Victory and Defeat: Book Five of the Restoration Series, page 1
Victory and Defeat: Book Five of the Restoration Series
By Christopher Williams
Published By Christopher Williams
Copyright 2013 Christopher Williams
Other books by Christopher Williams
The Guardians: Book One of the Restoration Series
Ossendar: Book Two of the Restoration Series
Valley of the Ancients: Book Three of the Restoration Series
Into the Wastelands: Book Four of the Restoration Series
Long Shot: A Remnant of the Commonwealth, Book One
For a map of Telur and the surrounding kingdoms, please visit:
The Three Forms of the Mystical Arts
Magic is a learned art. All that is required to learn magic is a good mind. The magic user focuses on their need, then casts the appropriate spell. Spells can be as simple as single words or chants, or as complex as multi-person rites and rituals. Magic is by far the most common of the three forms of the Mystical Arts.
Sorcery, unlike Magic, is something a person is born with. It cannot be learned. Sorcerers are born with the unique ability to control their spirit and use it to manipulate things in the world around them. Touching other people's minds and moving objects with just a thought are some of the more common uses of Sorcery.
Wizardry is the art of summoning through the five elements. Demons are summoned through fire. Spirits are summoned through water. Visions of the past, present, and future are summoned through spirit. Summoning through air allows a wizard to travel great distances, but only to locations that they have previously visited. Summoning through earth allows a person’s life essence to be transferred to another.
Wizardry has been forbidden for two thousand years ever since the destruction of the Demon Lord War.
Derek stopped beside a table that bowed under the weight of a farmer’s produce. He glanced around, not at the table’s contents but at the surrounding crowds. He was looking for anyone who was paying them too much attention. The people were packed into the market of Elem and none of them appeared to be giving him a second look.
He turned back to the table. Leela had already picked out ten or so pieces of the best fruit, and she was now looking over the various vegetables for sale. Judging by the look on her face, she wasn’t too pleased with them. He turned back to scanning the crowds, letting Leela do the shopping.
He had traveled with the Wildling woman from the Forests of Dalar and he liked her well enough. She was quiet for the most part, but he didn’t think she would betray any of them, and for good reason - she had her own secrets. The woman had a strange gift. Perhaps it was more correct to call it a curse. She could kill with a single touch. Derek had never heard of anything like it, but he had seen her use this power; she had even used it to save his life.
They had traveled from the forests with his fellow Guardians, Trestus, Kara, and Enstorion, along with Keenan. Keenan was prince of the ruined kingdom of Tizen, and he had saved their lives in the hope of one day getting the curse removed from his people.
They had reached Elem nearly a week ago and it was truly a miserably hot place. Occasionally a breeze would blow off the water and cool things down, but the rest of the time it was just brutally hot. There wasn’t any breeze now and sweat ran down Derek’s back and the sides of his face.
He was dressed in the fashion of the sailors: loose-fitting pants and an open shirt. He also wore a brightly colored handkerchief tied on the top of his head; it was the fashion of Elem and it did help keep the hair out of his eyes.
In the week since they had arrived in Elem, they hadn’t learned much. Keenan had suggested, and Derek had agreed, that they needed to learn more about the city and the Abbey of Enlightenment before they even tried to approach the monastery that stood on top of a hill to the north. To that end, they had been making excursions to different parts of the city.
They had gone to great lengths to avoid traveling in groups that might draw attention. None of the Guardians went out together, and since Derek didn’t want anyone to go out alone, their pairings were limited. Derek or Trestus always went out with Leela, and that left Kara teamed up with Keenan. Enstorion was the only one who stayed at the small inn, as he seemed content not to leave. They had three rooms at the inn and the elf seemed pleased to have a bed again. His joy would probably wear off after a while, but he also had his magic books to keep him occupied.
Derek hated sitting around the inn and was pleased that it was Trestus’s turn today - not that he enjoyed shopping with Leela, but at least he wasn’t cooped up in their small, little bedroom.
They had tried visiting the bars and shops that lined the harbor edge, but most of the customers were sailors, and some of them didn’t even know they were in Elem, much less anything about the city. The locals who worked the shops were busy and didn’t have time to talk. Pestering the locals would have drawn attention to themselves, and that was the last thing they wanted.
Elem’s market area was an open-air bazaar, with long rows of stalls that were manned by local farmers looking to sell their produce to merchants fresh off the ships. Many traders walked from stall to stall looking for a deal, or perhaps they just had open space on their wagon caravan that they needed to fill before heading out of the city. Regardless of the buyer’s reason, a tremendous amount of goods were bought and sold here.
“Dear,” Leela called out, and Derek barely managed not to groan. “Dear, can you come pay the man?”
Derek sighed and turned back to the farmer. He and Leela were playing the part of a married couple, although it seemed that she took a much greater delight in the role than he did.
Derek smiled at the farmer, handed over the coins, and retrieved the small pile of fruit that Leela had bought. That brought up another worry; their coin was getting low. They had left Telur with a decent amount, but that had been confiscated when they had been captured. Keenan had freed them from their confinement and, to his credit, he had fled with quite a bit of gold, but they were going through it at a fantastic rate.
They began walking eastward. The aisles were crowded and it made walking difficult, but they managed. After a while, the aisles began to thin out a bit. It was starting to get late in the afternoon, and this bazaar wouldn’t be open much longer. Derek groaned inwardly at the thought of having to spend tomorrow alone in the room at the inn.
Leela waited until they were several booths away from the farmer before she spoke. “Quit glowering at everyone! They are much more likely to remember us with you staring at them.”
Derek took a deep breath but didn’t reply. First of all, this wasn’t the proper place for an argument, and secondly, as much as he hated to admit it, she was probably right. He knew what was really bothering him; they were here to steal an ancient dwarven shield called Ocklamoor. The Kelcer prophecy detailed the man who would restore the Dragon Order, and possessing Ocklamoor was one of the signs. His whole life he had been told that the person who restored the Order would be a monster, a destroyer, but now he had been asked to believe something different and it bothered him. He truly liked his fellow Guardian, Flare, and it bothered him that Flare might be the next member of the Order. He simply couldn’t believe that his friend was a monster, he just couldn’t.
Something else was bothering him, too. This abbey was supposed to have an extrem
“Did you hear what I said?” Leela asked.
Derek looked up and saw that she was watching him intently. “What? Oh yes, I heard … don’t stare at the crowds.”
“Not that,” Leela said, and pulled him over to the side of the aisle, near an empty stall. “Did you hear what the farmer told me?” She was still watching him closely, in a manner that suggested she was getting worried.
He smiled, hoping to put her at ease. “I’m sorry, but I missed what the farmer said.”
“He said that the summer festival starts in little more than a week.”
“So, the abbey will throw its doors open for any and all pilgrims. He said there will be a huge number of travelers here for the festival.”
Derek stared at her dumbly for a moment. He finally managed, “Pilgrims?” He hadn’t heard of any such festival or a flood of pilgrims, but he so clearly saw where she was going with this.
“Yes, pilgrims.” Leela regarded him for a moment in silence. “Perhaps you shouldn’t spend so much time in the sun. I think it’s addling your brains.”
Derek ignored the insult and genuinely smiled for what felt like the first time in days.
“Come on,” he said, “let’s find the others.”
Kara and Keenan entered a small inn and took a table in the common room. The inn wasn’t ostentatious, but it was one of the nicer ones they had seen so far. The inns near the harbor were cheap and flea-infested, intended mainly for drunken sailors and their whores. The inns on the eastern part of Elem were nicer and catered to a more affluent clientele, mainly merchants and traders.
This section of town was nestled between the houses of the wealthy, which sat on the eastern cliffs overlooking the bay, and the homes of the more common citizens of Elem. The king’s highway was nearby, and most of the inn’s customers were associated with the numerous wagon trains that seemed to arrive and depart daily.
Kara was quiet, but that wasn’t uncommon. Since they had begun splitting up into small groups, she had always been with Keenan. It wasn’t an arrangement that either of them liked. Keenan was decent enough, but she wasn’t sure she completely trusted the man, regardless of the fact that he had saved her life.
They had been teamed up because he was the only one in their group who was male and not a Guardian. Likewise, she was the only female Guardian. They were trying not to pair two Guardians together, as the chances of them being recognized would increase.
She wasn’t just quiet because she was spending all of her time with Keenan; she was also terrified that Flare, a person whom she trusted, might be the one to restore the Dragon Order. The former Archbishop Nathan Tanner had said that Kelcer was misunderstood, but she didn’t trust him either. The church had ex-communicated the man years before, and she tended to trust the church more. Or did she? There wasn’t any easy way around it; she was suffering a crisis of faith.
She knew Flare was a good person, not a monster. But the church had said that if he succeeded in restoring the Order, the world would be plunged into darkness. She was wrestling with issues that didn’t seem to have an easy resolution. She tried to stop dwelling on these gloomy thoughts and looked around. The common room was nearly deserted, but that wouldn’t last long. These inns did quite a thriving business and should be filling up shortly.
A fat innkeeper with thin, gray hair walked over to greet them. He was fair, almost pasty, and had a thick mustache. The ends of his mustache drooped down below his chin. He had a friendly look about him though, and he smiled as he approached their table.
“Hello, my name’s Paul, and I’m the proprietor of this establishment. Are you looking for a room?”
Keenan shook his head. “No, just some dinner.”
Paul nodded, not looking upset in the least. “Most certainly, but if you’re planning on staying through the festival, then I suggest you get a room now. Many innkeepers will turn you out if you don’t reserve the room for the whole festival.”
“Festival?” Keenan said, looking confused. “What festival?”
“Why, the summer festival, of course.” Paul’s eyes widened a bit. “Forgive me, but I thought you were here for the festival.”
“No,” Kara said and smiled graciously at the fat, old man. “I’m from Telur, but I live with my husband in Dalar.” Deciding that she should do the thing right, Kara reached out and took Keenan’s hand. “I’ve always wanted to see the abbey and he was nice enough to bring me, but we didn’t know anything about a festival.”
“Oh, I see,” Paul said. “The festival starts in just over a week, and there will be banquets, parties, and the abbey will be open for a whole week for any and all.”
“Really?” Keenan said, and his interest was genuine. “A whole week, you say?”
“Yes,” Paul replied. “In fact, some pilgrims have already started to arrive. Elem is about to get very crowded over the next week or so.”
Kara thanked the man and sent him away to bring them some food. She waited until the innkeeper had disappeared into the kitchens before she turned and grinned at Keenan. “I’d forgotten about the festival.”
“You knew about it?”
“I’ve heard about it,” she replied, “but the summer festival at the Abbey of Enlightenment is one of the smaller festivals. It doesn’t compare to the spring or harvest celebrations in Telur, or even to the winter feast. The monasteries in the east are more known for their galas than Elem.” She didn’t mention it, but there was another reason she hadn’t thought about the summer festival; she had been traveling for so long that the days just seemed to flow together. She knew it was summer, of course, but she hadn’t thought about what that meant in terms of the abbey at Elem.
“This could be the first bit of good news we’ve had since arriving,” Keenan said. “If there truly will be that many pilgrims entering the abbey, then we should be able to slip in unnoticed.” He smiled, pleased with himself.
“Maybe,” Kara answered, “but I don’t think any number of pilgrims would be a big enough distraction when we carry the shield out of the abbey, and that’s assuming we can find it and get it away from its guards.”
Keenan scowled and opened his mouth to reply, but stopped at the sudden reappearance of the innkeeper. Paul carried several platters with the well-practiced grace of a man who’d been doing it for years. He placed a plate in front of them, loaded down with a roast and several pieces of hot bread, and bowls of vegetable stew.
Even after Paul had disappeared into the kitchens, Keenan had no interest in arguing with Kara. The food simply smelled too good. As he took the first bite of the roast pork, Keenan realized they had made a mistake by focusing on the poorer sections of town. In hindsight, it was obvious. They had visited areas that were more tuned toward the transient sailors and wagon drivers, while the nicer inns would, of course, be more for the gentry. It made sense that these inns would be able, and willing, to discuss the abbey. Some of the innkeepers near the harbor probably didn’t even know they lived near an abbey.
Keenan and Kara arrived back at their inn, The Pirate’s Folly, shortly after the sun went down. A small sign hung next to the door and showed a comical pirate tied up in chains and hanging by his feet. Their inn was not as nice as the one they had visited earlier in the day, but it wasn’t flea-infested either. They were close enough to the harbor proper that they could already hear an increase in noise. That was one of the drawbacks of being this close to the waterfront - there was a party every night that lasted until the wee hours of the morning.
Berra and her husband owned The Pirate’s Folly, but Berra usually worked the front desk. Kara rather liked Berra; she had to be fifty or so and hardworking. She couldn’t say the same for Berra’s husband. The man was rarely around, and there was a rumor that he spent his free time with one of the maids. She found the w
Keenan and Kara climbed the stairs to the second floor and walked down the hall to the room where Trestus and Derek were staying. They had considered renting rooms in small groups so that no one would know they were all together, but that seemed foolish. It was nearly impossible to keep such secrets from the maids, and besides, it would have made getting together more difficult.
There was a chance that someone at the inn would know their descriptions and recognize them, but they thought this unlikely for several reasons. First, their appearance had changed drastically since they’d left Telur all those months ago, and their own families might not even recognize them. Their hair was long and a bit wild and the men had short rough beards. Trestus had planned to cut his hair short and get a shave upon entering Elem, but Derek had forbidden it. The beards were invaluable in helping to disguise them.
The second reason they weren’t too afraid of being recognized was because of their two new members: Leela and Keenan. No one knew they were traveling together and there wasn’t any reason to link this group of six travelers with the outlaw Guardians.
Knocking softly, Keenan leaned closer to the door and listened. Derek had insisted that they return by sundown or shortly thereafter. At first, Keenan had thought it a foolish idea, but he soon realized his mistake. This was a seaport, and ships were constantly coming and going. But the ships were in constant need of sailors, and sometimes it was easiest just to round up all those who had drunk a bit too much and sail away. When the men sobered up, they would be too far out to sea to do anything but finish the voyage. It was a concept that flabbergasted him. No one should have to worry about being kidnapped and forced to work on a ship. There was a reason the locals did not frequent the bars near the waterfront.
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