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The Protectors of Kryta (Part 2)   << Back

The Protectors of Kryta (Part 2)

"Some honor," complained Cynn.

"The task itself does not need to be pleasant," explained Mhenlo, "the honor comes from being the ones selected over all others to perform it."

"Say it as you wish," continued Cynn, now making her way into the gate at the southernmost edge of Shaemoor, "it still just sounds like work to me."

"That's because it is," agreed Devona. "But we're doing it to stay in the good graces of the White Mantle. Remember, we're guests in Kryta. They have no reason to be so accepting of us, especially considering the history our two kingdoms have had over the years."

"No reason except that we saved their temple," replied Cynn, "and that staff thing they seemed so concerned over."

"The Scepter of Orr," corrected Mhenlo. "That staff thing was the Scepter of Orr, a powerful magical artifact that could have fallen into the hands of the undead."

"Scepter, staff, what's the difference? All I'm saying isó"

"The details are meaningless," interrupted Aidan. "What matters is that we were asked by perhaps the most powerful man in Kryta to escort the Divine Eye to Loamhurst. It's work, no ifs, ands, or buts about it. Still it's something we are going to do because it can't hurt us, and it certainly could do us an awful lot of good." Aidan began the climb up the steps at the far end of Shaemoor.

"I think you missed your true calling, Aidan," said Cynn, cocking her head to one side, a sly smile spreading across her lips. "You sound like my father's politician friends."

Devona looked back at the others as she reached a second set of steps. "Perhaps we can put this conversation aside for a moment so that we do not offend the justiciar."

"My friends," shouted Justiciar Hablion, appearing as if on cue at the top of the steps. "Welcome to Shaemoor."

Devona, Cynn, Aidan, and Mhenlo crested the stairs to the courtyard in the center of the small town. They looked in wonder at a floating, transparent, green pyramid. Nearly twice the size of a normal man, it hovered above a stone pedestal behind the justiciar, making very little noise except what sounded like the faint, distant clanging of wind chimes. Inside the magical artifact was what appeared to be a giant human eye, complete with lids and lashes. It looked back at the four Ascalons, then blinked.

"This is the Divine Eye of Janthir," continued Hablion. "It has the power to see inside a person and discern his or her magical aptitude. Those it gazes upon will be judged, either rising in glory or falling in shame." The stark white of the helm covering most of the justiciar's face contrasted greatly with the man's well-tanned skin. He smiled, his teeth as bright as his helm. "You will be bringing it to Loamhurst, taking those it deems worthy with you."

"Great," said Cynn, "more work."

"Help! Please help me!"

Devona lifted her hammer from her shoulder. "Tengu," she said through gritted teeth. Then she charged over the stone bridge.

Across the gorge, four Krytan merchants were fighting for their lives. Surrounded on three sides, a flock of six birdlike creatures slashed at them with swords, axes, and claws. The Tengu bore a resemblance to humans in only so much as they stood on two legs and had the obvious intelligence to have planned and executed an ambush. Their beady eyes and beaks were covered in intricate golden helms, and most of them wore armor and carried shields.

"These birds mean business," snarled Devona.

The Krytans they were attacking kept their backs against a covered wagon that had been knocked onto its side. They swung sticks and hurled rocks, but they were clearly not going to survive for long without help.

Aidan's arrows and Cynn's Flare slammed into the first of the bird-headed creatures before Devona reached the melee. The creature went down under the onslaught.

"That ought to get their attention," said Devona as she closed in.

Just overhead, the Divine Eye of Janthir dutifully followed her into battle as it had since Shaemoor. The warrior reached the edge of the battle, and the Eye blinked once more, this time sending out a shockwave that knocked the entire flock of Tengu to the ground.

Devona wasted little time. Before any of the Tengu could get to their feet, the warrior hefted her hammer and slammed it against a downed creature's chest. The heavy hammerhead sank into the Tengu's metal chest plate, leaving a huge dent in its center. With a shout and another blow, Devona's hammer completely collapsed the armor, crushing flesh, bone, and feather. The creature beneath her squawked and squirmed, then fell silent, its head flopping to the side at an odd angle.

Spinning away from the Krytans, the four remaining Tengu turned their attention on the warrior.

"That's right," she growled. "Come to Devona."

Mhenlo knelt beside one of the Krytan merchants. All of them had minor cuts and bruises from the ambush, but this man was the worst. He had a nasty slash across his shoulder from a Tengu axe. Mhenlo began the prayers to Dwayna that would grant him the power to heal the man's wounds.

"Thank you for saving us," said the merchant.

Cynn opened her mouth to say something, but Devona cut her off. "Glad we came along when we did."

"When our caravan was attacked, several of us scattered into the hills." The man looked up at the Divine Eye of Janthir, floating dutifully behind Devona. Then he turned his gaze on each of the Ascalons in turn. "If any of them are Chosen it would be your duty, as the keepers of the Eye, to find and escort them safely to Loamhurst."

"How much farther to Loamhurst?" asked Aidan.

The grateful merchant pointed to the north. "Not too far," he said. "It's on the beach, in the cove just past the swamp."

"Well then," said Cynn, "I suggest we get moving. Half of the kingdom of Kryta may need saving between here and there." She put her hands on her hips. "We wouldn't want to keep them waiting."

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