—Owtikk looked to her brother. “Our parents?” she said, a little bewildered. “Not much…I didn’t know them, they left when I was a baby…”
—Luntikk nodded. “Ned never told you why they left, did he?” Owtikk shook her head.
—Luntikk continued, solemnly. “I was young when they left, just reaching adulthood. I had a lot of trouble letting them go, I really didn’t understand why they were leaving. After they had gone, I told Uncle Ned that I wanted to find them. He told me that they had gone somewhere that it was hard to follow. But he urged me to take the journey to Lorehome, to begin researching and finding answers.”
—Luntikk paused, remembering. “I left that very week. It was hard saying goodbye to you, but I knew Ned would take care of you…I suppose that’s why he kept us apart…Finding where our parents had gone became an obsession for me, and stopped me from experiencing many things in life…I know Ned wanted a different life for you.”
—Owtikk was puzzled that Ned would do such a thing, but seemed to understand. Luntikk seemed to be so consumed in his work that he had little room for anything else. Meanwhile, Owtikk had been adventuring only a short time, and yet had made many friends, and had countless stories to tell.
—She looked at Luntikk and said “Did you find out where they went? Our parents?”
—Luntikk sighed deeply. “I know where they were headed…But I do not know yet how to follow them there.” He stopped for a moment before continuing. “What do you know of the Primal World of the Fey?”
—Owtikk told him that she knew nothing of such a place, and Luntikk nodded. “There are few who know of it. Most of the information has been lost to the ages. It is a place where the Fey call home, a place that is very very difficult (if not impossible) to get to without being a Fey creature yourself.”
—He continued sternly. “I think our parents were tying to get there. And I think they made it. The Gnomes were descended from the Fey, or so many scholars believe. After they left, they traveled to Zelefast, where the Deep Gnomes live.”
—Owtikk’s eyes went wide. She remembered banishing Addibara and her family to that place, and shuddered to think that her parents would be close to them.
—Not noticing, Luntikk continued. “The Deep Gnomes are tied closer to the Fey than most Gnomes. It is said that the lines between the Fey realm and the material plane are thinner down there. I think perhaps they had gone to research there, and never came back.”
—“I have spent all my time trying to discover a way to get there myself, but have come up with nothing substantial. As you can see, I have collected all that I have been able to on the Fey. Artifacts, books, scrolls…”
—Owtikk piped up at this point. “I remembered! We have something we would like to show you! We need something deciphered, if you can!”
—Luntikk smiled and said “I would be happy to help…You saved me didn’t you?” Owtikk nodded. Luntikk said “I had strange dreams of an evil woman…I fear I might have brought whatever put me to sleep into this world…It was my own fault if I got hurt…”
—Owtikk said “Well, we saved you. So don’t worry.” Luntikk smiled and said “Well, I will certainly help you decipher whatever you need…But first, I would like to freshen up a bit…I just realized I am in my bedclothes…Hardly proper…”
—“Oh! Of course,” Owtikk said politely. She was about to leave, then paused. “Um…Luntikk? I was wondering…” Owtikk looked down at her gemstone necklace her parents gave her. She looked back up, holding it in one hand. “Do you have a necklace like this? Uncle Ned said it was from our parents…”
—Luntikk strode quickly over to a cabinet nearby, and withdrew a small chest. He opened it, and revealed an identical necklace with a gemstone set into it.
“I have kept it here because I was afraid of losing it, or it getting worn out…They mean so much to me, I would hate it for the only thing I have of theirs to get ruined…” Owtikk and he remained silent for a moment as they looked at the necklace.
—Owtikk smiled, and told him she would give him privacy. Then, she flung her arms around his neck in a hug. Luntikk stiffened, and patted her on the back, evidently not ready for such an emotional commitment.
—Owtikk let go sheepishly, and then took Ghost with her out of the room.
—Downstairs, Lizer, Foren, Corta and Cyrus stood in the courtyard. As Lizer and Cyrus were discussing the battle quietly, Cyrus spotted a young man run toward the archway of the gate to the courtyard, and then, checking the address, ran through toward the four of them.
—“Umm…I’m looking for Cyrus? Cyrus Montessori?” The boy said, holding a scroll.
—Cyrus, rather perplexed raised a hand to indicate that it was him. The boy strode toward him and unfurled the scroll, about to read.
—“Let me guess,” Said Cyrus. “I am summoned by the King?” The boy faltered, and looked at the scroll. “Yes…Um…I am supposed to read it…”
—Cyrus rolled his eyes, and waved his hand for the boy to get on with it. The boy cleared his throat and read “Don Cyrus Montessori of Thorek, you are hereby requested to attend an audience with the King of Weldor this afternoon. Sincerely, King Augustus Gendarme.”
—Cyrus asked the boy when he was expected, and the boy said “Oh…now. In roughly an hour or so.”
—Cyrus’s eyes widened in shock. He asked the others how he looked, and then realized that he needed a shave. He quickly thrust a gold into the boy’s hand, and then ran into Eldergleam Estate to ask Luntikk to use a bathroom to freshen up.
—Owtikk bumped into Cyrus on the way, and together they got together a fine, if out-of-date outfit for him to wear, and provided him with shaving supplies, and scented oils (all with Luntikk’s permission of course).
—As he was getting ready, Lizer and Corta spoke briefly, and agreed that they wanted to speak to Luntikk further about the orb and staff. Lizer also said he had a scroll he would like deciphered, if possible, and so the two of them entered the entrance hall, and sat to wait for Luntikk to come down.
—Foren followed them inside, saying that he wished to speak to Luntikk as well, although about the Fey.
—A few minutes later, Owtikk and Cyrus descended the steps, Cyrus looking quite good in his fine clothes.
—He paused at the base of the stairs, and the group agreed that he looked excellent. Cyrus nervously told them that he was off to see the King, and that he would meet them back at Edenvale Manor when he was finished.
—The others nodded, and Cyrus strode out the doors, mounted Scarto, and galloped out of sight.
—Owtikk strode over to the others saying that Luntikk was just readying himself for company.
—They all waited patiently, and within a few minutes, Luntikk came down the steps, dressed as a Scholar of Weldor in mainly violet and gold fabrics. He wore half-moon glasses perched on the end of his long nose, and his short curly hair sat atop his head, neatly combed down on either side with a few curls hanging down.
—He strode forward, smiling. After being introduced to everyone, he said “So, what can I help you with? Owtikk tells me you have something for me to look at?”
—Corta promptly produced the staff with the orb from her back, and taking one look at it, Luntikk’s eyes widened. Lizer nodded to Luntikk significantly, and the Gnome asked “…Where did you get this…”
—Corta said “Well, the Orb I got as a gift for becoming the King of the Gremlins…The staff I got from an evil witch.”
—Luntikk seemed all the more perplexed, but could not take his eyes off the orb. “I think we should continue this discussion in my library…There are books we need to consult…”
—The group hastily followed a muttering Luntikk up the stairs and down a side hall into his vast library.
—Foren, Owtikk, Lizer and Corta all followed Luntikk over to a desk, where he pulled out various tomes, and laid them open at specific pages. After he had finished organizing himself, Luntikk began.
—“This orb…Is the Orb Of Axis…The first piece of the Harbinger Gate…A gate that, once assembled, can open a gate to other worlds…” The party all looked at each other, and told Luntikk that the knew this. They explained about the tower of Algordale, and meeting Aphelion, and how they had been given a quest to assemble the Harbinger Gate to confront a menace in the Abyss.
—Luntikk took this all in, very interested in everything they had to say. He explained that he had thought that the Harbinger Gate was a myth, but that he had hoped to find it someday so that he could use it to enter the Primal World of the Fey.
—He looked more closely at the orb, and produced a book that was covered in scribblings of runic symbols. He looked back and forth from the orb to the book for a few moments, and afterward explained “The runes on the orb are more than just symbols. They are part of an ancient, complex mathematical language known as Runespeech. It is no longer taught by anyone living, and the secrets of this ancient script are all but forgotten…However, over the years I have developed a way to decipher it. I made my own key in this book.”
—He told them that the orb indicated nothing more than that it was the key device to assembling the Harbinger Gate, and that it was essential to completing the puzzle.
—Lizer produced his runic scroll with the runic writings along the border. The center of the page was blank. Inspecting it a moment, Luntikk read “The chosen shall point the way to redemption…”
—At this, Luntikk thought a moment, and then asked Corta to touch the scroll. Corta touched it, and her eyes began to glow. Then, down her arm, a ripple of runic energy cascaded down to where her finger touched the page, making the runes on the sheet glow.
—Then Lizer said “…Corta…Touch the Orb to the page…” Corta did as she was asked. The orb glowed with the same energy, and then, at the place where the Orb touched the page, a map spidered its way over the length of the parchment, revealing a map of all of Telledor.
—At specific points on the map were small, glowing orbs. Luntikk exclaimed with delight, telling them that this was certainly a map that would lead them to the remaining orbs to the Harbinger Gate.
—They inspected this map, and noted that there was one in their current location of Lorehome – likely indicating that they were carrying the Orb of Axis in their current location.
—They also noted an orb in Coldhearth, Valarys, one in Tsarmina, Thorek, and the final one in The Dreadmire Ruins, The Wild Lands.
—This new information intrigued them all, as they now had a way to find the other orbs, wherever they were. Luntikk was also overjoyed at this, and he was happy to have made such a breakthrough.
—He tentatively asked Owtikk if after they had found the Harbinger Gate they would allow him to use it, in order to enter the World of the Fey. He said he had always wanted to go there, and that it was difficult to get any information on how to travel there.
—Owtikk and the others agreed that they would help him in any way that they could. Luntikk was very pleased at this, and thanked them for their kindness.
—Lizer asked Luntikk exactly why no information was available on the topic, and Luntikk answered that they Fey were mysterious, and very elusive – it was hard even finding any to speak with, let along getting any to talk about that sacred realm.
—Lizer then mentioned that Foren had once been a Faun, and that he could perhaps provide some insight further into the matter. Luntikk was intrigued by this, and looked over to Foren. “Yes…I would very much like to speak with you about this Foren, if that would be agreeable.”
—Foren nodded, saying “In fact, I wished to speak to you about this same matter.” Luntikk looked to the rest of them and said “I thank you all for all you have done for me. I suppose you will be leaving in the morning to continue your journey?”
—They all agreed, stating that they were eager to continue their quest. “Well then, I shall let you go and get your rest. I’m sure you have much to discuss. I will show you to the door, and will return Foren to you as soon as we are complete!”
—At this, Luntikk led them downstairs, and said farewell to each of them. Owtikk was the last out of the door. He smiled warmly and said “I am glad we have finally met, Owtikk. I am glad to have you for a sister.”
—Luntikk hastily extended his arms wide, and Owtikk lunged forward in a big hug. Luntikk stiffened instinctively once again and said “Heh…I suppose one thing at a time.” He patted her on the head, and she smiled deeply. He bade her goodnight, and then went back inside to rejoin Foren, while the others left for Edevnale Manor.
—Meanwhile, Cyrus rode hastily down the crowded streets of Lorehome, sending pedestrians leaping for cover as be tore down the walkways, and up the slope toward the castle.
—The palace of Lorehome was situated high on a hill, overlooking the rest of the city. High, white-walled turrets reached for the heavens, with green-shingled spires and long, flowing banners bearing the Weldorian yellow and black colors catching the afternoon wind.
—Cyrus made his way through the courtyard, where many well-do-do members of the court were milling about, discussing the latest news or exchanging tales.
—As he approached the doors, the guards requested to see his summons. Cyrus complied quietly, and the guards opened the doors to the castle. Inside the doors was a rather snobbish fellow waiting for him. The man called for a page to come and stable Cyrus’s pony (Cyrus pressing a coin into the boy’s hand for the trouble), and led Cyrus inside.
—The man led Cyrus down the magnificent hall, describing the different features of the castle, and the people they passed as they went. Cyrus had never been to such a place in his life.
—After a few minutes of walking, they reached a set of enormous double doors, and the man told him that they had reached the throneroom. The man slipped inside quickly, and then emerged a moment later.
—He told Cyrus that the council was just finishing a meeting in a private chamber, and that he many wait inside the throneroom to be presented.
—Cyrus went tentatively inside, and saw a long row of soldiers armed with pikes lining an ornate carpet, which ran from the doorway all the way up to a heavy throne on the opposite end of the room.
—On either side of the large chamber were bookshelves, and tables where courtiers were eating and drinking food laid out.
—Once inside, Cyrus caught sight of a boy, who strode up to him proudly. “Don Cyrus?” The boy asked. Cyrus nodded, his mouth dry. “They are just finishing up their meeting. I will announce you once they have finished. Before that, you may have a look around, if you wish. Just look for my signal.”
—Cyrus nodded, and then decided to go over to one of the bookshelves to find any information regarding local customs and noble traditions.
—As he pored over a musty tome about Weldor’s military traditions, a man sitting at a nearby table piped up. “First time at the castle is it?”
—Cyrus managed a strangled “Yes” before the man continued. He was portly, and enjoying a large turkey leg and a cup of wine. “Not to worry.” The man said, kindly. “The King is good, and fair. Long as you have something good to say, the King should be amicable. Try not to get on his bad side, though. He’s an important man.”
—This did little to quell Cyrus’s fears, but he took the advice. A moment later, the doors to a side chamber opened, and a crowd of gentlemen in robes emerged into the throneroom. They all filtered out of the room through different doors, and Cyrus spotted the boy motioning for Cyrus to come back over to the carpet.
—Cyrus did as he was asked, and stood as straight as he could, awaiting further instruction.
—“His majesty, The King,” a voice called out. Cyrus stood expectantly on the carpet, and heard an odd sound. ‘Step, KLUNK. Step, KLUNK’
—As he watched, a noble man wearing the black and yellow squares of Weldor and an ornate circlet emerged from the side door, and made his way slowly across the room.
—The man had a full, neatly-cropped black beard and hair, and walked with a limp. Cyrus spotted as he moved toward the throne that he had a club leg. He walked with his weight upon a scepter, and carried a long cloak draped over one arm.
—It took him quite some time to reach the throne, up the steps. But the man was not helped by anyone, nor did he look like he wanted it. After he was settled, a moment or two passed in reverence before the small boy took his cue.
—“Your majesty, I present Don Cyrus Montessori of the Thorek Montessoris.” The boy called proudly.
—Cyrus walked forward, and bowed deeply to the King. “Thank you for this meeting, my liege.”
—The King nodded, and beckoned for him to stand. “It has been a long while since a Montessori entered these halls. Your family is welcome here, Cyrus. I received word from one of my guards that you wished to speak to me on some matter. What did you wish to discuss?”
—Cyrus cleared his throat, and explained his concerns for his homeland of Thorek. He mentioned no specifics, but told the king that he wished for assistance in helping restore the honor of his people.
—The king pondered a moment, and his face grew rather stern. “You have not been to your homeland in some time, I trust?” Cyrus told him that this was so. “…I think the remainder of our discussion should be made in private. Please join me in the council chamber.”
—The king rose, and led Cyrus into the side chamber that the council had just left. The doors closed, and Cyrus and the king were left alone in the room, save for several guards, which the king assured Cyrus were trusted individuals. The chamber itself was well decorated, and was dominated by a square table colored yellow and black, surrounded by high-backed chairs.
—The king took a seat, and offered one next to him for Cyrus.
—The king began “I will be blunt. I have received news only this morning concerning the nature of Thorek. The note was hastily scribbled, but told me this: The king of Thorek is dead. He has evidently willed the kingdom to the Dwarves of Burkehome, who have taken over management of the realm.”
—He waited for the shock to pass from Cyrus’s face before continuing. “I trust that this comes as grave news to one in your position, Cyrus.”
—Cyrus agreed, and appeared very disheartened at the news. The king had a bereaved look about him as well, and he paused a moment before continuing.
—“The Dwarves have long had their eyes on overtaking Thorek – they did little to hide this secret. And Thorek has been a nation teetering on the edge of collapse for years. The Dwarves have always said that they will bring prosperity to the realm…But I do not believe it. They will mine Thorek’s resources to depletion, and the people will suffer for it.”
—Cyrus nodded his agreement grimly, and looked up into the King’s eyes in a silent plea.
—“The council and I discussed this matter at length this morning.” Said the King, continuing on. “It was agreed that under the blanket of the treaties that Weldor has signed with both Thorek and Burkehome, Weldor has no grounds to intervene. The crown was taken as it was willed. There is nothing Weldor can do…”
—Cyrus crumpled in his chair, his hopes deflated. The King noticed this physical change, and caught his eye. “I know why you have come here today, Cyrus. It is plain that you are in this palace seeking aid for your country, for your people. They do not call this place the country of knowledge for nothing.”
—Cyrus smiled, and said “Yes, you are right. I suppose it wasn’t hard to put that all together…”
—The King returned the grin, before it faded solemnly. “I will be blunt, Cyrus. I have always trusted the Montessoris, and I was troubled to hear of the problems your family had with the Aligheri family – a family who I do not trust in the slightest. I am sure that they are behind this silent coup, and that foul play is involved.” The King’s temper flared a moment before he restrained it, calmly.
—“But I am afraid that without definitive proof, I cannot send any men to Thorek, even to investigate. It would be viewed as a treaty violation, and the Dwarves of Burkehome will be on their guard for any activity like this.”
—Cyrus further sagged in his chair at this news, and let out a sigh of defeat. The King stood carefully from his chair, and limped with his cane slowly around the room.
—“…However…” The King began quietly. “That does not mean that there is nothing that can be done.”
—The King stopped, and placed a hand on the table. “The people of Thorek have been beaten down by an oppressive, hopeless existence for years. But if Thorek is to return and become self-sustaining again, the people must take charge themselves.”
—The King paused, then smiled adding slyly “I cannot give any advice, as that in and of itself would be a treaty violation…But let’s say a man of Thorek wanted to assist his people…If I were him, I would start in Cobble’s End, and see a man named Lord Dalton – the late King’s brother. Rumor has it that he has already begun starting a resistance, and could use some help…”
—Cyrus stared at the King, and a half smile grew on his face. The King returned it warmly.
—“Now then, I am a busy man, Cyrus. I am afraid our time is up. Good luck in your future endeavors…Oh, and thank you for stopping that gutter-rat, Nefaric. He has been a thorn in my side for some time now.”
—Cyrus stood to leave, in much different spirits, and as he approached the door, the King laid a hand on his elbow.
—“You have the power to change it all, Cyrus. Send me word when you can, and don’t give up hope.”
—Cyrus nodded firmly, and strode out of the room, leaving the castle, and galloping through the fading light toward Edenvale Manor.
—Corta, Owtikk and Lizer arrived at the Manor before Cyrus, and spent some time meandering around before he arrived.
—Foren came in not long after Corta, Owtikk and Lizer, and went about some duties of his own before Cyrus breathlessly burst through the front doors.
—Cyrus approached Lizer, and asked that he call everyone for a meeting over some glasses of wine. “There is much to discuss, and I want everyone there.” He said, a look of determination in his eyes.
—Lizer nodded, and set to work, assembling everyone in the house. A few minutes later, Corta, Lizer, Foren, Owtikk, Cyrus, Henry, and the staff of Edenvale all sat, waiting for Cyrus to speak.
—Cyrus cleared his throat, and began. “Thank you all for coming. I will get straight to the point. Thorek has fallen to the rule of the Dwarves. They have been looking at my country for years, and they have finally taken it. They will rape the land, consume its resources, and my people will fall into decay. I cannot let this happen.”
—He paused and took a deep breath of air. “I want to ask you a favor. I need anyone who can help me accomplish this feat. We need to go to Thorek, muster a resistance, and take back the throne for the people.”
—Corta piped up at this point saying “Actually, that works out. We found out today that one of the orbs we are searching for is located in Tsarmina. We could do both while we are there!”
—The other party members seemed to agree to this, stunning Cyrus that they would agree so readily to such a dangerous cause.
—“I have been told to go and see someone in Thorek who is forming a resistance. His name is Lord Dalton, and he rules over Cobbles End -”
—Owtikk squealed and said “Yay! We know him! He actually owes us a favor!” Cyrus’s eyes widened at this fortunate turn of events.
—“Well then, it is settled. But I must warn you…This is a dangerous thing we are undertaking. The Dwarves are a menace, and they need to be taken down. If things get ugly, I will not hesitate to use force agains these vile intruders. I will kill them if they cross me, and you must understand that you may be asked to do the same.”
—This seemed to trouble the party more than anything else. Lizer spoke at this point. “But surely, Cyrus,” he said sternly. “Killing will only be a last resort? These are people after all…And I would prefer not to kill innocents.”
—Cyrus turned to him, fire in his eyes. “These people are not innocent. I will kill every Dwarven man, woman and child that seeks to further the goals of the Dwarves. If they stand in the way, they must be stopped.”
—Lizer did not take kindly to this notion at all, and the others seemed a bit squeamish as well. “I will not take the killing of common folk lightly. I need you to assure me that you will use restraint unless absolutely necessary. I want to explore every avenue for peace before outright killing.”
—The stern look Lizer gave Cyrus quelled his fire a little. “…Ok. Yes, I see what you are saying. But this is a possibility we need to accept. This could turn to war. I only ask that you do what you can to assist.”
—The other agreed, but made it clear that their views echoed Lizer’s in that the killing of Dwarves would have to be a last resort to accomplish their goals.
—Cyrus then addressed the others at the table. “If anyone else would wish to join the cause, I would gladly accept more recruits.”
—Cyrus at this point stared pointedly at Korrice, the ex-ranger from Thorek. Korrice seemed to be avoiding his gaze, staring blankly at the table. “It might be,” Cyrus said, addressing him now. “An opportunity to regain honor.”
—Korrice looked up angrily. “There is no honor to be gained here.” He said quietly. “Thorek has fallen, just as I said it would. We would be walking into a slaughter. It is done, and it cannot be redeemed. Not by you, and certainly not by me.”
—“This is your homeland, Korrice,” Cyrus began again. “We can save it, but we need to be strong. We could use the help of a ranger.”
—“It is NOT my homeland any more. I have forsaken it as it has forsaken me.” Korrice stood up, and turned to walk out of the hall.
“You are right.” Cyrus said, calmly as Korrice strode for the door. “Thorek is not yours. You are not worthy of our country. Especially if you do not have the courage to save it.”
—Korrice paused, and then left, slamming the door. Cyrus sat back down, and poured himself another glass of wine.
—Lizer then said “It is decided then! To Thorek! We will leave tomorrow!” Everyone raised their glasses, and drank to the decision.
—The night passed calmly, and merrily. Most stayed for an extra drink, and then went to bed. However, Lizer and Cyrus remained behind, finishing the bottle of wine, and talking deep into the night.
—Eventually they each fell asleep, resting until the following morn.
The Golden Cage
Questions and Answers
—Owtikk looked to her brother. “Our parents?” she said, a little bewildered. “Not much…I didn’t know them, they left when I was a baby…”