room. It's head alone was as big as G'rak, it's eyes were full of an evil that didn't seem to fit anywhere on Atlas. It bolted forward towards G'rak who was in shock that he was once again too slow to act. It's mouth open wide as it sprung forward towards the Dwarf. He staggered back, more on impulse than training and tripped over a small pile of bones. The jaws snapped shut just inches from the Dwarf.

“No! Leave him alone” Sky screamed as she struggled against her bonds, her wrists chaffed and bloody as she fought for freedom.
“Don't worry lassie” G'rak shouted with fake optimism “I've fought bigger snakes than this”

G'rak reached around him for a weapon as the creature reared up once again. His axe had fallen somewhere near by and it was the best chance he had. The snakes tongue lashed through the air menacingly once again as it's head slowly withdrew, ready for another lunge.

G'rak desperately felt around the floor, his hand searching for anything to use against such a creature.

“G'rak save us!” Sky screamed once again

Just as the snake was about to lunge forward once again G'raks fingertips rested on something, a handle. “Thank the saviours” he thought to himself and gripped it firmly bringing it around in front of him ready to face the incoming attack, trying to hide his shock as he realised he'd found a broken chair leg. It smashed instantly as it collided with the sharp reptilian teeth but the shock knocked the snake back once again giving G'rak time to jump to his feet and search around for a proper weapon.

There it was, a few feet away. He dived forward narrowly avoiding another vicious attack from the serpent, his dive ended in a roll and finally he was re-united with his weapon. He turned to the snake, his axe raised but was met with a different foe. A huge wolf was diving for him, it's vicious teeth bared in attack. G'rak swung the axe down but wasn't fast enough, the wolf smashed into the Dwarf and sent him reeling to the ground once again. G'rak sacrificed his weapon once again to protect his face from the wolfs snapping jaws as it scratched and lunged at him. The snake circled the both of them creating and arena as it waited to see the outcome.
“NO!” Sky screamed. Rage was filling her, rage and terror. Her heart was beating painfully hard in her chest and she could hear the blood pumping through her veins. Her arteries felt like they were going to burst and her bones seemed to thicken. There was a fire inside her, this hatred, this fear seemed to be changing her. She started to feel powerful. She could hear G'rak struggling, she could hear the gnashing of the wolfs jaws but her view was obscured by the serpentine torso.

“NO NO NO NO NO” she screamed louder.

And then there it was. She flexed her open hand, still bound behind her back, and felt energy bursting through her fingertips. She turned the energy into a flame, engulfing her entire hand in a fire that didn't burn. The bonds were charred away and she was free.

Suddenly aware of the light coming from her the snake turned it's head sharply but it was too late. Sky stood before them all. Her hands were both as fireballs ready to throw.

“LEAVE HIM ALONE!” she yelled, her voice seemed to make her more powerful. Flames spun from her hands and whipped around her body, a storm of fire that licked at the surroundings without spreading or damaging.

The snake struck for her, it's fanged mouth lashing forward violently but Sky was ready. She pushed both hands out in front of her causing a torrent of fire to gush from her palms. The scream from the snake was piercing as it was burnt up in the arcane flames. The thud of it's lifeless head shook the whole house and Sky lowered her hands causing the torrent to end. The flames still whipped around her as she stepped forward. G'rak was still lost behind the wall of snake flesh. Sky turned her palm to the ceiling and made a fist focusing her energy into her hand. When she opened it again a fireball began to emerge and she flung it at the body. Chunks of snake flesh splattered the walls and amongst it all, covered from head to toe in serpent meat lay G'rak.

Upon seeing him the fire around Sky died down. The Dwarf was just staring at her. She was almost unrecognisable from the little girl he was looking after. She looked confident, powerful and in control.

“Are you ok?” she asked running into his arms. “I was so worried about you. Where did the wolf go?”

G'rak was silent for a moment, not knowing how to react to what had just happened. Finally he wrapped his arms around her.

“I'm fine little one” he said “I think you scared the mutt away”

The hug was cut short as G'rak looked over Skys shoulder at the snake. He pulled her away as the body of the serpent seemed to shrivel up. The head shrank from a long snouted smooth skinned reptile to a spherical charred humans head. What was left of the body was burnt up and scarred and what was left of the creature wasn't much too look at.

“What in the saviours name were these things?” G'rak asked.

“Let's just get out of here please”

G'rak just nodded. He took his coat off and wrapped it around Skys shoulders and led her outside.

“You know” G'rak said “I've fought bigger wolves than that as well”

Chapter 7

G'rak and sky found themselves walking aimlessly around the streets in silence. The nights adventure still not sunk in fully. The dangers that G'rak hadn't seen coming played on his mind. 'How could he have been so stupid' he thought to himself.

“I'm sorry” he mumbled to her eventually. His voice strained through exhaustion.

Sky looked over at him, shock in her eyes “What for?”

“It was me who put you in that room, I didn't see them coming. I had no idea that you were in trouble. If I hadn't woken up when I did then you might still be in that room now.”

“Oh G'rak don't be..”

“And it was me who persuaded you to give up your magic” G'rak cast his eyes to the cobbles in front of him “That was the stupidest thing of all”

The two stopped walking and G'rak turned to face her. The moon emerged from behind a cloud and shone brightly in the night sky lighting up the streets in a pale glow.

“You should never give up your gift” G'rak continued “It's part of who you are. I should be helping you develop it not making you stop it.”

Sky's smile widened and she hugged the old Dwarf

“Thank you G'rak” she said impassioned “But don't call yourself stupid. I'd still be in that tower if it wasn't for you”

The pair continued towards the hotel laughing and joking. Sky had completely recovered from her illness, the magic flowing through her, repairing the damage and returning her strength.

“How did you do that thing with the fireballs” G'rak asked her

Sky tightened her fist once again

“No no” G'rak grabbed out at it “Not here, you might burn the whole town down lass”

Sky laughed and opened her palm revealing a small ember sizzling on her skin.

As they rounded the corner onto the high street the light picked out silhouettes. G'rak noticed them first and his smile quickly disappeared. He took Skys shoulder and motioned for her to be quiet with a finger to his lips. They tucked themselves away into the shadows and watched the silhouettes walking.

There were five in total. It was hard to make out who they were from this distance but they were approaching the tavern. They stopped just in front of it and one of them turned to the other.

It was impossible to hear them speaking, even with G'raks keen sense of hearing he could only pick out muffled voices. One of the speakers seemed to be wearing a long gown, the hood of which shrouded his face in yet more shadow. He reached into a bag that hung from his side and pulled something from it and gave it to the figure he was speaking to. The three others just stood and waited.
'The robed one must be in charge' G'rak thought to himself. He watched as the three men listened to something the leader was telling them, they then disappeared into the tavern. G'rak felt a tug from behind him and he spun around to see Sky shrinking back further into the shadows.
“One's coming” she whispered sternly, pointing towards the approaching figure.

G'rak turned to see him just in time. It was the individual that the robed figure was talking too, he passed his package from one hand to the other, the jingling of coins could be clearly heard from within.

G'rak pressed his back against the wall, looking up to the sky hoping that the moon would stay behind this particular cloud as crossed the night.

A few tense seconds passed as he approached. G'rak stared through the night at him. Trying to decide what move to make. The other four had disappeared into the tavern and G'rak was still unsure of the threat. Then the figure stood in the light from a nearby window and G'rak saw him clearly for the first time.

Sweat dotted his brow and he cursed under his breath. He could taste the rage in his mouth but said nothing, his whole body shook with anger as he watched the figure disappear down the alleyway.

He turned quickly to Sky

“We have to go lassie. We need to get the horses and get out of here”

“But what about my things?” Sky asked

“There's no time to get them” G'rak grabbed her wrist and looked into her worried eyes “We have to go now. They're here”

Sky knew what this meant, the cult had tracked them down again. They had been following them since they left the tower and now here they were in the same town.

“But how? How did they find us?” Sky asked as she was being dragged off towards the stable

“The doctor” G'rak said without looking back. “He sold us out”

The End

© 2010 Stories Of Atlas

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Added on April 22, 2010
Last Updated on April 22, 2010