Authors: Brian S. Pratt
Tags: #action, #adult, #adventure, #ancient, #brian s pratt, #epic, #fantasy, #magic, #paypal, #playing, #role, #rpg, #ruins, #series, #spell, #teen, #the broken key, #the morcyth saga, #troll, #young
Copyright 2006, 2009
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The Fantasy Worlds of
Brian S. Pratt
The Morcyth Saga
*(Conclusion of The Morcyth Saga)
Travail of The Dark Mage
Sequel to The Morcyth Saga
The Broken Key
Dungeon Crawler Adventures
The Adventurer’s Guild
For my Grandma Jessie. As a boy it was always
fun to stay with her: picking worms, canasta, and penny slots at
Lake Tahoe when no one was looking.
Will always love her.
The common room of the tavern is packed with
the noon meal crowd. Tradesmen and travelers make up most of the
Squawking Gooses’ clientele. A few farmers are scattered about,
those who are in town for one reason or another.
A tirade is in progress over by the bar, a
woman is telling her man off in rare form. Apparently she’s the
wife of the proprietor, the man being the proprietor himself. He
looks as though he’s taking it with a grain of salt, simply letting
her run out of steam while he waits patiently.
A man over to one side sitting at a table
near a window has been watching the spectacle from the beginning.
He’s not sure just what started it but it has at least been a
distraction while he awaits the others who are to meet him here.
Several hours overdue, his impatience is steadily growing into
No sooner does the woman stop explaining to
the man how stupid and ignorant he is, then she turns and stalks
through the door leading into the kitchen area. The look on the
proprietor’s face is one of relief and the man wonders how he puts
up with such behavior from a woman. Shaking his head, the man
glances out the window. “Finally!” he breathes under his breath as
the two men whom he’s been waiting for ride up the street toward
Remaining in his seat, he watches as the men
approach and then come to a stop where the other horses are secured
to the rail outside. Dismounting, they secure their steeds to the
rail and make their way into the inn.
One is rather tall, easily half a head taller
than any of the other patrons in the common room. Red haired with a
trim beard, he looks as though he’s seen his share of conflict if
the numerous scars on the exposed portions of his body are any
indication. The other man only comes to his shoulders, flaxen hair
and carrying himself with confidence. Neither are ones you would
want to run into alone in a dark alley.
They pause in the doorway as the tall man
takes in the people in the common room. Seeing the one they’re to
meet he taps his partner on the shoulder and they make their way
across the crowded room. When they reach the table where the man
waits they take their seats. The man who has been waiting for them
says, “About time you guys got here.”
“Take it easy,” the tall man says. “Took some
time to find the numbers you wanted.”
“Not to mention the items you requested,” the
flaxen haired man adds. “Those are hard to come by.”
“Did you get them, then?” the man asks.
“Yes,” the tall man replies. “We got
everything you requested.”
“And the men?”
“They’re waiting outside of town,” flaxen
“Good,” he grunts and then glances around to
be sure none of the other patrons are paying attention. Lowering
his voice he says, “He lives outside of town. I’ve kept an eye on
the place for the last three days. It looks like we’ll have little
“Thought there was a veritable army there?”
tall man asks.
“There was,” he replies. “But most everyone
pulled out two days ago. All that’s left there are two men and one
only has one leg. There’s also a woman and a child but I doubt if
they will cause us any problems.”
“Is the mage still there?” flaxen hair
Nodding, the man replies, “I saw him doing
some strange experiments.”
“Are you sure taking on a mage is a good
idea,” the tall man asks. Usually afraid of nothing, the thought of
crossing one who can wield the power makes him uneasy.
“That’s why you brought what you did,” he
says. “Those who I deal with say he has a fortune there in gems.
From what they’ve learned, he has a trader sell them in other towns
to avoid drawing unwanted attention to himself.”
Grinning, flaxen hair asks, “Didn’t work, did
“No,” replies the man with an evil grin.
“This is going to be the biggest score we’ve yet made.”
“When do we go?” tall man asks.
“Tonight,” replies the man. “Once the sun
Rising up to the sky, it floats gently upon
the breeze. Finally, his vision has seen fruition as the rising
object continues to gain altitude. Oh sure, he had help but this
has been his project from the beginning. Delia found the material,
Ezra sewed it together for him in just the right way and James
added a suggestion or two that helped.
He always knew this would work, his first
attempt was a month ago. Using a small sack made from the light
material he managed to get it to rise a little in the air when held
aloft over an open flame. When it actually lifted several feet into
the air he almost broke down and cried right there. For too long he
had endured the snide remarks from others who thought he was crazy.
Some even here at The Ranch looked at him odd at times but James
never let anyone say a word of derision to him.
Now, a month later, he’s trying something a
bit more ambitious. Using a much larger balloon, he’s hoping to
have it rise and stay afloat for a much longer time. The balloon
has now floated to the treetops and is becoming dangerously close
to being entangled in the upper reaches of a tall pine. “Move…come
on,” he says as the balloon comes ever closer to the branches.
“Rise damn you!” he practically yells just before the edge snags a
branch. The balloon lurches to the side and starts deflating.
“Damn!” he yells.
“Not working?” a voice asks from nearby.
Turning, he finds Fifer there walking toward
him. Leaning upon a crutch, he hobbles as best he can. Actually, he
can get around pretty good with it and even has begun practicing
with his sword, though isn’t nearly as good as he once was. He lost
his leg on the journey to Ironhold last Fall.
“The wind keeps taking it into the trees,” he
says. “Have to find some way to make it rise faster.”
“I’m sure you’ll make it work,” Fifer says.
“Oh, your wife said to tell you dinner is almost ready.”
“Thanks,” Roland replies. “I just need to get
it down before I return. Tell her I will be a few minutes.”
“Sure thing,” he assures him. Turning his
back on Roland, Fifer begins making his way back across the
clearing. He grins to himself when he recalls how this clearing
came to be.
It was early last winter, shortly after their
return from Ironhold. James had been out here working on some
experiment or another and had laid waste to a swathe of the forest.
By the time the fires died out, almost forty acres had burned. In
the middle of the ashes was a clearing several hundred feet across
devoid of anything living.
James had come out of it looking the worse
for wear. Most of his hair had been singed and he said if he hadn’t
erected a shield in time, he wouldn’t have lived to tell about it.
When asked, he didn’t go into very much details on what he was
doing or why.
After that and during the rest of the winter,
things were in high gear. He wasn’t told the particulars of what
was transpiring and had the feeling no one but James, maybe Illan,
knew the whole truth. But from what was going on, he knew James no
longer was going to be content with waiting for danger to come to
him. He was going to take it to them.
During the early winter months, Delia made
many trips to and from The Ranch, much more frequently than she
ever had before. The items she was dropping off here didn’t make
much sense: small, round glass balls with a hole in the top, not to
mention the barrels of lantern oil. Didn’t make much sense to
Once the snows had set in around December,
Delia and the pit fighters she uses as guards rolled into The Ranch
and stayed. She began training the recruits in the use of slings.
To the chagrin of Jiron, his sister Tersa joined the others in
learning the use of the sling. James had a slug belt made for each
of them, similar in design to the one he uses.
All through the winter, James, Jiron and
Illan worked in the workshop. All others were kept out as they did
who knows what. Fifer tried to look in through a window once but
found it to be covered with a dark cloth to prevent anyone from
discovering what was going on inside.
When news came last week that the passes were
open to the east, James announced that everyone would be leaving
for an extended trip. Didn’t say where they were bound but everyone
had a good idea, especially after what happened in Ironhold. Each
of the recruits was given the option of staying behind or going
with him and all opted to go.
Two days before they left, James told each of
the recruits to spend what time they wished with their families
before they set out.
When the day came to leave, James, Illan and
Jiron brought many packs out from the workshop. Bulging with
unknown items, they began securing them to the many pack horses he
had acquired during the winter, a dozen in all.
Before he left, he told Roland that if he
didn’t return, The Ranch was his to do with as he saw fit. Then he,
along with the recruits, Delia and her guards as well as Illan and
the others, rode out the lane and took the road north.
Entering through the back door, Fifer finds
Ezra putting the last of the food on the table. Arkie is already
sitting in his highchair and perks up when he sees Fifer come in
through the door. “Ife,” he says in his baby talk. The last month
or so he’s begun to talk and be somewhat understood.
Giving the boy a smile, he says to Ezra,
“He’ll be in shortly. His balloon got caught in the tree
Shaking her head, she says, “That’s the third
time in two days.”
He takes his seat and is amazed at just how
large the table seems now that most everyone is gone. Roland and
Ezra still reside in the old house, the new one is for James. It
was completed not too long after their return from Ironhold and he
quickly took up residence there. But until they know for sure that
he’s not coming back, he’s still the master and that’s his
A few minutes later, the door opens and
Roland enters carrying his balloon. A long jagged hole is apparent
from where the tree limb had punctured it. He puts it on the
counter and then takes his place at the head of the table. That’s
his spot now that James is no longer here.