Rakhanar had no intention of going to the guild hall with Shialli and Lady Lilithna now. Once free of the dungeon, they would have no need of him. If the hall happened to be empty, he was quite sure he would disappear.
So while they called back to the guild hall, he used the other spell he had picked up from the innkeeper in Kelethin and called himself home. Caught in his battered armor, his helm invisible and his face exposed, he dashed inside his humble, empty refuge. Once safely hidden inside, his thoughts went back to Lord Toran.
He was tempted to call on the amulet right away to see if Lord Toran was all right, but he knew that he needed to wait. Surely Lady Lilithna and Shialli were taking him to a healer, and it wouldn’t help if he interrupted. If the Lord was dead, then he’d know soon enough. There was no rush to find out.
Stripping off his battered armor, he changed into his robe, then curled up on the floor in his empty little acorn house and used his backpack for a pillow. His stomach was empty and aching, but he was far too exhausted to care.
In the morning, he was ravenous. He sat up and stretched, then thought about returning to the hall to find out how Lord Toran fared, and to see if he could scrounge up some breakfast.
Rakhanar tapped his amulet. “Lord Toran?” He waited for an answer, holding his breath.
After a moment, the Lord’s familiar voice came back to him. “Yes? Rakhanar?”
Foolishly, Rakhanar nodded, then answered. “Yes, yes, this is Rakhanar. I’m glad to hear your voice! Are you alright, Lord Toran?”
“Ah, yes, nothing but a bump on the head. Good thing that orc hit me where I’m hardest.” He chuckled, then went on in his businesslike manner. “It’s good you checked in, I need you to report to the hall.”
Immediately Lilithna and Shialli came to mind. Rakhanar got to his feet, hand still on his amulet, and started pacing. Am I in trouble?
“Lady Lilithna and Shialli aren’t here,” Lord Toran continued in a gentler tone, as if guessing his thought. “There’s someone else I’d like you to meet.”
Rakhanar came up short and nodded. “Yes, sir, coming now…” He began to move his hands then, calling, drawing himself through the ether, and then he was standing in the entranceway, staring up at the four immense tapestries. Lord Toran entered from his right, coming from the crafting hall, and beckoned him to follow.
In the crafting hall, he could hear the rhythmic clanging of hammer against metal. Lord Toran headed for the forge where a creature was working, the likes of which Rakhanar had never seen. He – he assumed it was a he? – was like a huge frog, standing upright, but his sticky tipped fingers were deft on the hammer. He was humming and muttering under his breath as he worked.
“This is Rhygar,” Lord Toran said, raising his voice to be heard above the clamor. “He’s an expert armorer. I’m having him make you a new set, custom fit.”
Rakhanar turned to Lord Toran, his eyes widened slightly. “Custom fit?” They must want me to stay a while, to make that investment.
“You earned it.” Lord Toran smiled. “You’re rough, granted, but you have potential. I learned something too, yesterday: not to assume everyone has the rulebook already.” The Erudite nodded, satisfied, and turned on his heel, but then paused and turned back, raising a finger. “Oh. You might want to make yourself scarce for a while. You know – Shialli and Lady Lilithna?” he added with a smirk, then headed off to peruse a scroll somewhere.
Rakhanar gave him a half grimace, half grin, calling to the Lord’s departing back, “Will do.”
The froglike creature paused in his work to turn and look him over, still muttering, humming. Among the mumbling, Rakhanar caught a command, “Off with that robe,” accompanied by a wave of a green, splayed hand. He hurriedly complied, then Rhygar quickly lassoed him with a measuring tape, keeping up the friendly, familiar mumbling in way that put him at ease. Then Rakhanar slipped back into his robe and wandered over to the food table while the creature returned to work.
There was definitely some magic at work around this frogman, shimmering and shifting, enhancing the metals, speeding up his progress. It wasn’t long before he was done, and when he handed the neatly stacked pile of armor to Rakhanar, it was still warm, infused with energy. This armor was shiny and polished, embellished to hold spells that increased his power, just slightly. He loved it.
Thanking Rhygar profusely, Rakhanar took the armor and Lord Toran’s advice, heading out of the hall to disappear on his own terms for a while.
At the magic globe, he thought of Faydwer. As soon as he found himself standing on the high platform of the tree city of Kelethin, he pulled his whistle from his belt and called Wildstreak. The golden unicorn shimmered into being before him, his ears perked up.
I was wondering when you would call me. The unicorn’s tone was, as always, cheerful.
Rakhanar moved up to hug his neck and give him a rough pat. “You won’t believe what happened…” He looked around warily, adding, “Not here. Let’s get out of Kelethin.” Grabbing a hank of mane, he pulled himself up on Wildstreak’s back, and the unicorn whipped around, rearing, then plunged down the nearest walkway that would take them beneath the city. They found a quiet place where water pooled at the base of one of the huge trees that supported the teeming city of the Fae, and Rakhanar slipped off his friend’s back.
Wildstreak listened patiently as Rakhanar filled him in on the events since he had seen him last with barely a whicker of humor, while Rakhanar moved restlessly about him, excitedly acting out certain events in his tale. And then Rakhanar stepped back and crossed his arms over his chest, one eyebrow flicking up.
“So what did you mean about that first orc I killed? That he couldn’t believe it?”
The golden unicorn lifted his head slightly, his liquid eyes shining. Ah, that.
Rakhanar shifted the weight of the pack that contained the new armor gifted him by Banedon. “Was it that obvious I didn’t know what I was doing?” The question came out with a bit of a smirk. Even as he said it, he realized how vastly different he was feeling after meeting with Banedon. If not for that, he might been broaching this subject with wounded pride.
Oh, no no no. Not that at all! The unicorn gave him a merry horse laugh. I was thinking of something completely different. The thing is, none of you believe that. Because you can’t, really, and deep inside you know it.
Rakhanar stood and stared into the shining eyes of his unicorn friend for a moment. A wave of something… peace…? swept him. Mamafae had said things like that all his life. It never really meant anything then, but coming from Wildstreak… Somehow, now, it was starting to sink in, just a little.
“Well.” He dropped his gaze, and began to dig one boot into the dirt, thinking. “Well…” Then his restlessness rebounded, and the peace was gone, for the moment. Not forgotten though; it could never be forgotten.
“I’m going for a swim.” He kicked off his leather boots and pulled his robe over his head, tossing them aside, then dove into the cool water. “Coming?”
Wildstreak shook his mane and plunged in behind him. They splashed and played in the water until the sun was low in the sky. It reminded him of his childhood days with Siffy, except now there was a suit of shining plate armor waiting on the bank for him to strap on, to protect him from a dangerous world.
For the next month, he roamed in the wilds of Faydwer with Wildstreak, practicing his fighting on his own so he wouldn’t endanger others. As the days passed, his skills grew. The Crushbone orcs who harassed the tree city learned to hate and then fear him, though the fae folk he protected never saw him. Even if they had, it was doubtful they would connect the wild boy of Faydark to this lone, silver-armored warrior who was thinning the ranks of the orc menace with a vengeance.
He got stronger and the fight got easier, and when he was ready, he called in on the amulet again. This time an unfamiliar female voice answered, the voice of Lady Ceren. Lady Ceren was a paladin, and her focus had little to do with objects of power. She was sending him on a rescue mission, deep in orc territory: a rescue mission in a fortress swarming with orcs.
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Wizard of Wildfire & Shadow Walker Wordsmith ((a/k/a The Real Me ))