tagRomanceA Perilous Journey Ch. 03

A Perilous Journey Ch. 03


The Ahlissan Chronicles

~ Book II ~

A Perilous Journey

~ 3 ~

A Voice From Beyond

By the time Astinos came in looking bleary eyed and half asleep, Brion had put on a pair of leather breeches and the body of the half-orc assassin was laid out on a long table. As William explained what they wanted the priest to do, Astinos examined the body. What he was checking for they did not know but the Paragon did wrinkle his nose at the smell of the half-breed. When he had finished his examination Astinos grasped the copper medallion of Heironeous that hung about his neck and placed his other hand on the assassin's forehead. As the Paragon closed his eyes and began to mutter his prayer a bright golden light shone from the medallion and from under the half-orc's closed eyes. When he had finished his prayer Astinos slowly opened his eyes and stared ahead.

"Speak your questions aloud and the assassin will answer them if he can."

Lord Barnard was the first to speak.

"What are you called and what is your guild allegiance?"

They all watched as the mouth of the half-orc assassin began to move and a hollow detached voice that seemed to come from the grave issued forth.

"I am called Okrar the Black and I belong to no guild." Spoke the voice in grating tone.

The three men looked at each other and shook their heads, none of them had heard of Okrar the Black and his lack of any rogues' guild affiliation would make tracking his background impossible. Brion asked the next question.

"Who sent you to kill me and why?" he asked, his tone grave.

"I was hired by a creature whose master I did not see and as for why I did not ask and no explanation was given."

"What is this creature you speak of?"

"It was a small demonic looking creature with black glassy eyes and leathery wings like those of a dragon."

Suddenly the corpse began to convulse as a horrible gurgling sound issued from the open mouth; also the golden light behind the eyelids dimmed, as well as, the light from Astinos' medallion.

"I am sorry my friends but it appears that the creatures' spirit has passed beyond our reach. Surely he is now in the clutches of some abyssal fiend and rightly so." said the priest as he looked down at the body disgustedly.

The rotund priest then excused himself and returned to the warmth of his bed, while the other three men talked among themselves.

"Well," said William "it appears that you have earned the ire of a powerful mage." He said looking over at Brion. "Only a powerful mage could have created such a thing as described by the assassin."

"I do not know what I have done or who I have offended. You don't think Lord Yarol could have hired a mage to exact vengeance upon me do you, for his defeat during the treaty talks?"

At this Barnard shook his head. "No, to plot revenge through a mage is too complicated. I have heard of evil mages committing assassinations and I would believe that if an elemental had appeared and tried to kill you but to hire a mage and the use one of those things to hire an assassin? No, too complex, this is something altogether different." He yawned sleepily. "I suggest you consult Aizantius in the morning, he will know more about such things."

* * *

Early the next morning one of the crew was sent to bring back the city guard who disposed of the corpse and determined that the killing was justified. After the city guard had left and the brig had gotten underway Lord Brion went to Aizantius' cabin. The mage had been in his stateroom the entire voyage studying and doing who knows what else Brion thought as he knocked on the mage's door.

"Enter." said the voice of Aizantius the royal Battle-Mage.

Brion opened the door to the cabin and went in, the room was furnished much like his own except that Aizantius had somehow packed all of his magikal implements with him and then unpacked them in his cabin. Glancing around the room Brion saw that it was very much a comfortable wizard's study and wondered if Eryca's cabin was the same. As Brion approached the mage he noticed that he had something pinned down on a wooden board and was busy dissecting it.

"Aizan," Brion said to the mage. "I need you to ask you something important."

The bearded mage stopped what he was doing and looked up at the young warrior through spectacles of his own making that appeared to magnify because one eye looked bigger than the other. The wizened mage pointed to a chair and motioned the young lord to sit; after which Brion related the events of the previous night. He described the half-orc's attack, the ensuing fight and then the manner in which they had questioned the corpse. He then repeated the killer's description of the creature that had hired him. Aizantius listened intently and then thought for a few minutes before speaking.

"The creature you are describing is called a homunculus and your father is right. A wizard would never create a homunculus just to hire an assassin if said wizard was hired by someone else. The creation of a homunculus is a long involved and potentially expensive process." The Battle-Mage leaned back in his chair and stoked his long beard. "The mage must first sculpt a statue of the creature from a special substance that must be made. It involves clay and more rare items, as well as, the mage's own blood. Then the complicated spell is cast that brings the homunculus to life or rather a semblance thereof. The mage can then see, hear and speak through the creature and it has limited intelligence and can be sent on errands by itself."

"But how would such a thing recruit an assassin?" Brion asked.

"Most likely the mage had the creature wait and follow a few such individuals and then after choosing one the wizard then took direct control of his creation and propositioned the assassin."

Brion nodded as he considered the mages' words before he spoke again.

"What is a homunculus and what do they look like, would I know it if I saw it?"

"Oh most certainly," said the wizened mage his brown eyes shining. "They are sculpted and so can look like anything but the most common and simplest form would be like that of a small winged demon. The exact details as to the size and shape of the sculpture would be laid out in the mages' spell-book. As to what they are, they are a very base form of a familiar like my owl Sophia" said Aizantius. "However," he continued. "Sophia possesses free will; she and I work together, whereas the homunculus is a slave to the mage who created it."

Brion again considered the mages' words thanked him and stood to leave but Aizantius reached out and took hold of the warriors' arm.

"Be cautious Brion," he warned. "Whoever is behind this will try again! For whatever reason they want to remain unknown at this time, hence the creature but it is still out there watching and waiting in the service of its master."

Lord Brion thanked the older mage and assured him that he would be careful. Aizantius said that he would contact a few close friends and ask if they had heard of any other mage with a vendetta. Brion thanked him again and left the stateroom letting the mage return to his studies.

* * *

Out on the main deck Brion found Eryca near the bow looking toward the mouth of the Nesser River, her long crimson curls were blowing in the wind and her purple mages' robes fluttered about her. He stood there and just took a few moments to admire her, she was beautiful yes but she was more than that. Eryca was kind, intelligent, powerful and spirited beyond compare. Brion had come to love and long for her, he yearned for her kisses and her touch shot fire through his veins. Smiling to himself he walked up behind her and placed his arms around her, she did not seem surprised and Brion was sure that she had known of his approach.

Eryca settled back into his embrace, she relished being in his arms. There was nowhere on Oerth that she felt more safe and protected than in his embrace. She turned in his arms and looked up into his face; she watched the wind whip his dark hair. Eryca loved the way he had a slight graying in his temples; it matched the grey that was beginning to creep into his goatee. He was much too young to be graying naturally and she had always assumed it was due to the things he had done and seen over many battles. He looked down at her and although his jaw was firmly set she saw the familiar tenderness in his sky blue eyes.

"What is it that troubles you my beloved?" he asked her softly, already knowing what it was.

"Grandfather said that the assassin was hired by a strange creature created by magik." Her voice filled with concern.

"Yes, I spoke with Aizantius about it and he said..."

"He said it was a homunculus, did he not?"

He looked down at her and he could see the worry in her green eyes, not because of any lines or furrows but because their color kept shifting from light spring green to a deep shade of jade.

"Yes he did. Apparently I have become the object of some insane wizard's vendetta; although I honestly do not know why."

Eryca looked up at him her eyes taking him in; even in the blowing wind she could feel the constant almost unnatural heat of his body and smell his scent of evergreen and musk.

"Please do not take this lightly Brion." she said her tone grave. "The process to create one of those things," she shivered at the thought "takes determination; whoever gave it life is a serious adversary."

Brion looked down into her eyes, a few strands of red blew across her face and he gently tucked them behind her ear. At that moment he cared nothing for this unknown enemy, his only wish was to remain like this with her forever. He knew that she was concerned, as was he but he did not want worry over a nameless evil to overshadow their trip and the happiness that awaited them at its end.

"I have an idea," he said mischievously feeling as if they were once again carefree "why don't we have dinner tonight, just the two of us alone. What do you say?"

"I am always ready for a romantic dinner with you Brion, your cabin or mine?" Eryca spoke laughing as she did so.

"I think perhaps yours, mine still stinks of half-orc!" he made a face indicating a bad smell, much to her amusement.

"I am seeing a pattern here my Lord and I am on to your scheme." Eryca poked him in the chest to make her point. "Do not think that I have not noticed that I am always hosting our romantic dinners." She grinned at him, her present concerns forgotten for the time being, he smiled warmly at her.

"What can I say my Lady, I feel compelled to come to you, to seek you out, I am drawn to you."

Then he pulled her tight and kissed her the heat of their passion making them feel warm in the chill morning air.

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