Rufus and Leviathus travelled with us for the first day before cutting west to make for Skyfell. They argued like two cats fighting over the last bowl of cream, bless ’em. If Bob hadn’t separated them a few times, I think they may have devolved into a slap fight, and that would’ve just embarrassed us all in front of the Broken Finger Legion. They had appearances to keep up.
When we parted ways, Rufus promised me he would see about connecting Night Wing Tower, The Hallowed Fortress, and his archeological dig at Wind Spire with supply runs and official recognition from the Great University and the city of Skyfell. He speculated that the notoriety would help him get more funding for his work. He also promised to check on the Dryad and Scarlet, the mothers of my gestating children.
Bob added copies of the maps he had made, which Rufus assured him would be heavily scrutinized and treasured by the Great University’s library, as well as the Geography and Cartography departments. They discussed private matters that were none of my business, so I did not pry. It just made me happy to see my friends making connections and their own friends, even if old weasel gnome was still an obnoxious wizard.
Wizard Tim sought me out after the second day and commended me for my actions with the frogs, stating that they would make good, if little sycophantic, allies. He then quizzed me about the amulet I had given Nebuchadnezzar and we discussed the more esoteric aspects of ancient gods and their possible resuscitation. It proved an interesting conversation. I want to discuss that another time, after I’ve had a chance to ponder his hypothesis. He owned the shrunken heads that named me The Fool of prophecy, so he has been watching for me for many years. His research seemed to align with my dream quest in more and more ways. Must I always be plagued with wizards?
Speaking of which, Sparkle made a point of reminding me that in the eyes of the only legal authority within a hundred leagues, I was myself a wizard. I punched her in the arm, which she deserved.
Wizard Tim also warned me about some changes that were undergoing back at Night Wing Tower. The hobs had begun meeting in the sanctuary with one of their own, the burly Wolf Master. He was the first to find Bob’s nightly song a joy, rather than an indictment of past mistakes.
This Wolf Master had lost his way, but found comfort in the sanctuary that night I began the re-consecration of the altar. Apparently he had been recruiting others to join his conversion experience. That partially explained what happened with Bÿglar, though I have not discussed it with him specifically.
All in all, the world was shifting and I seemed to be the fulcrum. I am doing my best to eschew hubris and avoid pride, Father. I know that way lies failure and madness. But it sure feels good when things seem to be coming together.
Oh, I forgot to mention the fairies. Booty Shake and Morning Glory and their squadrons took Magda’s body and left. They are wonderful people, Fairies, but I still do not understand their ways. They said they would take her home to the Green Sward, where ever that is. I think it’s a euphemism for the Far Shore or the Next Life, but I could not be sure. She came from the Green they would return to the Green, Morning Glory assured me, the words obviously ritualistic.
I blessed them and bade them fair fortune. Booty Shake kissed me on the nose and thanked me for saving their lives. Morning Glory lead them all in a song so high pitched the lizard folk whimpered. Then they were gone. I cried, of course. They were so beautiful, and I don’t mean physically. Their magic was fresh and felt like springtime. They had good hearts full of playful love. I will miss them dearly.
I guess I am not meant to have air support.
Liz came to me deep in the night before we would reach Night Wing Tower. She led me to a clearing where I found Bob and Sparkle, as well as two horses fully packed for a long journey.
“It’s time for you to go on,” Bob said, handing me a fresh pack. This one was larger than the one I currently carried, but could be worn higher on the back. He had bartered it from the Broken Finger supply master in exchange for a copy of his maps. Inside the pack was food, first aid supplies and fresh ink, quills and parchment. He took the old pack I had been carrying and we went through it, transferring items across. In the bottom I uncovered several potion bottles, a scroll case and a scattering of gems I had long forgotten.
I explained each of the items and where they had come from, with Liz chiming in to make corrections and Sparkle laughing at my frustration at the interruptions to my tales. Sooner than I was happy about the new pack was ready and Liz and I were lead to the horses.
“Follow this road north three days beyond the Hallowed Fortress,” Bob said. “Do not stop and visit them, ride hard. Make for Black Crescent lake first, then on to Far Spire Keep. I have modified my maps.” He handed me several rolled skins. “I traded for these as well. The leather will stand up better than your parchment. Take good notes and I will update these next time we meet.”
He hugged me and went to Liz, giving Sparkle a chance alone with me.
“Well, lover,” she drawled, going for crass, but I saw the pain in her eyes.
I placed a hand on her shoulder and kissed her forehead. She closed her eyes at that and suddenly her posture shifted. I could see it in the way her shoulders slumped and she began to wring her hands.
“Lilith?” I asked, and she nodded.
“I dream of you when I am alone in the dark,” she whispered. “And it makes me not afraid.”
Then kissed me on the mouth and fled back toward the camp.
I watched her disappear into the black and turned when Bob placed a hand on my elbow. “You have done a kindness with that one,” he said, his gravelly voice full of emotion. “I will watch out for her while she lets me.”
We stood there a moment longer, then he hugged me. Being in his arms was one of the only times I ever felt truly safe. Then he too left.
Then it was just Liz and I, as it was in the beginning. We embraced for a very long time. Believe it or not, it was I who broke away first. She clung to me so feverishly I began to fear she was not going along. Then she stepped back and we walked to the horses.
“Try to keep up,” she said. “We will sell the horses in Far Spire and cut east again. If we are lucky the next few days will be hard, but quiet.”
I climbed onto my horse and waited for her to do the same. Then we were off, riding into the night, northward toward cataclysm and a future of foolish hope.
<End Book 4>