(continue chapter eight)

Ezra sat in the great hall of the Lord Ceeziak, along with the many other villagers who had been staying there. The lord sat at the end on his seat of honor, with Kyle beside him.

"This battle can only mean more to come," said Ceeziak. "Nardek will hear of this, and when he does he will be extremely angry. We must prepare for it. Ezra, tell us all you know."

"I only know what Kyle told me," Ezra said, nodding to the old man standing beside Ceeziak. "I am the former King's son, hidden at birth from Nardek's bloodlust. But what can I do?"

"You must reclaim the throne," said his uncle Jonas. "There is no other option. Nardek will certainly not die in the near future, for he is fed by the power of the Dark One in the east. As long as this happens, he will remain alive, though in the most foul form. Only when the Dark One sees fit to place another on the throne, he will remove Nardek."

Ezra shook his head, overwhelmed. "Even Kyle couldn't overcome Oruk, and he's just Nardek's servant. How could I even hope to destroy him?"

"With your father's sword, perhaps?" Kyle ventured. Ceeziak looked at him strangely. What was he talking about?

"My Father's sword?" Ezra asked, surprised. "A sword is enough to overpower the Black King? Nay, I think not! It would take a much greater power."

"It is not the mere sword I talk of, young one," said Kyle. "Thy father's weapon was indeed most formidable, and he had slain many goblins and even a lich with it. It was blest by the Ahurán. But nay, that would not be sufficient to slay Nardek. It is the One who guards the sword in which your victory lies."

"Who?" asked Ezra, now most interested. "Who guards it? And where is it?"

"The sword was hidden after your father's death by one of the Ahurán, long ways from here. But we knew that Nardek would seek it, so the Dragon Braékzyl was appointed to guard it. The one who can defeat him is destined to confront Nardek."

"A dragon guards it?" Ezra's heart sank. He knew he could never defeat one of the great beasts. "Isn't there any other way?"

"Nay, there is no other," said Lord Ceeziak. "Your destiny is to claim the throne; it was appointed by the Great One. You must either take it, or die trying."

"Than I shall certainly die in the attempt," said Ezra gloomily. "And then another one of the Dark Ones will take it again."

"It shall not happen!" Ceeziak said. "He who can defeat Braékzyl will have the Dragon on his side," he explained. "I assure you, there has never been a Dark One who could defeat that great Lizard, for he is one of the mightiest of the Ahurán."

"What?" Ezra exclaimed. "I heard all my life that they were thieving, curst brutes that slew knights and stole treasure. Is that not so?"

"For most of them," answered Ceeziak, "Although they swear allegiance to no one, and if confronted by the Shadow would almost certainly fight or flee. They have minds of iron. However, Braékzyl is one of the Shining Ones, and is on the side of the Light. But to prove that you are also, you must defeat him in combat."

Ezra scoffed. "Right," he said. "As if a mere farm boy could defeat one of the most powerful beings in the universe with a mere sword. Besides, if I defeated him than he wouldn't be able to help us! This is foolhardy. Surely there is another way?"

"Nay, there is none other," said Jonas. "But be assured of this: the Dragon cannot die. You must weaken him to the point where he cannot fight you, then he will know you are a servant of Light, and furthermore that you are the heir to the throne. You will then have his assistance."

"But how?" Ezra asked, still disbelieving.

"The Great One will give you the strength, if you will believe," Kyle answered. "That is all. Now, we must set out as soon as possible, for the harshest storms are yet to come, and we do not want to get caught at sea in the middle of one."

"The sea?" Silas asked, surprised.

"The Black Isle," Kyle answered. "That is where the sword is. It lies far to the north, where no goblins have ever dared venture, except the strongest, but those did not last long. Nay, the Great One has so far been gracious enough to keep the sword safe. He will grant us passage, but we must be quick."

Ezra stood up. "I suppose that since this is my responsibility, I will undertake it. But I must have aid!"

"And you shall have it," answered Ceeziak. "Unfortunately, I shall not be able to accompany you farther than the coast, for I must guard the valley here. It is one of the last strongholds against Nardek."

"I will go with you," said Kyle. "Of course I shall! For I may not settle until you are King."

"I too will go," said Jonas. "I was your father's guard, and also I shall be yours. But Silas, you are not under any oath. You may stay, if you wish."

"Ha!" the young man scoffed. "I would not miss it for anything! And he'll need my archery skills, won't you?" he asked.

"You're my brother as far as I'm concerned," Ezra said, placing his hands on Silas' shoulders. "I wouldn't want to be separated from you!"

Solem the butcher stood up. Several of the villagers looked up at him in surprise. "Ever since I was young, I've wanted that madman off the throne," the big man said. "And if this is our opportunity, then by the Wizards' cloaks I'll see it done!" He banged his fist on the table for emphasis.

Others offer

To be organizedEdit

Most of the village was burning, except for the lord's castle, surrounded by a strong wall, which the goblins were trying to scale. Some of the fortunate villagers had managed to take refuge within the castle walls, although many lay dead in the burning barns and houses.

"Oh Zamn," Ezra said after a moment. It was meant as a curse-word against adversity, and was a reference to the god of justice and the Midworld, Zamn.

And that was all that he could bring himself to say.

Kyle looked down on the devastated village and muttered, "I doubt if Jonas is still alive."

"You knew our father?"

"Aye, when we both worked for King Elias. I've only recently been able to contact him, which is what I'm doing here!"

Suddenly, from Lord Ceekiaz's castle, there came the bellow of a horn. Ezra turned exitedly to Silas. "They never use that horn unless summoning an ally! I wonder who'll answer?"

As if in answer, another horn, unfamiliar to Ezra's ears, blew from the north. "I've never heard that one before!" he said.

"I have," observed Kyle. "That is a Dwarf-horn! The last time I heard that horn was during the battle for Carabac in the far north, over a thousand years ago. Seems the Dwarves dwell here too!" The three watched as the goblins surrounded the Ceeziak's castle in an attempt to burn it. Arrows flew from the walls, mowing down the first line of monsters.

Suddenly Kyle burst out, "What're we doin', standing up here watching?! Let's go join them! CHAAAAAAARRGE!" he shouted, running down the mountain.

The brothers looked at him running down the mountain, and shook their heads sorrowfully. "He's going to get himself killed," they said to each other. "Maybe we ought to find Jonas."

Ezra stopped, pondering. "Maybe Kyle is right," he said. "It doesn't look like Jonas could have survived an attack by the goblin army. And if he's dead, and Kyle knew him as a child, then what we ought to be doing is protecting Kyle."

"How do you know that what he's saying is the truth? I mean, he said he fought in a battle a thousand years ago! I've never heard of anyone except Elves living that long!"

"Maybe he's a little crazy, but he does have magical powers. And how else would he have known Jonas's name? And besides, I trust the fellow."

Silas looked at his brother. "It must have been that foray into the cave, I'll wager." Then they headed down the mountain.

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