Years of inspiration provided by such authors and titles as J.R.R. Tolkien's, The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings and Neil Hancock's, Circle of Light novels, and in keeping with John Marco's, Tyrants and Kings - Paul H. Kogel has poured himself into this, his first novel of The Dylarian Chronicles.
In Mage of Dylar, you will travel with Antis, son of Bynen, Govin of the Estern Forest and his friends, on a journey that will keep you spellbound in mystery and mounting excitement.
Zelliach the Grey's great-grandson, Sorrel, has plans for Isle of Dylar that Antis, trained in wizardry by his great grandfather's ghost and the ghost of Arkormynn, the grandest of Grand Masters himself, must thwart in order to save the Isle from being cast into the depths of chaos and despair. The attempt had been made once before, but Nemond the Green had been able to prevent it at the last terrible moment, by sacrificing himself to bring down Zelliach and to save Dylar from his loathsome tyranny.
Now, Antis must be prepared to do the same, but it will take all of his power and every smidgen of courage that he and his friends can command.
n the age when tales of the mighty Arkormynn were born, whether myth or legend nobody knew, there lived one like him in the Isle of Dylar known as Zelliach the Grey.Zelliach, from his lair high upon the Seat of Karryn in the North Horns, waged war against the mages of Ryviton and Lochtar to steal their power and for total control of Dylar.This was the struggle referred to as the Dark War.With his ability to bend the wind and shift the weather, he rained terror down upon all the inhabitants of Dylar.
Finally, Zelliach and his armies reached the Estern Forest having left death and destruction in Seabra, Benklin, Finlay and the cities on the Legs of the Great Seabran River.With his army and the army of his allies from the desert city of Dorn encamped in the valley just south of Lanier, Zelliach sent word to the newly born Circle of Mages.
To the Council, from the Grey of the North Horns:
Now that your options are few and I possess all the lands in the west and central parts of Dylar, I offer you a chance to save your great Estern Forest.Cities can be rebuilt, but the forest is natures best.I have no wish to destroy the greatest firs of the Isle leaving only the Southland Forest to blossom in Dylar.Therefore, I give you but five days to disbar the Circle of the Mages and send your leaders, Nymar and Dent to my camp for terms of surrender.They may bring with them no more than a two score lancer escort and no other, or in the end, I shall name this place The Valley of the Mages Blood.I await your reply.
Now there was, unknown to Zelliach, a mage whose name was Nemond the Green living in the heart of the Estern’s.The Circle of Mages called him Nemond the Defiant because he refused to join the circle.“What should the people of Dylar do with such power concentrated in the collective hands of fools?”These were the words spoken by Nemond to Nymar the High Wizard, who attempted to enlist him into the Circle.The Council knew that if any mage in Dylar had the power to match that of Zelliach, it could only be Nemond the Green.
So it was that the Council sent Nymar the High Wizard and Overmage Dent with two score lancers to the Estern Forest by way of the eastern coast to speak to Nemond.The Council proposed that Nemond challenge Zelliach to a test of skills.If Zelliach lived, the Circle would disbar and Dylar would be his.If Zelliach died, his armies must be disassembled and scattered throughout Dylar.To Nemond, the council agreed to give total governorship to the Estern Forest, free from taxes and tariffs and exemption from all but the basic tenants of the law.Nemond agreed and sent to Zelliach a challenge.
To Zelliach the Grey, from the Green of the Estern Forest:
With the blessings of the Council in Ryviton, I, Nemond the Green, demand a test of skill between us.One on one we shall fight to the death and the outcome shall decide the matter, which you have placed before the Council.Survive and you shall possess all of Dylar.You must agree however, to order your forces to disband and be subject to the Council who will disperse them throughout the Isle of Dylar in the event of your death.You may choose the time and place of battle but your options lie no further than that.If you refuse to meet with the champion of the Council, then you can burn this forest and from Fynard and Menoway we shall burn the Southland Forest.Then, from Ashley, we will unlock the waters of the lake and dilute the salt of the Southern Sea as the Great Seabran River flows freely into the deep.I await your reply.
To avoid the destruction that would result only in cutting Dylar in half, Zelliach had no choice but to accept the challenge of Nemond the Green.Confident of his power, proven repeatedly in the battles that went before, he had no fear of this unknown Green of the Estern’s.The battle would take place upon the Seat of Karryn on the night of the next full moon.
Upon that night, even the darkest demons must have diverted their eyes as the night sky above the Seat lit up as never before seen in Dylar.The moon was shut out as dark clouds rolled in at the behest of Zelliach, and fire rained down upon the North Horns filling the basin with more molten rock.The inhabitants of Dylar hid themselves for fear of what could befall them.Flashes of light, both green and grey, shot through the darkest night that ever there was in Dylar.The crackling of lightning gave a taste of iron to the very air, and the pounding thunder shook the ground so violently that the waters danced even as far as Lake Salt.The shouts of the warring mages echoed throughout the land finally to end in screams of terror, as both Green and Grey tumbled to their death into the molten rock bubbling in the basin below the Seat of Karryn.
The clouds rolled back to reveal the light of a new day.The sun shone down as if nothing unusual had occurred.But not only was the day new, but the times were new as well.Thus were the end of the Dark War and the end of Zelliach the Grey and the hell he conjured up on the Isle.Once more, the Circle of Mages governed in the pristine Isle of Dylar.The Council kept their promise to Nemond and honored his descendents with governorship of the Estern Forest.
However, the end had not yet arrived, for there came one other—one from Zelliach's descent—who would once again test the fate of Dylar.Nevertheless, Nemond was not without heir, and so the contest began anew.
The summer faded into fall, and fall into winter, and we saw nothing more of the water nymph. However, Antis took no chances and always cleansed the water before we filled our skins. He would also cleanse and warm the pool before and after each of us bathed. By the feel and appearance of this wintry weather, I was convinced that the pool lasted as long as it did largely because of the spring thaw. It rained several times and the flat was sloped slightly in such a way as to allow the bulk of the rain to flow down into the basin.
Our cave dwelling was quite comfortable. The molten rock, with which Antis accommodated us, nicely warmed it against the winter's bite. Deep inside, the cave took a slight westerly bend. In the roof of that sub-chamber, was a two-fisted hole that opened up to the floor of the ridge where Antis practiced his skills. This hole acted as a vent that kept the smoke and ash from the fires we built near the entrance heading out the mouth of the cave instead of inward upon us. Yes, the cave provided quite a comfortable home for us.
Leyena, Keenyl and I took turns leading the horses down to the lower levels of the mountain to graze before Antis suggested that we bring leaves and grasses up to them. It made it easier. We also took turns traveling by two's to Finlay when we needed supplies. Antis had us head south toward the Southland Forest before turning east, then north so we would enter Finlay from the south. It was to make people believe we were coming in from the Southland Forest instead of from the mountains. We returned on the reverse track. Leyena made several trips back to the Esterns to report in and to let Antis' mother and father know that everything was going well. When she did, she traveled along the Southland Road, which led to the bridge that crossed the river near Fynard, instead of the way we had crossed when we first arrived. She didn't need to be secretive when she traveled alone.
Antis' training was remarkable, to say the least. We loved to watch him. He developed many more skills than those taught to him by Nemond. For example, instead of bending light over himself to create the veil of invisibility, he learned to do it an entirely different way. He created the veil in front of him as a large circular gate, of sorts. First, he would produce a large ball of light in one hand. Then he would pass his other hand over it, causing it to dim out of sight. Then he swung his arm in a large circle several times before him. We could see the gate waving in front of him in similar appearance to the heat that waved over the desert floor at midday. Antis would then simply walk through the veil and the gate would close as he disappeared behind it. It was truly an amazing thing to watch. He showed us, while invisible, how his footsteps could still be seen. He was determined to fix that, so he learned to lift himself much the same way he lifted me from the river. We watched him hover about a quarter of a cubit above the ground before casting the veil and disappearing behind it. We saw no Antis and no footprints in the ash he had spread out before him as a test.
Another thing Antis taught himself was how to cast, what he appropriately called, the Ring of Fire. We had to watch that from the flat below for our own safety. First, he hovered over the ground, and holding his hands out at shoulder length to his sides, he created a fireball in each. Then he began to spin. Faster and faster, he spun until the fireballs produced a single ring of fire. Then Antis gave a shout and instantly stopped spinning sending the fire expanding outward in all directions covering a distance of about ten or twelve cubits before dissipating. That would be a good maneuver if the enemy ever surrounded him. Of course, no ally could be anywhere near.
This day was the same as most others. Antis was on the ridge practicing his skills and I was busy with tidying up the cave and grounds and scribbling down some of the things I wanted to remember about our mountain adventure. Keenyl and Leyena were off to Finlay for more supplies.
Their day, however, was not so usual. It started like any other trip to Finlay, but the return trip was quite unsettling. They had reentered the pass and had just made the western bend when Leyena spotted something in the snow on the right side of the pass.
"Keenyl, look. What, by the demons, is that?"
"What are you talking about?" Keenyl scanned the area in the direction she was looking.
"Just there," she replied, pointing to a spot beneath the foliage of the thistles growing there.
Keenyl's eyes fixed on the object. "By the demons," he exclaimed. "It looks like a man," and leapt from his horse.
Leyena dismounted and followed him through the snow to the spot where laid not one, but two men in a heap. Blood was everywhere and the bodies were torn from chest to groin by several thick lacerations.
"They're patrolmen, Swords from Finlay," said Keenyl. The men were dressed in bloody and tattered black uniforms of the Dylarian Swords, sporting light-blue sashes that identified them as from Finlay.
"What could have done this?" Leyena asked, in a quiet awestruck voice. "It looks like they were attacked by a wild animal, a bear perhaps?"
"I don't believe a bear would claw a man like that. They usually go for the throat. The deathblow would most likely be delivered with the teeth, not the claws." He looked around the area on the ground. "Besides, I don't see any bear tracks in the snow around here. Also, bears hibernate in the winter. They wouldn't be active now unless these men had disturbed them. I dare say that if they had disturbed a den of bears, we would be disturbing them now as well."
"That's true. As for tracks, it would be hard to find tracks of any kind in this thicket," Leyena remarked. She pointed to a small clearing just beyond the thickets. "Now over there, tracks would show up much bet...look!"
"Oh no, there's another body."
They hurried over to the spot where the body laid. It was a man dressed in a white hooded cloak embossed with a quarter moon and star. He was covered in blood. The snow in the area had been rustled and tossed about with a massive amount of blood splattered throughout the area. There were no clear tracks evident though the scene indicated clearly that there had been a tremendous struggle.
"He has the same type of wounds." Leyena looked about. "Look there," she said as she pointed to a bare patch of half frozen mud. "Are those tracks?"
They approached the area and knelt down before two large tracks in the earth.
"I don't recognize them," said Keenyl. "Do you?"
"No. I've never seen any like these before."
The tracks were very strange. No man or animal known by them had made them. There were two claw marks at the rear of the print and only one in the front. The claws had struck deeper in the earth than anyone would have imagined possible. The earth beneath the track was packed tightly in the frozen mud.
"One thing's for sure," said Keenyl, "whatever made these prints stood on two legs."
"Maybe it was some kind of bird. The claws look similar to those of a bird."
"Not unless his feet were on backwards. Besides, I've never seen a bird that big and that heavy and there aren't any feathers around. Surely there would be if it had been a bird, since there was an obvious struggle. One of the patrolmen had drawn his sword and there is blood on it. So whatever it was, it was wounded and there aren't any feathers over there either."
"We had better get back to camp and tell Antis about this," Leyena said. "He'll want to look at this himself."
"I think your right. I'm afraid this could mean real trouble."
Atop the ridge, Antis had busied himself with his training. Earlier, he wore only his trousers and no shirt, exposing himself to the cold. He said it was to help him use his skills while under deeply stressful conditions. Now however, he was fully dressed and wore a cloak for warmth. He sat on the rocky floor of the ridge after having burned away the snow and dampness with mage fire. He looked deeply into his scrying glass.
"Benyorn, come up here, please. I have something to show you."
I climbed the crudely built ladder that Keenyl had assembled from limbs of nearby trees and old roots. I saw him sitting cross-legged, with his crystal on the ground before him.
"Look here. I nearly got through to Sorrel. I'll try again."
I watched over his shoulder as he concentrated on his crystal. First I saw what looked to be smoke or a cloud fill the glass. When the smoke cleared, to my amazement, I saw a large group of people. The image was not very clear. It was as if we were flying over them at a great distance above the ground. They seemed to be busy working somewhere on both sides of a swiftly flowing river. The river looked large enough to be the Great Seabran.
"What are we seeing?"
"Shhh," Antis said as he continued to concentrate.
The image changed, as we seemed to fly over the crowd. Soon there was a large pool of water that quickly split and flowed around either side of a large tower-like mountain. Our vision changed again to rock and more rock, layers of rock as if we were penetrating the mountain one layer at a time. Suddenly Antis groaned and the image faded to smoke again and then cleared completely. Antis' head fell into his hands and I could see that beads of sweat had formed on his forehead.
"Are you alright?"
"Yes, I'll be fine. Just let me rest a moment and I'll try again. I feel like I can get through today."
"What were we seeing?"
"First we were seeing workmen doing something around both sides of the Great Seabran River just to the north of Seabra. Then we saw the North Horn basin. After that, we began to penetrate the tower called the Seat of Karryn. If I can penetrate the rock walls of the tower, I believe I can scry out Sorrel, if he's there."
"What's all that work around the river about."
"I wonder about that too. I wasn't able to see clearly and I didn't want to tarry there before getting a chance to penetrate Sorrel's lair. As it is, my strength didn't hold out. Anyway, I'm afraid if I hold a scry too long, I might be found out. Nemond warned me about that."
"It appears to have taken a lot out of you."
"Yes, it did. The next time I'll concentrate on scrying Karryn first, so my strength will hold out until I can penetrate the rock walls."
I took the water skin from my belt and handed it him. "Here, it looks like you could use some water."
"Thank you." He took the skin and drank from it. Handing it back to me he said, "I'm ready now. I'll try again."
He concentrated on the glass set before him. The smoke appeared first as it had before, and then instead of the workers, the basin came into view. Our vision followed the basin until it split below the Seat of Karryn.
"Antis!" Keenyl's voice threatened to interrupt, as he entered the flat ground below on the run, with Leyena close behind him.
I leaned over the ridge, and putting a finger to my lips, I motioned for them to be quiet and to come up quickly. I met them on the edge as they reached the top of the ridge.
"Antis is scrying Sorrel," I whispered. "He nearly got through a moment ago. He's trying again. Come on."
We peered over his shoulder. By this time he was once again penetrating the walls of Seat. Layer after layer fell away until finally the walls of Seat slipped away and we saw its hollow center. There we beheld a dark and odious chamber with stalagmites and stalactite throughout the floor and ceiling. Along the far wall of the cavern, a stone staircase ascended to a platform walkway at the top of the chamber with moss and dripping water covering the stone wall and flooring. It felt as if we were there, climbing upward. Once we were on the landing, Antis scried over to an arched opening in the wall to our left. Through the opening was another chamber. Entering it, we could see that we had arrived on a balcony, of sorts. There was a banister made of wooden posts and rope. Peering beyond the rope, we looked down into another dark chamber. In the center of that chamber was a large circular flat rock. A man in a dirty grey cloak with the hood folded down over his back, sat hunched over, apparently eating something. Before him and about six paces away, was another large and arched opening in the wall allowing light to filter in. The area appeared to be another balcony, which evidently looked down over the watery basin.
"Sorrel," declared Antis. "Finally."
Antis scried closer and closer to Sorrel. His hair was black, straight and long enough to fall across his shoulders. Antis scried around to the front of Sorrel from above to get a look at his face. When the angle reached approximately half way around him, suddenly Sorrel sat straight up as if he sensed our presence.
"Ugh!" Leyena cried.
Sorrel held in his hands a half eaten bat. Blood flowed from the tattered carcass and spilled down over peril-white hands with long black fingernails. It made the hair stand up on the back of my neck and stirred a sickening feeling in the pit of my stomach. By Leyena's response, I could tell that she felt the same way. I cannot speak for the others, but try as I did, I could not remove my eyes from the putrid scene no matter how much I wanted too. The horror of the grotesque event was so intense that I was simply stunned into a petrified and disbelieving stare.
Then, without warning, Sorrel shot his head up and to his left. It appeared as though he was looking straight at us. His skin was pearl-white, his lips painted black and there was a black painted band running from ear to ear across steely grey eyes and the bridge of his nose. His sudden movement even startled Antis. He nearly lost the image but held on to it for a few moments longer. Sorrel was a frightening sight. Blood from the bat dripped down from his mouth to his chin and smeared the coal-black mustache that crept down on either side of his mouth to his chin and beyond. Sorrel smiled and showed us teeth sharpened into points. All of the teeth, both upper and lower, looked like the fangs of a serpent. Then suddenly, he shot up his hand as if to grab us and we all jumped back in surprise and sheer instinct. Antis too fell back and the image was gone. Antis regained his composer quickly, extended his hands toward the crystal, and shot a flash of blinding white light at it. He then swiftly grabbed the cloth sack in which he stored the crystal and quickly tucked it away and drew the drawstrings, closing the sack tightly.
"That was Sorrel?" Keenyl asked, between deep gasps of breath.
"That was him alright. What do you think?"
"I think he's disgusting," Leyena said.
"Appalling," I declared.
"I hope you don't ever have to go up against him, Antis," Keenyl added.
"According to Nemond, I'll have to sooner or later."
"Well then let's hope it's later," I said.
"He's frightening to look at, I must admit," Antis replied, "but let's not forget that if I have to face him in battle, I'll not be fighting against his appearance. It's his skills I would like to examine."
"Is that possible?" I asked.
"Not hardly. He would shield that from an enemy with all he's worth."
"I hate to break this to you after such a sight as that," Leyena said, "but I'm afraid Keenyl and I have some bad news for you."
"We found three dead bodies in the thicket beside the road near the pass on our way back from Finlay."
"What?" Antis exclaimed, a jolt of panic in his voice.
"There's more," Keenyl said. "Two of them were Dylarian Swords from Finlay, and one of them was a mage of the guild."
"Where are these bodies? You've got to show me right away."
We set out at once for the place Keenyl and Leyena found the bodies. When we arrived, Antis looked over the site carefully, obviously shaken by what he saw.
"This isn't good," he sighed. "Not good at all."
"There are a couple of prints in the earth over here," Keenyl said and headed for the place they found the footprints. After Antis looked them over, Keenyl asked, "Have you ever seen prints like that before?"
"Never," Antis answered, shaking his head. "I don't think these were made by any known animal in Dylar."
"What are you saying?" I asked. "If they weren't made by an animal, then what could have made them?"
"I have no idea. Did either of you move any of the bodies, or disturb the area at all?"
"No," said Leyena. "We left everything just the way it was so we could show it to you undisturbed."
"Good. We must leave for home immediately. The patrol in Finlay will be missing these men and will come looking for them. That mage is of the guild and was probably stationed in Finlay. That means the Circle will also be getting involved in this. It wouldn't be good for us to be found camping so close to this massacre."
"Surely they wouldn't blame us. They'll be able to see that we couldn't have done this kind of damage with a sword," Leyena said.
"Maybe you couldn't," Antis replied, "but they might imagine that a mage could. Anyway, we don't want to be found out. Keenyl, you do what you can to smooth out our tracks while the rest of us break camp."
"Why don't you use magery to smooth out the tracks?" I asked.
"That would rid this place of all tracks and change the scene too drastically," replied Antis. "It would be too obvious that someone had cleansed the place, especially to another mage."
"Very well," Keenyl agreed. "I will meet you at the camp as soon as I'm finished here?"
Once we gathered our things and packed up the horses, Antis cleansed the cave, ridge and the flat with magery, making it appear that no one had ever been there. Then he bent the wind to kick up snow over the entire site. No one would ever be able to tell we had been there. At least that is how it appeared to me.
Once we mounted Antis asked, "No one from Finlay ever knew you came from the West Horns, I trust."
"No," Leyena replied, "I'm sure of it."
"Good," said Antis.
"Are you sure no one will be able to tell we were here?" she asked.
"Yes I'm sure," Antis said, "Unless..."
"Unless what?" I asked.
"It's possible to discover that someone was here if the area is inspected by a mage. A mage might notice that the basin has recently been cleansed. But I think he would have to first suspect something to go that far with his inspection of the area."
"I feel guilty about not reporting what we've found to the patrol in Finlay," said Leyena.
"We can't take a chance..." Antis started to say.
"...that what we've been doing here will be discovered," Leyena interrupted. "I know, I know. I still don't like it."
"Like it or not, that is the way it has to be," Antis said with a scowl.
"She just doesn't like departing from procedures that patrolmen are taught to observe, that's all," said Keenyl in Leyena's defense.
Antis ignored his comment and started us on our long trek homeward. We stopped every so often so Antis could kick up the wind and blow our tracks away. We headed south to the South Land Forest before turning eastward through the forest. Antis chose a path that he knew would lead to a small bridge that extended over the Great Seabran River and eventually led us out of the forest between Fynard and Menoway. We spent the night in the valley somewhere between Fynard and Lake Ashley near the Arniette River. On the morrow, we crossed the river just below Dyev and entered the Estern Forest in the southwestern corner of the Central Quadrant. We were all very happy to be in familiar territory. I know Antis felt that way too and would be anxious to tell his father and Nemond all the things that had taken place over the past three seasons. And what a tale it was.