The Book was cursed. He could see it now. 10 days of being apart from it had cleared his mind and he could feel the Winds of Magic return to him. He felt complete. He felt whole again. Mostly, he felt hungry.
Mannslieb rose high and bright in the night sky, shining down on the dungeon cells where the Wizard was chained. Normally it was a blessing to be given a cell with a window, but this was intended as a curse. To know that their execution was dependant on the rise and fall of the twin Moons; to know that it was Morrslieb, the unpredictable lesser Moon that held their fate, and to be able to see each night whether it rose or did not was no blessing to the Wizard, it was a curse.
Did the others share his curse? Even if they did, none of them would feel the pull of Morrslieb as keenly as he, for it was tied to the Winds of Magic, and he could feel them like a tidal surge getting stronger each day. There could only be 1, maybe 2 more days before it waxed full, and their fate was sealed.
The Wizard bowed his head and resigned himself to his fate. Who knows how long the Dwarven King would take to navigate the Chaos Gate and return to the overground. It could be Months, Years even, by which time he and his companions would be just names in the list of traitors on the Grand Gate of Middenheim. His skin turned to dust, cast to the air. His bones probably discarded somewhere unknown, thrown in a pit or burnt to ash.
His will betrayed him and his mind wandered back to the Book. If only he could have deciphered the feverish scribblings. Learned to control Shyish, the purple wind, bend it to his will and become the Master of Death. If he could just have one more look…
There was a loud sound from outside, and then the heavy tread of footsteps along the corridor. He glanced up at the window. He could see Mannslieb, but Morrslieb was not there. Had it risen elsewhere that he could not see it? Surely he would feel it were it fully waxen. The steps became louder, though there were occasional drops in volume. They were stopping at other cells. They were coming for them!
The Wizard thought quickly. His companions may need weapons, but he did not. But he was so weak… He gathered what little strength he could, ready to try to cast one last Freeze spell. He would not go out without a fight!
The footsteps stopped outside his door and for a second all was silent. In unison, 4 keys were turned and 4 cell doors opened. A gaoler with a strict face stood in the open doorway brandishing a halberd and shield. The Wizard’s eyes turned white as he concentrated before opening his hand.
“Take that!” he shouted.
A snowball flew from his hand and impacted on the cell door. The gaoler did not flinch, merely rolling his eyes and tutting.
“Son of Ixthod!” The Wizard could hear the names of his companions being read down the corridor. The voices then spoke in unison, “You are to be freed on the command of the Ar-Ulric of Middenheim. Your story has been vouchsafed by Lord Grimcrag Grunsson of Karaz-a-Karak, and he has requested your company forthwith. You are to be transported immediately.”
The gaoler strode over to the Wizard and unchained him. Hoisting him to his feet, he half-supported, half-dragged him as the Wizard walked to the door. The Wizard looked down the corridor to see his companions in much the same shape as he. Trogdar gave him a weary smile before being led away towards a large gate at the end.
The Warriors were bundled into a large horse-drawn carriage before the door was slammed shut on them. “Your possessions and wealth have been stored on the carriage above you,“ said the Wizard’s gaoler from behind a grated opening in the carriage. “The carriage will not stop until it reaches the Town of Nurnbad to water the horses. I would suggest you do not try to retrieve them until then. There is food and water in the compartments beneath your seats.”
“My book?” asked the Wizard to foul looks from the other Warriors.
“That book has been burnt as a work of craven evilness,” replied the gaoler sternly.
The Wizard sat back in his seat in shock.
There was little conversation on the journey, most of the Warriors attempted to eat what food they could, but the lack of sustenance they had had meant they could not take much in. By the time they reached Nurnbad, the Warriors were eager to stretch their legs and check their possessions were intact.
“Everything seems to be here,” said Jandyr, counting his Gold pieces very carefully.
“Have they definitely burnt that book?” asked Trogdar.
“It is not amongst my possessions,” replied the Wizard.
“Such a shame,” muttered Short-arse.
“Now come on, enough. We’ve all been through a lot and the Wizard’s lost something he thought could help us. So let’s show a bit of respect,” said Trogdar earnestly.
“Indeed,” said Short-arse, “my apologies.”
“I have a feeling that the vile magic of that book may well have increased our hostility towards you Wizard, and for that I humbly apologise,” said Jandyr.
The Wizard took their apologies with grace and boarded the carriage.
“Did you mean it?” asked Short-arse.
“Mostly,” replied Jandyr.
The carriage continued for several weeks during which time the Warriors began to regain their lost strength and regale each other with tales of their adventure. Finally, after 6 weeks of traveling, they arrived at Karaz-a-Karak once more.
“Well, I’m home,” said Short-arse with relief. “It’s been… fun, I guess.”
“That’s it, you’re just leaving us?” said Trogdar.
“We fulfilled our quest, what else is there for us to do?” she replied.
“Do more quests, kill more bad guys, retire rich and famous, buy a castle, all that stuff,” said Trogdar with enthusiasm.
“Meh,” said Short-arse.
“Look, you don’t have to agree now, just decide by our audience with the King,” said Jandyr patiently, “I believe that’s in 10 days’ time?”
“We’ll see,” said Short-arse, “I need to think about things.” With that she turned and walked off into the City.
Trogdar turned to the Elf and Wizard, “How about you two?”
The Wizard looked at his two companions, then walked off silently.
“I shall be here when you return,” said Jandyr, “Until then!”
Trogdar watched him walk off into the City. He stood there for a while, not knowing what to do before drawing in a deep breath and following, “Until then…”