An Elvish Entrance
Before them lay a vast courtyard where four giant statues stood like silent sentinels along a circular wall. The wall was new construction built on old, as was typical with Celn civilization in general. It was constructed with lighter colored stones, probably sandstone from the isles’ innards, and flowed like water in motion to nowhere in particular. In between the second and third statue set in the intricately carved rock was an immense door. The door was made of two large iron enforced oaken planked slabs, each emblazoned with Canton’s coat of arms, a tribute to all things Cillandrial. Behind the wall, one could see the spires and turrets of the high elf’s castle, Galline, named to honor the once queen of Cellinor.
There was motion on parts of the walls and battlements, and Areia’s elvish eyes could see grey forms climbing up and down some of the towers like great slugs along a mangrove tree. Their bodies hug the stones as they slumped their way along. Clearly, they were looking for a way in.
Areia’s attention was directed back to the courtyard where the four statues stood. Each was the height of a Celn mast and although they were vast, they were old, and were not impressive as works of art she thought. In fact, given the Governor’s propensity for “Cillandrial Extravagance” as he put it, she wondered why they were here at all. She remembered vaguely hearing something about how the governor brought them here from some other part of his travels. That must have been some feat she gathered. Rumor held they were pre End Days, Kasillian. She figured that was rumor though, as all knew the Iron Order eliminated statues from pre End Days in the great simplification. Despite their obvious age and weathering, she could still make out the warrior, just a trace of a blade lay next to his lower half, on the ground. There was the trickster as well, always a lithe figure, holding tools of some kind, of course now the hand holding them was gone, but the hood over his head gave it away. The dying god, fallen, arm outstretched holding himself up into a sitting position. She recognized this image from a Pockens card she once won but then lost some years ago. It had been a beautiful deck really. Finally, the great mother, the only image clearly female, but little else could one tell from the mossy and cracked monolith.
The rain was beginning to pour once more, and little did she know this saved her, and perhaps the others as well. For just at that moment from the other side of the courtyard entrance slithered three beasts. The rain made it much harder to see, for her snd for them too she assumed. These were not like those she had seen earlier though. These were simply massive. She guessed that each was about the size of a whale, but there the comparison ended. Great fish eyes on either side and a sickly pale hue, claws extended where flippers should have been, and a huge mouth, which could swallow a human whole she thought, if it weren’t for the teeth that would surely rip it apart on the way down. Not like, but as fish out of water they slumped along until they reached the castle’s doors. From behind about six more beasts, these walking on two legs as they had seen below in the sewer communicated with the larger things in some foul language. The larger things began to throw their weight against the wall and door, shuddering the stones and forming cracks in the beautiful stonework.
“I didn’t come all the way up here so that these things could get my shield before I do,” garbled Thrak. “Let me at them!” He tried to push past them, but Haryk and the others held him back.
“Wait,” mouthed Areia. She took Squeaks out from her pocket. “I need another favor tonight, friend.” And she set the mouse down on the street. He ran off towards the doors, under the feet of the creatures quick as lightning.
Andril dropped something on to the ground, and whispered a few words of magic. He pointed his finger at the mouse, just then slipping itself under the large door into the castle.
“What did you do to my pet now mage?” Areia asked, uncharacteristically looking perturbed. “What’s the big idea with…”, she stopped though realizing that Andril wasn’t listening. In fact, he was staring out into the night as though he were in a trance. He began to speak out loud, in a monotone voice. “Under the door. Large entryway.” The mage was talking to himself it seemed. Describing, Areia assumed, what Squeaks was seeing!
“Magic is some weird shit, you know that?” said Thrak. He tapped the mage on his nose, but the wizard didn’t budge. He kept staring straight ahead, muttering.
“Fireside, two chairs in red velvet and gold trim. Elf sitting. Sword in scabbard on table. In his hands he holds a card. Banging behind him. Elf stands up, drinks from a goblet. Ties sword on. Hangs coat on rack. Walking to door.” Andril looked about to continue but just then the two doors flew outward, coming unhinged in the process. Behind them, walking out with a small glow behind him strode Canton, The Governor. Except instead of the nightgown they had seen him in two evenings ago, now he wore magnificent shining gold plated armor, in the Elvish fashion. He held aloft his sword, a magnificently jeweled rapier.
He spoke in a high voice, yet sure and strong. It was almost too deliberately Cillandrial. “In Cillandar, one knocks once. If there’s no answer one must consider then the prospect that one is not, wanted!!!”
As if he were strolling into a party, he waded towards the beasts. The largest snapped around and swallowed him up, whole! Thrak watched as the monster lurched backwards, devouring the man as a bird might a worm. He pictured the governor, sliding back down to the end of it’s throat, and into the belly of this foul monstrosity. But then from the top of it’s head protruded what looked like a spike. It was silver and bright and then they realized it wasn’t a spike at all, it was Canton’s sword! The blade began to slide down along the thing’s neck, carving a wide arc behind it’s incredibly gargantuan gill slits. Reaching the bottom, the blade withdrew and out stepped Canton! He had cut himself cleanly from the inside of the thing. Turning at the other beasts, he pointed his sword at them and tendrils of lightning shot forth, sizzling them, one dying instantly!
“He’s classy,” said Andril who was no longer in a trance. “You gotta give him that.” He stepped out from the shadows. Lets see what these new spells from Basel’s scrolls can do he thought.
“Come on then,” said Areia, “Can’t let the guy with the combination to the treasure chamber die, now can we?”
The urchins ran from their hiding place and fought the beasts as well. Two things became obvious to Andril quickly. The first was that without their help, Canton, although quite a powerful swordmage, would not have survived. He couldn’t understand why the governor would attack an overwhelming force like this, alone when he could have stayed in his castle indefinitely. The second thing was that Canton was not surprised to see them.
Lopping off the head of the last beast, the governor stopped and examined a deep wound to his ribcage below his breastplate. Without looking at any of them, he pulled out a potion from a small bag and uncorked it. Then, tilted his head back and drank it. From the same bag he pulled out a fine elvish linen, perhaps silk. He then cleaned his rapier of the greenish mucus with the linen and sheathed it. Bending down, he examined a body. “Ah yes, Ulterman. A servant. Unfortunately, the Centh has permanently implanted him like all the rest, and he can not return to his previous form without dying. She has taken his soul too, like so many of the others.” Haryk stepped closer to the elf. His back was still turned towards. The elf turned around and smiled.
“Took you long enough,” he said.
“Took us?” Asked Areia, puzzled. “How do you mean?”
“I’ve been waiting some time you see,” said the governor knowingly. He spoke in a way that made Thrak uncomfortable, as if he knew things that they should. Thrak hated that, it was so, human. “You’d better follow me in, we’ll have company soon,” said Canton striding back to the large doors. With a wave of his hands be began to magically close them once more.
“I don’t understand,” said Andril. “Why would you come out to fight a force you couldn’t beat? You do realize you would have been cut down were it not for us?”
“I didn’t come out here for them,” said Canton, “I came here to collect you.” He put his hand back in his small bag and withdrew a card. He placed it in Andril’s hand. The old mage turned the card over. The card, from the game of Pockens, was a rare one, but one he had often seen. It was known as The Castle. In it, a castle stood under five stars, while below a river meandered. It was only then that Andril realized that the river always seemed to have a muddy color to it. He had seen this card many times, he guessed he had never really noticed. Above the stars were depicted the three moons. Andril looked up and couldn’t believe his eyes. There in the morning sky were still the traces of the three moons, in exactly the same positions as were depicted in the cards.
“What the Ketian night is this devilry?” said Haryk looking down at the card and following Andril’s gaze upwards. “I see the moons, sure, but where the Light is the stars supposed to be in the morning, eh?”
They walked inside while the vast doors slowly closed. Canton stood facing outward, his long locks settled around his shoulders in the morning breeze. They could hear the creatures which they had seen earlier clambering on the walls and the roofs of the castle entry hall, but Canton didn’t seem worried. Just as the doors sealed, the elf looked at Haryk, “Why, my Celn friend, you are the stars of course.” He smiled and pointed through the closing space between the doors. Beyond, Haryk could see the massive statue beyond. It’s face no longer vague. In fact, he couldn’t help but notice the likeness. It was his, in stone.
“But how? But what?” Stammered the fighter. “I just saw that, it wasn’t like that before, it was…”
But Canton was already striding across the hall, waving for them to follow. “I shall explain Heroes, I shall explain. But for now let’s get you your things, for the sake of all.”
He kept walking, laughing nonchalantly at a joke only he seemed to understand.