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 Category:  Fantasy Fiction
  Posted: December 2, 2019      Views: 69
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Chapter 21 of the book Quest for the Neckulet
The quest gets a strange message
"Message from Trall" by krprice
Background
The quest searches for a stolen neckulet and seems to always be a couple days behind the thieves.


The next morning, Radolf lay on his pallet, listening to the dwarves moving around the main chamber. The aroma of the black bread the Little People were known for made his stomach growl. The rubies, emeralds, and sapphires on the ceiling glowed in the lantern light.
 
Radolf’s eyes opened. “You mean there’s someone on this planet up before Jewelletta?”  His light tone dispelled the gloom of yesterday.
 
Jahm grinned. “Evidently, our dwarfish friends have been busy for hours.”
 
“Hrumph,” Jewelletta stood at the room entrance and seemed to take the jesting in stride. “I needed some extra rest after yesterday. Bet you’d be tired too if you battled a sorcerer and his herd of unicorns.”
 
“We’d probably be more than tired,” Radolf commented. “We’d probably be dead.”
 
“Looks like everyone is in good spirits,” Jewelletta said. “And rested too. We need to get started, so we can reach Veda as soon as possible. The climb over the Tolsada Mountains will be difficult. We’ll make it as long as we work together.”
 
“And you’ll make sure we will do that.” Vidad sat up.
 
“Yes, you can bet on that.” Jewelletta stretched.
 
“How are you feeling this morning, Jewelletta?” Jahm asked.
                                   
“Better after a long bath and a good night’s sleep,” she answered.
 
“I guess you want us to get up?” Radolf asked.
 
“Yes,” she answered. “We must leave after breakfast.”
 
During their meal, Davin asked, “Any truth to the rumor?”
 
Radolf passed on the bad news.
 
“First, the swans, then the unicorns, now this.” He turned to the sorceress, his eyes widening. 
 
“What does it all mean?”
 
“I’m not sure, Davin, and until I am, I’d rather not say anything. Too many things are happening.  Be careful.” Her tone changed. “Now what can I do to thank you for your gracious hospitality?”
 
“Well . . . ”  He hung his head sheepishly.
 
“Speak up, Davin. If there’s anything I can do, all you need do is to ask.” Jewelletta smeared butter over a slice of black bread. 
 
 He drank some tea. “We could eventually get through, but it would take time, and we’d lose several days. If you could unblock it for us . . . ”
 
“I’d be happy to. Why don’t you show me where it is?”
 
****
After eating, Davin and Jewelletta rose and headed toward a tunnel to the left of the chamber.
Jewelletta paused and turned to the others. “If you have any more packing to do, get it done while I’m gone.”
 
“We’ve prepared several packs of food for your journey,” Davin said. “Veda is a long way. I know you can hunt, but this can supplement that, even make your way quicker. Graynor will see to its division among your people.”
 
“Thank you very much.” Jewelletta followed Davin. 
 
He grabbed a torch. Jewelletta chanted a few words. A ball of light appeared in her hand. A musty smell seeped through the darkness. Rills of water ran down the black walls.
 
They walked straight and turned right. From there, they turned left, then right, twisting one way and another as if inside the guts of a large animal. At the far end of the last passageway, chunks of black stone blocked their way.
 
“Hold the magefire.” Jewelletta reached for Davin’s hand, ready to put her ball of fire light in it.
 
At first, he snatched his hand away. He raised his eyebrows as his eyes widened.
 
“It won’t burn you.” She grabbed it and transferred it to her other hand. “See my hand is fine.”  She showed him.
 
“But it’s fire,” he argued.
 
“Magic fire. Take it.” Jewelletta seized his hand and slid the ball into it.
 
He flinched. “Why it’s only warm.”
 
Jewelletta grinned, amused at his fear. She spoke an incantation. In a few seconds, the large stones moved, slowly at first and more rapidly as the heavier ones flew off to the side. The smaller ones appeared. Minutes later, the entrance stood empty.
 
The elder dwarf’s jaw dropped in wonderment at the feat he’d witnessed.
 
“Can I carry it?” he asked in an excited voice as if he was a child and this was a new toy.
 
“Of course,” she said.  Let’s go back to the chamber.”
 
Upon their return, Davin’s eyes blazed with wonder. He proudly displayed the light to the other dwarves. 
 
“Here, take it,” he said to Graynor.
 
Graynor hid his hands behind his back.
 
“It won’t burn you. It’s magic.”  Davin told him. “I’m your older brother. Would I lie to you?”
Graynor edged his hand out. Davin put the light in it.
 
Entertained by the dwarves’ antics, Jewelletta watched as he made each of his fellow miners hold it.
 
Davin finally gave it back to Jewelletta. “Thank you for your help. And for making me hold the magic fire. I haven’t had so much fun in years.” His grin stretched from ear to ear.
 
“I’m glad I could help,” she acknowledged.
 
Graynor spoke. “I’ve been going over the events in my mind when those men were here. Right before they left, the leader mentioned the Militar.”
 
“That’s my home,” Jahm said. “At least, that was my home.” Sorrow edged his last words.
 
“We’ll head there,” Jewelletta said. “It’s on our way to the Veda Community. You know the way, Jahm. You can guide us.”
 
Panicked eyes glared at her, his knuckle’s white. “Yes, but I don’t know what kind of reception I’ll get.”
 
“I’m from the most respected tribes in the world.” Jewelletta grabbed his hand, caressing it. “I think you’ll be safe.”
 
Chrystella hesitated and spoke. “I’d rather not get too close to Veda or Aderra. I don’t know where else to go.” She clung to Vidad’s arm.
 
“Stay with us, for the time being anyway,” Jewelletta invited.
 
“Probably a good idea,” Vidad said, petting Chrystella’s arm. “You wouldn’t lead us into harm.”
“We’re ready to go.” Jewelletta said.
 
****
Everyone picked up their things and followed Jewelletta, with her magefire, out the tunnel.
 
“I’ll follow Jahm, Radolf, and Anarra next, and Chrys, and Vidad. I want you to protect our back.” She turned to the dwarves. “Thank you again for your help.”
 
 They all chorused goodbye.
 
Mud on the path made the climb down almost as difficult as the climb up. Chrystella slipped twice, but Vidad and Radolf caught her. Radolf stopped and stared at Lake Orania as they passed. The swans were still there. That must mean something. But what?
 
“Radolf, keep going,” Jewelletta chided.
 
Shaking his head as if to clean out the cobwebs, he answered.  “Sorry I got involved with my own thoughts.” 
 
“Trall.” Radolf spotted the green- clad dwarf from the Aurifex Caverns. “What brings you here?”
“You and your party,” he said. “The queen sends her regards.”
 
“I’m sure Queen Melitta didn’t send you here to say hello.” Radolf smiled, but his stomach churned.
 
“No. We had some visitors that day after you left. A renegade Savaecus war party.” He glared at the bodyguard.
 
Vidad scowled but remained quiet.
 
“I’m sure you’ve handled worse,” Radolf said.
 
“Yes, but they inquired after you and Jewelletta,” Trall said.
 
Radolf dropped his jaw. He looked at the others. Their eyes widened to the size of large trenchers.
 
“By name?” His breakfast danced a whirling dervish in his stomach. 
 
“No, not precisely. They asked about a blond boy from the Spatali Valley. Said he is travelling with a dailam and a black-haired witch.”
 
“Not a very nice compliment, I must say. I’ve been called many things. Never a witch though.  Did they say why they wanted him?” Jewelletta stared at Trall.
 
“They had a message for him from his grandmother,” he told them.
 
Radolf widened his eyes. “My grandmother’s dead.”
 
“I know. So did the queen, though she didn’t let on. She told them you he’d passed through the valley several days ago but had no idea where you were headed,” he said. “Suffice to say, they weren’t happy with the news. Didn’t dare challenge her, not with a whole community full of dwarves standing around her.”
 
“What was the message?” Radolf inquired, his heartbeat increasing.
 
“Never did say,” Trall answered.
 
“How many were there?” Jewelletta asked.
 
“Eight or ten. After they were clear of our sentries, Queen Melitta ordered me to take an escort to warn you. Whoever they are, they don’t mean you warmth and happiness.” Trall chuckled, and the rest grinned. “Must have been very desperate to come ask our help. We aren’t known for our hospitality.”
 
“True.” Radolf pretended to cough, so he could hide a smile behind his hand. “Thank you.”
“You’re quite welcome. Now we’ve delivered our message, I think we’ll visit our cousins up in the Kristall Caverns. Davin is really a first cousin, and I haven’t seen him in a while.”
Jewelletta told him of the discovery and the reopening.
 
“Good. He’ll be in high spirits. Haven’t done any real mining in years. Not since I took up cavern security. Maybe I’ll spend a day or two and help.” He rubbed his hands together as if anxious to get started. “Hope you don’t run into those nasty fellows.”
 
“Were they on foot or on horses?” Jahm asked.
 
“Horses.”
 
“They have an advantage over us. Come, Jahm.” She waved goodbye to Trall.
 
 They went in different directions.
 
“I don’t like that news,” Jahm said as they walked next to each other. “Someone’s after Radolf.”    
 
“Yes, and it doesn’t bode well for us. We’ll have to be very careful.” She made sure the others knew it too. She glared at Radolf. “No impulsiveness.”
 
His face grew warm. “I promise to behave.”
Traveling in silence, they climbed the long, steep hill leading from the valley. Just as muddy and filled with rocks as the rest of the trail.
 
Vidad spoke when they reached the top. “Jewelletta, Chrys is tired. Can we rest? We need a war council.”
 
“Good idea,” Jahm said before Jewelletta could answer him.
 
“You’ll get no argument from me.” Her breaths came in puffs. “Jahm, Radolf, and Anarra find us a place. We do need to discuss a few things.” Velvet cloaked her steel tone.
 
A few minutes later Jahm called, “Down this way. Anarra’s found us a great place. Off the trail.”
****
They followed him down to a clump of trees and into a small clearing with a quiet stream nearby. Oaks surrounded them, hiding them from nosy people. 
 
“Let’s eat.” Jewelletta wiped sweat from her forehead. 
 
She bent down and distributed the food.
 
“I’m worried about Trall’s information.” Vidad bit into a hunk of cheese. “I grew up in a Savaecus camp, and I’ve seen these war parties. Renegades have steel nerves and iron guts.   They’ve attacked the main camp when they knew most of the men would be away. I was only twelve when I had to defend my mother and younger brother from a marauding party. I had begun learning swordplay with an edged weapon. I was very clumsy, but I guess determination made up for what I lacked in experience.” He chuckled. “Not that there was anything funny about it. Renegades are nothing to toy with.”
 
“You don’t have to tell me about renegades.” Radolf spat as he glowered at Vidad.
 
“Evidently, you’ve had more than your recent experience with them.” Vidad handed a waterskin to Chrys.
 
He told of the death of his parents, his grandfather and stood.
 
“Cool down, Radolf.” Jewelletta grabbed his hand. “And don’t condemn Vidad because he’s from the same tribe.”
 
Sit, Radolf, before you make a fool of yourself.
 
He glanced at Anarra. She was right, so he sat. “I’m sorry, Vidad. I get rather emotional when I speak of my parents and grandfather. Particularly since my grandmother’s death.”
 
“Can’t say I blame you. They love to stir up trouble even when no one will hire them to do it.”  Vidad told him. “I’m not like that.”
 
“The problem is still with us. We’ve got to cross the Mara Plains to reach Militar. We’ll be vulnerable to attack.” Jewelletta bit into a piece of black bread.
 
“We should be able to see them coming,” Jahm said.
 
“Unless they ambush us as we come from the valley,” Vidad suggested.
 
“Hm . . .   Good thought. What else do you know about them that might help us?” Jahm asked.
“They like to use poison darts. That’ll be our worst danger.”
 
“And they’ll be on horseback,” Jewelletta added and turned to the princess. “Chrystella, do you have a weapon?”
 
“Vidad has been teaching me how to use a sword, but I don’t have one. I do have a dagger.” She drew it from a sheath hidden inside her pants waistband.
 
“Radolf and Chrystella are in the most danger. We must protect them at all costs. The rest of us are expendable. I will protect Radolf.” She paused for water. “Jahm, Vidad protect Chrystella.”  She rummaged through her herbs. “Here, Chrys, Radolf. This is acciderum. Be careful where you throw it. Aim for the horses’ eyes. It’ll blind them. Temporarily.” She handed each of them a small pouch.
 
What about me? Anarra asked Radolf.
 
“Anarra wants to know what her assignment is.”
 
Jewelletta smiled. “Protecting you, of course. Did you really doubt that, Anarra?” The sorceress bent over and stroked the dailam’s back. Crystal blue eyes gleamed back as if acknowledging her part.
 
After eating and packing up, Jahm led the way.
 
They did not encounter any trouble until a few miles outside of Militar when the pounding of hooves shook the ground.
 
Dressed in black with hoods and masks, a dozen men astride ebony horses encircled them.
Jewelletta, Jahm, and Vidad stepped in front of the other two as Anarra growled beside the sorceress.  
           
 
 

The book continues with Militar. We will provide a link to it when you review this below.
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