A/N: And this is the other chapter that I had typed up. Again I feel there is too much dialogue going on, but then again, there are other things going on, and this chapter is a bit on the long side. HEy! It introduces one of my favorite characters, mind you!
Chapter 10: Conflicts
With his white hair still wet with the black dye, Planget looked around himself apprehensively. He took in a long breath and made a mad dash from the archway to the next archway. He hid nervously in the shadows. He still heard no sound and saw no sign of anyone. He thanked the gods for his unusual good fortune and ran for the next archway. The gate stood twenty feet away. Swallowing hard, he sucked in his breath to make the final dash to freedom. The four goblins that he had the earlier experience with, appeared at the gate as soon as he moved out of hiding. He swore in the gwamin language and made his way back the way he came. The goblins advanced on him. He passed back under the last archway, where the heavy snow conveniently tumbled on his head. It washed away the black dye, and he fell forward with the sudden impact. Two of the goblins grabbed hold of him. The other two prepared to beat him.
Talon appeared from the interior. The goblins did not pay him any attention nor did they hesitate in their activities. One of them hit the gwam squarely in the jaw, and the other goblin hit him in the midsection. Planget replied with his feet and legs. Talon positioned himself against the support of the archway. He sighed regretfully, but he knew what he must do.
"I would be inclined to watch this spectacle and even enjoy it. Hell, knowing me, I might even participate, but I have my orders, and this gwam is centered on them. I do kind of need him alive and intact."
The goblins grumbled, and each of them took a parting blow at the gwam before he was released from his bonds. Talon held up a hand that created a shield spell to ward off the blows to himself. The gwam glared viciously at him. Talon smirked and ignored him.
"What happened to 'you're free to go'?" Planget demanded. He spat at the goblin. "I knew better than trust a damn magic user."
"Then don't trust yourself," Talon said plainly, "I will escort you out, if that is what you really want."
"What else would I want?" he snarled, "All I have met with are goblins, who would like my skull as a trophy! I have met no gwamin here like you claim there to be here! You want to make me into one of your lousy race, that I so despise, so that you can use me. You want to teach the abomination of magic, so that I will do you accursed dirty work."
"The gwamin know your mark, and they avoid you for it," Talon answered.
Planget glared at the unmoved goblin. He moved to challenge. Unimpressed by his efforts, Talon did not move. The young gwam hit something forceful and quite painful as he lunged at his smug elder. Finally, he dropped to his knees and looked up at the snow-covered archways and turrets of the fortress. He held his arms up to them and exclaimed, "I want nothing to do with this accursed power! Believe me! I did not ask for this!" His words echoed in the apparent empty courtyard. He slumped his head forward.
Talon did not react or move at the gwam's words. "It would be best to take my lord's offer of the training."
"Can I not just be free of this accursed power?" he mumbled without looking up.
"Who knows? You would have to learn to use it before you can expel."
I don't want anything to do with this damn kingdom."
Talon spread his hands. "So be it. It doesn't matter to me. I would prefer to be free of my duty anyway. Just remember that it was your choice to leave when you find rejection throughout all gwamin society."
Planget's shoulders drooped. He hung his head in defeat. "You win. I will learn," he muttered.
The goblin gave him a sidelong glance, but he held down the urge to taunt him further. After all, this gwam the keys to his escape of that bloody healing job. There was no need make him go back on his acceptance. Talon helped the gwam to his feet. Planget did not raise his head as Talon led him.
Talon's chamber was much like those of Sagamore's concealed room, but the things were much less covered in dust and heavy dark curtains covered the windows. The chamber was warm contrary to the slight movement of the curtains and compared to Sagamore's room. Still, the white rodents ran about the room. Talon easily caught one. He offered the squirming creature to his guest. Planget held up his hands and shook his head to decline. Talon shrugged and bit into the creature. He motioned for the gwam to take a seat. The goblin chose a book and tossed it unceremoniously on the table, as he finished off his snack.
"You can read, can't you?" the goblin asked as he licked the blood from his fingers.
"It is one of the requirements of the gwamin race," he answered, "We are not as ignorant of a bunch as your race."
"Yeah. Sure. Whatever. Tresreil would be quick to point out that it is a requirement to only the male members of the race," he answered nonchalantly, "Can you read the Common Language, since I am sure that Goblin is not on the gwamin standards of reading."
"At least we have a common ground to start from."
Talon started his lessons to the gwam, but patience was far from being one of the wizard goblin's strong points. Between the natural rivalry of the races and the vast difference in beliefs, they did not get very far in the lesson. Finally the strength of Talon's arrogance broke free, and he slammed the book shut. He stood up and pounded his fists on the table. Planget only glared at the irate elder.
With an effort at calm, Talon announced, "I have had enough of our bickering. Tell me, why do the gwamin not like wizardry? Gwamin will serve magic users. You are quite gifted with the power. Why not use what the gods have given you! What is your reasoning here? It is alright to respect our magic, but you are not allowed to use it yourself."
"Wizards are cowardly, weakly, and untrustworthy. They can't win a fight fairly or honorably. If a gwamin nation falls to a wizard, we must serve him as a retribution of our failure, and we will not back stab our lord."
"Tell me, are you a coward? Are you weak? Are you untrustworthy? Are you unable to fight fairly? Would you back stab your lord?"
"I am not a coward, nor am I weak! I will not back stab even you."
"Show me your strength."
The gwam stood up with a smile on his thin dark lips. He engaged Talon in a hand to hand combat. The goblin seemed effortless to block each of his smaller companion's blows. He was able to retaliate easily on his smaller opponent and after several round, he pinned the gwam to the floor.
The goblin got up and brushed down his clothes. The gwam wiped the blood from his mouth. "Alright, you aren't weak," Planget answered, "How do I not know that you didn't use that ill gotten power of yours to strengthen yourself."
"It is not ill gotten. Like you, I was born with this power. you would know if I used my power. Come listen to me."
Planget got up as he looked icily at the goblin mage. Talon gave him a thin mischievous smile. The gwam fell face forward on the table in intense pain. As suddenly as the pain began, it stopped. Planget pulled himself up and glared again at the smug teacher. "Another test?" Talon asked sarcastically.
The gwam spat at him. Talon clenched his fists. With an effort, he held down the urge to disembowel the gwam. He forced the student to his seat. "Shall we continue?" Tallon growled.
Planget glared at him, but he did not offer any more argument.
One of Sagamore's guards from outside the chamber came before his lord. He bowed to him. "Blaisn and Mecrina have come, my lord."
"Show them in," the shadow answered.
The large one armed gwam came into the chamber followed by the much smaller peroukay. The pair bowed before the shadow. Sagamore stood up from his throne and approached them. He bid them to rise.
"What have you to report, Blaisn?"
"Sir, we have found a dwarven kingdom about a hundred miles to the east. There are about 250 dwarves that my party was able to count. Since a dwarf has the skill to fight off three of our number at the same time and succeed in killing all three, I thought we could workout a surprise attack and knock out about half of them before they knew what hit them. Sir, all races here can agree upon hatred of dwarves. We have all had some skirmishes with dwarves over tunneling rights and living rights. They feel so superior to us and think we should all live in the cold waste or be tortured like Kresha. I think we would all be pleased with the stamping out of one of their smug kingdoms," Blaisn reported.
"We could tunnel our way into their tunnels. I'm certain that the three main races here could come up with traps, and we, the peroukay, are quite experts at collapsing tunnels. We can cover our tracks well enough, so the dwarves will not be able to track down our domain."
"There are four races here. You forget the gremlins," the shadow answered. "They would serve to sabotage the dwarven equipment and arrange convenient accidents."
"The fighting skills of the troops might not quite be up to fighting dwarves," Blaisn commented, "But it would be better if we don't have to fight goblins, and I'm certain that the peroukay feel the same."
"Besides, dwarven weapons are superior to our own. That alone would be a great loot. Not to mention, we all know of dwarven hoard," Mecrina answered, "That would be enough incentive to encourage your rowdy troops to order."
"Yes, we could use their gold for out own purposes. Gold could buy us assassins against Merlock, or we could bribe the warriors away and kill them." The w4raith paced about the room. He turned suddenly on the pair. "We will have to get my unruly troops organized. We must destroy all dwarves in this kingdom. Dwarves are a vengeful race. If one of them survives, my kingdom will be in peril. Do you think we could hold offthe fight until they are properly trained."
"No, sir. The troops are wanting to fight among themselves," Blaisn answered.
"Patience is not one of their strong points," Mecrina added.
The wraith sighed. "How long before you think we could make an effective fight and appropriate tunnels?" he asked.
"With a hope of a good fight, I can get the troops in a somewhat shape to fight in about a week. In two weeks time, we should have a sufficient army."
"Yes, the fighting spirit is strong in the fighters. A common cause makes us all the more eager. This prospect will encourage the diggers, and we will have shifts around the clock."
"Alright, prepare the warriors for the fight in two weeks time from today. Mecrina, get the coordinates from Blaisn and get the peroukay moving on those tunnels." The Peroukay saluted the shadow. "Blaisn, "Sagamore continued, "Tell Jaxon to tell the gremlins to prepare their part of this fight."
"Why me! She gives me the creeps, sir!" the gwam objected.
"She won't bother you, and she's the only one who knows their language."
"That's because she takes more time to listen to them than trying to eat them," Mecrina commented.
"You can go with Blaisn, Mecrina. I don't want to hear any argument. Do as you are ordered."
The two grumbled as they left the chamber. After a few moments of a loud commotion sounded outside the chamber. The shadow stood up from his throne and disappeared. he appeared outside in the hallway.
The goblin guards of Sagamore's throne room, another goblin, two gwamin, and a peroukay fought with one of the goblin prisoners of the night before. the goblin was torn and bloody from the ambush. the shadow crossed his arms and watched the six of them abuse the single goblin, who hopelessly fought on.
One of the three goblins spotted the pensive shadow and stopped short. The other five looked at him curiously and followed his train of sight. The shadow did not move.
The peroukay stepped forward. "Sir, we caught this goblin trying to escape. We were bringing him to you for justice."
The substance of the shadow darkened . He approached the restrained goblin, who cringed back from the shadow's approach. Sagamore could feel his substance delight in the rising terror and desired to devour this little morsel. "I told you that you must serve me for two weeks," the hollow voice growled with increasing menace, " I feel inclined to allow these six to have their way with you. I could even take your soul in for my sustenance. My strength would increase and that would add to my insurance to Merlock's fall." The shadow stepped back from the beaten goblin. The prisoner collapsed between his guards. "Speak your excuse," the wraith ordered.
The goblin did not look up. "I must return home. My son will die without me. He's only five, and the others will kill him. The law of my kingdom allows others to kill orphans."
"You take it upon yourself to run. Why not tell your captain.?' the shadow retorted.
The goblin swallowed hard and with an effort made eye contact with the shadow. "I may be young, but there is no need to mock me. Kill me and be done with it."
"Have any of you goblins ever heard about pleading for mercy?" the wraith commented, "What do you think is so glamorous about dying? If you are dead, you cannot save your child."
"Plead for mercy from mercy from a wraith? Why? So you can laugh at me, then you will kill me anyway. I am dead anyway!" the goblin exclaimed.
The wraith pointed to the goblin, who restrained the prisoner. "Bring him into my chamber. The rest of you, go back to your stations."
The other five grumbled. The flaming glare of the wraith's red eyes burned into them. They relented and four of them dispersed. The remaining goblin guard took his position back at the door. The other guard and the prisoner followed the shadow into the throne room.. Sagamore waved his hand at the captor.
"Release him. he cannot run from here nor is he in any condition to harm us."
The goblin obeyed grudgingly. The prisoner fell to his bruise and bleeding hands and knees. The wraith moved in on him. The prisoner did not look up or move. "Speak freely."
"Speak what? I told you all," the goblin answered.
"If we had not rescued you, your child would be an orphan anyway."
"I know, but I live. I must return to him if I can. You cannot understand. You have no life or love."
"No. I don't understand," the shadow answered. The goblin's supporting hands painfully clenched. "Look up," the wraith ordered. The goblin's blood stained exhausted face looked up at the wraith. "What guarantee do I have that you will return to my kingdom after you retrieve your son?"
The goblin's arms gave way, and he fell forward trembling. The guards pulled him up roughly to face the shadow lord. "All I can do," the captive answered, "is give you my word that I will return."
The shadow paced the room. once the captor let go of the prisoner, he fell forward again. The black ghost fed off of the fear and despair of the prisoner. The guards stood unafraid and disinterested, although they could sense the growing power of the wraith. Yet, he knew his lord all too well to hope that he and his companions would get the chance to finish this one off.. The shadow swung out his arms in the direction of the two guards, as he took to his throne.
"I will send a party of four goblins to escort you home. I want you back in two weeks time. Two of your escort will wait for you at your homeland. The other two will return here, so that we know where the kingdom is located. If you and your escort do not return within two weeks, we will destroy everything in your kingdom as retribution. There are more wraiths here than myself. I have less hatred of the world in general and the goblin race than they do. When you return, I want one year's service from both you and your son as payment."
The goblin looked up at the wraith in astonishment. His bleeding mouth moved wordlessly. The shadow pointed to the guard. "Have his broken bones mended, so that his own people won't kill him. Chose three more companions to go with him."
The captor frowned. "Yes, sir," he answered.
The two left the chamber. Sagamore leaned back in the throne. His thoughts wandered off to when Merlock would fall, and he could finally give up the struggle to remain. He sat up suddenly with the feel of a presence. For a few moments he was tense, but he soon realized it was not the white light. His form relaxed again, as he watched the black hooded figure with heavy black robes and oversized sleeves that swallowed up the arms, move silently and gracefully to his throne. The thin silver sash about the figure's waist hung loose and moved strangely with the owner. This silent dark figure bowed before him with grace. Then the figure knelt before him, clasped black gloved hands together, and let them fall quietly onto the lap. The oversized sleeves fanned out on the ground about the figure. Sagamore appeared beside his dark visitor. The figure did not flinch at the shadow's appearance, and Sagamore was aware of this rare visitor felt no fear of him.
"Get up and be at ease, Jaxon," the wraith ordered rather sharply. The figure rose silently and without fear. She did not unclasp her hands, as she let them quietly fall before her. "What do you want?" the slightly taller shadow demanded.
"My studies have shown that the time of release will occur again in six weeks time, sir," the hollow, but almost musical voice answered, "This time we will be free of this world and its confines for five days."
"I do not mean to be harsh, Jaxon," the wraith answered, "It is what I must be."
"I know, sir."
"This is good news, Jaxon. I am so weary of this world and the struggle. A break from this will do me good. I can return in a nastier disposition."
"Why do you let me know your weakness, sir?"
"Would you think less of me?"
"Would you betray me?"
"I can be honest with you. You hold no grudge against me."
"I do not understand you, sir. In all my studies of wraiths, you do not live up to my expectations. Wraiths are suppose to be untrusting of everything. I guess it is broken trust that brings a wraith into existence."
"Don't push it, Jaxon. To touch me would mean for you to lose your soul. It is this hunger that tells me that you are trustworthy. The purer the soul, the more I hunger for it, and you definitely one of the purer souls here."
The figure did not move, nor did he sense fear from her as he circled her. "I will not argue with you, sir, although my creator claimed that I have no soul."
"I know better, and we've argued this many times before. I should know the scent of sustenance."
"Yes, sir. A wraith could feel the presence of a soul," she answered flatly. her black gloved hands unclasped as her left hand took hold of her right shoulder. She bowed her hooded head. in submission.
"You are more than food to me, you know," the wraith said.
She looked up at him. you are more than my lord. I think of you as a friend. I often fear for your tormented soul, sir. Your state of being is such a struggle, and the power of the Great Crystal is more than you and Talon could ever handle. I fear each time you tap into that power. Things of such power usually have a will of their own."
The shadow gave a hollow laugh. "I appreciate your concern, but Talon and I must do what we must do. Talon plays the fool, but you know as well as I do, he isn't one. he knows and respects the power of the Crystal, as do I. Why else do you think I haven't flattened Merlock with its power yet. I can feel it overpowering will when I have tried. I will not be destroyed without Merlock going with me! I must know that all signs of that accursed place are obliterated before I can rest!" the spirit ranted.
Jaxon bowed her head and stepped back. the spirit felt her apprehension. "Yes, sir," she answered quietly.
"I will not harm you, Jaxon. I have control. you know that I must feel this way. I know that you disapprove of such hatred, but you have sense enough not to challenge me on this."
"You are a wraith, sir. I am foolish. Such outbursts are to be expected. I do know not to stand between you and your obsession." She bowed and turned to leave.
"There is something that I want you to do for me."
"We are going to attack a dwarven kingdom, and I want you to get your gremlin friends to sabotage their defenses."
"Sir! Is that wise? Dwarves will fight until the last of their blood, and they have many relations that will come to their aid or erect revenge!"
"We intend to kill everything."
"Don't argue, Jaxon. You live among several warlike races and creatures, who live on hate. I know you are not among these races, and this is hard for you, but we must do what we must do. It is in our blood and soul."
"The relations of these dwarves wills strive to hunt you down and destroy this kingdom. Bloodshed means more bloodshed."
"We'll kill the, too. You worry too much. Will you do this for me? If it makes you feel better, many goblins, gwamin, and peroukay have suffered and died by dwarven might, and their deaths were neither quick nor kind. This will be revenge many of my people."
"I will do as you ask, sir."
"Jaxon, it will be alright" the shade assured her. He moved back to the throne. A mischievous flicker sparked in his red eyes. "Mecrina and Blaisn will be by your chamber later today to ask the same of you. Play stupid."
"They were ordered to ask your help in this matter."
"But they do not care for my presence here, sir. Would it not be better to let them know that you have already asked me."
"I like this way better."
The shadow shifted as another thought came to him. The pause was only momentary, and he asked the still figure before him, "How long have you been part of this kingdom, Jaxon?"
"136 years, sir, but I do not mean to be defiant."
The shadow waved his hand in her direction. "No. I was just wondering if you kept count."
"I keep many things to my memory, sir."
"I'm certain you do. Do you always work alone?"
"Do you have any friends here?"
"Only you, sir."
"And I only see you right before the Time of Release, that only happens about every six years. If I were to ask you to work with someone, would you?"
"Of course, sir. You are my master."
"Don't give me that shit! I know you are an independent spirit. You have no master. You argue with me if you think I'm wrong. If I asked you to come and join us in the massacre of the dwarves, you would bulk, and I would find you gone tomorrow. I don't want that, Jaxon. You serve many purposes to me as one of my kingdom. I don't ask you to do things against your nature. You will be no good in the attack against Merlock. I know this. You are, however, able to explain many traits of the unusual magic here. You calculate the coming events. You are always here to tell me of the Time of Release, because I need to know. You keep Talon out of trouble. What else could I ask?"
"You give me too much credit, sir. No one can keep Talon out of trouble, and you share much of this trait with him, sir. If you were to ask me to kill someone, who had not harmed me or given me reason to harm, I would flee here."
"I have asked you to do small favors for me in the past. These favors have not affected your persona; work, but this will. You will have to create time for a companion. Do you want to work with someone?"
Jaxon shrugged through her heavy robes. Most creatures would not have noticed the movement at all, but Sagamore knew his subject. "I do not know. My previous master was insistent that each of his creations go their separate ways, and we would learn more that way. Each year we would exchange information with our mates. Sometimes, I miss Beckell. I guess, he misses me also. Since I have been here, no one has been eager to work with me or be near me, because of what I am or what I may be."
"Yes," the shadow answered, as he moved to this throne. "You've not made much of an effort to associate yourself with the others. If you like, I will tell you what I have in mind. I plan to form a group of healers, and I want you to be part of this group."
"Do you not think that I would make a most peculiar healer's assistant?"
"Yes. You would, but I think you are suited for the job."
"If you say so, then I am, sir."
"You will do fine. Only one of the three is a trained healer. Gulfrich is a half human half goblin Healer of Meleka. I have in mind to combine his skills with an untrained gwamin wizard, who is quite pissed off about learning magic."
"I would say he is quite unwilling to learn magic. gwamin do not take well to magic, much less among their own. You know the way of the gwamin." She looked down at her hidden hands. A few moments of silence passed between the two of them. She looked up at the wraith. "Training an unwilling magic user is more my line of work than healing. He is going to hate me anyway," she answered with suppressed enthusiasm.
"The decision is up to you. I will not force you. You would be a better healer's assistant than Talon is a healer. you have the spirit of a healer if not the appearance of one. You would be much better at healing than Millision. Don't think because you share similarities with Millision that you are like him or have to be like him. I could imagine you would save a life, but can you ever imagine Millision ever having the desire to do so?"
"You'll do fine, Jaxon. Besides, I kind of had in mind that you would be training the gwam in the use of magic, and you can keep him from killing the half blood and the half blood's body guard from killing the gwam."
"You do have quite a challenge ahead of me, sir."
"Will you train this gwam and work with this trio? I realize that you are a loner like Talon and myself, but this is a great opportunity for you to learn about relationships."
"Why do you give me a choice?"
"Would you deny my request?"
"No, sir. I owe you my life and my freedom. When do I meet my student?"
"Oh, I say, in about two and a half weeks. By then we will be done with our battle, and Talon will be clinging to the walls."
"Sir! You had Tallon train this gwam! Talon, sir!"
"Never say your lord does not have a sense of humor. I know you. Unlike Talon, you have patience for the job, but Talon's been too mischievous of late for me to let him get away with it."
"Thank you, sir," she answered quietly, "I will do my best to achieve your will." She bowed to him.
She silently and gracefully moved to the exit of the room. The guards outside the doorway stood in her way. She silently shook her head, as the two other goblins moved in on her. One of them grabbed her arms behind her and kicked her forward. A gold light outlined her form, and the goblin dropped her arms. He fell back, and none of the others were able to approach her. She folded her gloved hands and a gold ball formed between them. the goblins jumped at her, but the barrier repelled them. The ball rose from her hands and burst. It scattered gold sparkles on her attackers, and they collapsed asleep. She looked at each of their snoring bodies and nodded. her hooded head met with the train of vision of the pair of red flaming eyes in the shadows. She bowed to them again and went on her way.