Thus came they to Brisbett. Neighboring folk (in this region short, lean brown people, with shaggy black hair and limpid yellow eyes) spoke of the place with big eyes in low whispers, made mention of power and affluence, referenced also fear. Lord Nantrech wondered eagerly at all this, as was his wont. “We come into these bare mountains,” he mused, “where the villagers scratch a living from berries and rare game, yet they proclaim to us, in an irritatingly oblique manner, what sounds a princely city nearby. Curiosity tickles my mind.”
“And frets mine,” retorted Lord Harmon sourly, though that meant little, for always he spoke so, as was his nature, to frown when his friend would rejoice. “Mysteries commonly prove ill,” he added, his favorite axiom.
“Say not so. Mysteries are my life.”
“Let them be not our deaths,” interjected Phillipan, examining the keen edge of his short sword. “Investigate as you will, but let us proceed warily until we have pierced the darkness of ignorance.”
Nantrech could not object, harkened to their advice, then drove forward with haste his band. By a rocky and winding goat path they climbed a big ridge and passed through a saddle of these dry mountains to descend into a narrow valley where a ribbon of green below indicated lonely fertility. Their poor road wound down around the base of a rugged slope to the woods lining the trickling brook, then followed the stream until interesting views revealed themselves.
“Behold Brisbett,” announced the local man who had agreed to accompany them this far in exchange for a gold piece, utterly pure as all the coins of great Dyrezan. Then he absconded with his prize, leaving the party to gaze in awe at the strangeness spread before them, for it was like nothing they had expected. In the valley's plain, straggling along the burbling waters, sprawled a miserable heap of huts and hovels populated, so it appeared, by the most wretched of humanity who dwelt in disgusting squalor. High above them, atop a sharp peak, glared a shiny white citadel of polished, angular stone, its many surfaces reflecting the bright rays of the hot sun as does glass.
What lay in between the majestic heights and the lowly bottom lands, spread out across the steep slope almost to the foot of the dazzling citadel, sparked most comment. Indeed, Brisbett could be described as a fine and ornate city, with its intricate walls and lanes, towers and spires, its palaces grand and colored garishly as the rainbow; only it was a city in miniature, resembling a vast playground as for the children of a king— a toy city! Into a quarter of a league up that rise had been crammed in small the splendors of an entire city state, its loftiest pinnacles perhaps the height of a tall man, the work maybe of a master craftsman or magician who delighted in childish things.
Nantrech clapped his hands with joy and cried, “By great Xenophor's glory! I shall hear the tale of this. Come, let us speak with these folk by the water.”
“Aye,” said Harmon, “sad folk, I swear. How mournfully they stare at us!”
Trooped the band from Dyrezan across the pitiful foot bridge that spanned the brook, accosted they those who dwelt in mud and stone shacks beneath enticing oddity. These people, otherwise resembling those of the other villages thereabout, proved irksomely furtive, aloof, nervous of manner. “Shun we trouble,” they said, shaking their shaggy heads and hiding behind one another. “Do you the same, as you value life and the dregs of contentment. The great sorcerer of the blinding citadel, Subaros, lowering from on high, commands all in Brisbett with sneers and cruelty: our bodies, the few effects he leaves us, and every stone and weed. Do not risk his wrath, which is capricious. Flee from here, lest you unwittingly anger him and become instruments of his amusement.” Little more would they relate, avoiding especially reference to the beautiful sculpture of the tiny city. Indeed, that subject caused them to visibly quail.
“I like not this,” said Phillipan.
“We risk here a tyrant's wrath,” posited Harmon, “one a wizard as well, of powers undetermined.”
“Perhaps this great one does abuse his peasants on occasion,” conceded Nantrech, “scarcely a rare failing at home, though the intense dread I detect here pains me; nevertheless, I withhold judgment. According to common courtesy, Subaros ought to welcome others of his kind. A nicely flagged road curves round this magnificent mock and to the citadel. Also from courtesy, we must pay him a call.”
Phillipan bowed his head and swore under his breath; Harmon muttered and rolled his eyes; the party marched, good-natured Nantrech in the lead. The road did circle the knee-high wall of the toy city, then switch back and forth until it terminated on the granite ledge at the foot of the harshly bright citadel. Nantrech rapped with his staff on the large oaken door, beseeched admittance. It required another series of knocks to garner attention. A pale, gray-bearded face appeared over the parapet, eyes squinting with suspicion. Nantrech asked after the master of the keep.
“I am Subaros,” said he, “and I tolerate no disturbance. Be gone.”
Startled and discomfited, Nantrech gamely persevered. “I be Lord Nantrech of Dyrezan, the land which shines like a jewel in this world, and these be my friends and servants. We come in peace, attracted by your charmingly fey fabrication of a metropolis. I, a fellow scholar of the arcane arts, would converse with you, O Subaros, on matters intriguing to us both. Tell your people to open the door.”
“I have no people,” growled Subaros, speaking to them in a voice that vomited bile and scorn, “nor require I any, when my powers assail and defend better than an army of bodies. In solitude I concoct and conjure, drawing wisdom from a thousand unique volumes penned by mages of old, finding therein power sufficient to maintain supremacy in Brisbett by will alone. Fey, you style my model? True, I made it out of the whimsies of my mind, in an instantaneous blaze of creation, that it might serve as the plan for the illimitable kingdom to come when I extend my reign, yet it has served other purposes. And I know you, Lord Nantrech, Lord Harmon, the soldier Phillipan, these others, and from where you hail. I sensed your coming, read of you on my crystals. Grandees of Dyrezan, come to steal my secrets. Have you so little that you be greedy for more?”
“We are not thieves,” snapped Harmon. “We ask for nought but refreshing talk and the generosity of the master to travelers.”
“Nor are we accustomed to insult,” Phillipan said warmly, “we men of Dyrezan. I have a score of swordsmen at my beck, in company of two noble sorcerers. Do not, I pray you, spit your words at us.”
“I prefer that calm heads prevail,” advised Nantrech.
Subaros threw up his hands, palms outward, shrieked, “Threats and defiance! The folk below, my cringing slaves, could have cautioned you. Do you match strength with mine?”
“Only if we must,” replied Nantrech, “yet I assure you—”
“You must,” cried Subaros. “I send you to the doom of all who oppose me.” He snapped fingers to palms, uttered a complicated, unintelligible word. His eyes blazed, and before his hearers could react a stunning, fiery red light blanked out all sight.
And blinking, massaging their temples, and spewing puzzled oaths, they all, the band from Dyrezan, regained sight, to behold a different scene. No, it was not a frightful dungeon, with moldy skeletons in chains amidst lurid instruments of torture, nor a dark, steaming presentiment of hell; quite otherwise, for they found themselves standing within a massy chamber, finely apportioned and appointed, with furnishings and colorful tapestries of the costliest material. Phillipan, recovering quickly, ordered men to scout the doors, subsequently informed his masters that they had, via some untoward method, entered into the precincts of a grouping of spacious marble apartments, so decorated as to suggest the rooms of a fair palace, one that would not shame Dyrezan herself.
“No one appears to be about,” he said, “friend or foe.”
“Well, that satisfies me,” declared Nantrech, “for the nonce. I would collect my wits before I spar with the inhabitants.”
“Had you collected them before,” fired Harmon, “we should not be in this muddle, however pleasing to the eye. Think of how we came here, where ever here be.”
“Quite so,” granted Nantrech. “To confess, I credited Subaros with too much inherent good will. Still, perhaps we cannot judge him too harshly. This does not resemble punishment.”
“I fear the worst.”
“As do you always, Harmon. It is your weakness.”
“In listing yours, Nantrech, I could fill a scroll. Where are we?”
“And what matters it?” asked Phillipan advisedly. “For no rational reason—nay, out of the madness of untrammeled power, feckless suspicion, and self-imposed seclusion—Subaros counts himself our enemy. Our transference to this fancy domain does not constitute, in his mind, a reward. We must be on guard.”
“I accept that,” replied Nantrech. “I refuse to deduce more, however, until we explore. I see a city scape through yonder window. Let us go forth anew, meet the people of this realm, find our bearings, learn where we stand. Phillipan, detail the men.”
In a compact body, its extremities bristling with blades, the group departed the castle via a grand hall which gave onto a flight of wide marble steps leading down to a broad plaza. In the center of the plaza played a pretty fountain spouting from the mouth of a bronze nymph, the waters splashing back into a circular pool rimmed with more marble, this of rosy hue. There they halted to study their surroundings. Exclaimed Nantrech, “Wonders compile! This monumental city, its mighty structures all of marble and granite; see how they rise above us a league or more, tier upon tier of titanic effort, sweeping artistically up the steep slope of that impossible mountainside. It pains me to admit, but our Dyrezan might pale in comparison. And beyond the city walls, so high as to be misty to my sight, looms that colossal white castle, a towering edifice itself big as any mountain I hitherto kenned. How could this be new to me, that I cannot indicate its geography on any map? Debate the reasons, gentlemen, yet grant that we have been propelled into a land of enchantment.”
“It is a remarkably clean place,” observed Phillipan.
“Aye,” responded Harmon shortly, gloom weighing his voice. Then: “'Tis surely unlittered by people. The sun hangs high, but this outwardly pleasing square attracts no strollers, no hawkers, nor men on business of state. We see them not, hear them not. What means this city of silence?”
“Not so clean,” muttered Nantrech. “There, against the lee wall of that building, I make out scattered rocks. That area needs tidying. Continue we our studies over there.”
This casual investigation of odd minutiae yielded an unexpected result. Phillipan poked with his sword at the crystalline cobbles. Nantrech eyed them intently, seemed to rebel against a conclusion, then nodded. He said, “My dear Harmon, consider carefully these stones. Bring to bear your knowledge of minerals. Deduce you as I?”
Harmon stooped, hefted an angular cobble with both hands, growled an imprecation at his traitorous back, steadied upright to examine the thing. “I do. Wholly common, yet rarer than diamond. Good Phillipan, behold a gigantic grain of sand.”
“That does not make sense, my lord.”
“It is bigger than it should be, by all rights, according to the rules that govern Earth. Nantrech, have we been thrust into an elsewhere plane?”
“I reject that conception,” retorted Nantrech. “Mystery abounds, yes, but not enough mystery for that. We shall proceed, explore the avenues leading from the plaza. We will find someone who can fill the gaps of our knowledge. Every material fact has an explanation.”
Thus they dived into the intricacies of the weird city, the band ever in a formation of readiness, weaving among the grandiose architecture that flowed without break up the heavens-scraping mountain. The several levels they scaled by means of artfully curving ramps or wide, easy stairs. They passed edifices noble and wondrous, palaces and courts of white marble, gray marble and pink, massy granite forms too, many of them colorfully painted, the whole—structures and streets—adorned with statues of bronze, marble, even at whiles of gold. Investigations of the insides of the buildings disclosed impressive furnishings but no occupants nor their private belongings. In time they grew tired of the interminable journey. The men, increasingly skittish at the appalling emptiness and silence of the great city, grumbled among themselves. Lord Nantrech, freely perspiring, blew out his breath and called a halt. He rested with his two companions on the flat stone banister of a ramp, while his liegemen took food and drink from the carried stores. The noble trio refreshed likewise. Nantrech shook his head. “Information accrues,” said he, “to little purpose. How to locate the key to unlock this puzzle?”
Came the key, and the first turn of the lock. The sound of horrified screaming swept upon them, attended by the noise of running feet. From around a corner at an intermediate distance burst into view a man in flight, a brown-skinned man in rags, his shaggy hair black and yellow eyes wild, jerking his head back in frenzy as at that which closely pursued. He saw them, froze uncomprehending, piteously wailed, “Save me! Save me from the curse of Subaros!” A dreadful monster appeared behind him, entirely black, disturbingly larger than any natural creature should be. In the sudden fraction of an instant it pounced, a whirl of manically flailing hairy legs, stabbing fangs and glistening dark eyes, enfolding its shrieking victim within its hideous embrace.
Nantrech cried, “Take cover!” Phillipan, duty ingrained, assumed charge, ushered all down the ramp and into the interior of the nearest building, the men employing windows as well as doors to escape the peril. The agonized screaming stopped, replaced by a different sound, one plainly indicative of imbibing. Presently they heard that no more.
Nantrech, still somewhat rattled by developments, shortly queried his crouched together comrades, “Opinions, gentlemen?”
Phillipan quickly replied, “We be in a trap of Subaros, fashioned by his arts.”
“That be plain,” said Lord Harmon, with a dismissive flick of hand. “Subaros willed us here, to this far realm, as he did that poor native of Brisbett, sent that repulsive beast to slay. Did you attend, Nantrech? That was a spider, a spider bigger than the elephant that roams the south lands.”
“I saw it,” whispered his colleague. “An ugly possibility begins to fashion itself within the halls of my brain. I connect discordant data. I discover a way to rationalize events. Harmon, I recoil from my thoughts.”
“You will have it so. Concede Subaros to be a learned wizard, that by his arts alone he holds the folk of Brisbett in bondage.”
“Elementary,” sneered Harmon.
“True, but the basis of what follows. I shall argue that Subaros transported us only a little distance, that the evil nature of his spell upon us takes a more shocking form. Consider the known facts: this beautiful but desolate city, the mountain that dwarfs any peak our scribes have mapped, that incredible white castle at its top. Ponder as well the unusual stray stones we found in the plaza and elsewhere, then think deeply of the atrocious monster that stalks and slays here. Wise Harmon, you keep quiet; have I said not enough? Add to all the curious city sculpture on the slopes above Brisbett.”
“Of course!” cried Harmon, clapping his hands, overcome by a species of glee. “Difficult to accept, I swear—really, Nantrech, in our familiar forum I could not condone your daring surmise—but the evidence fits. The disparate indices form a whole. That has to be the answer.”
Moaned Phillipan, “I beseech you, my clever lords, reveal to me the boon of your wisdom.”
But just then the key turned its final click. Illumination dimmed as a shadow darkened the windows. A ghastly screeching voice thundered down on them from on high, each spiteful word rolling like far thunder. “Come out, come out, mice of Dyrezan. I fain would speak to you.” Though it vibrated the walls, all present recognized the greatly amplified voice of Subaros.
They crowded and jostled to the windows. Nantrech, peering upward, let fly an oath of wonder and dismay. An enormous shape rose astoundingly high into the sky beyond the buildings opposite. A grand tower in the shape of a man, wrapped in a gray robe that could shroud a castle; a man shape that moved as a man, quivering with breath; an eidolon of Subaros, speaking in his voice! It was he.
Crowed Subaros, “Of course you never would have grasped the truth of your predicament, had I not condescended to reveal myself. It is indeed I, master of your bodies and souls, supreme in my power over you. I worked the spell of the one-eyed demon Thorcipas, who haunts the lowest pits of the Seventh Sphere. I made you small, as mites creeping about my trinket city, concocted from whim long ago, a place into which I cast enemies and fools who bore me. Little men, always I fail to populate this tinkered domain, for the tiny beasts of this bare mountain will intrude in search of prey. You beheld one—an insignificant spider, a mere speck of life—you may see him again, or others as kindly. I leave you to them.”
Nantrech sought earnestly to remonstrate with the smirking giant who blotted the sun, but in this he was wholly unsuccessful, for two reasons. One, their cyclopean tormentor scarcely heard his pleas, which Subaros mockingly likened to the squeaking of bats. Two, the hateful sorcerer was not in any way disposed to pay heed to sweet words, or reason, or (eventually) harsh criticism of his behavior. With a cackle Subaros dismissed them, saying, “Figuratively, you dwindle all the more. Soon you shall literally cease to exist. I return to my citadel, having forgotten already that you ever lived. Enjoy, while you can, the commodious accommodations.”
The gargantuan form receded, the shadow passing out of the sky. Harmon sagged by the window, groaning, “'Twas a fell decision that turned us into his path.” Phillipan cried, “We must escape this pestilent jest of a city.” Others chimed in with copious expressions of outrage or hopelessness, but learned Nantrech cut through the useless chatter. “Magic drew us into this fix,” intoned he, “and magic shall deliver us. My Lord Harmon, we are still what we were in artful vitality, however diminished in size. Let us combine, incant and conjure.”
“I accept your charge,” Harmon warmly replied, “but first we must fathom the nature of the arcane force that binds us.”
“What do you do?” asked Phillipan of them both.
Nantrech responded. “We open our minds, Captain, seek the mystical emanations that certainly swirl about. I know not of this Thorcipas—”
“Nor I,” Harmon groused.
“A regrettable lack in my education, one to be remedied at the earliest opportunity. However, saturated as we are in the spell's effects, we can deduce a deal. I begin to sense the rays of a magical potency.” Then Lord Nantrech and Lord Harmon turned from their fellows, and for a terribly long span acted as if alone with themselves, muttering apparent nonsense, twitching fingers, patting each other's shoulders and forearms, at whiles nodding sagely, even grinning. The rest watched impatiently. In the end the two wizards sat back heavily, as from great strain, uttered wearied words of vague pleasure. Nantrech said, “We are one, Harmon? Good. Phillipan, slender hope obtains. On that we must count. 'Tis a curious spell, awesome in scope, yet surprisingly directional. We locate its source geographically, the indications pointing not to Subaros or his mountaintop burg, but to a location nearer at hand. Do you understand?”
“It means that Subaros, not to be further bothered with us (the insolence of the man!), delegates the power that maintains our shrinkage. If the source be destroyed or suppressed, we may snap back to normality. Captain, this do you: go forth, look up to the north and east, tell me what you spy.”
This Phillipan did gamely. He called, “There I see the tallest spire of this phony city, the needle tower with the green onion-shaped bulb at its pinnacle. Does that help?”
“Assuredly it does,” cried Harmon, rising energetically. “There we go, to master whatever we find at that height. The baleful enchantment of Subaros washes upon us from that point.”
With alacrity the band of Dyrezan formed ranks, departed their shelter, marched briskly through the streets, choosing every turn that took them north and east. That particular tower, the greatest of all, soared higher and higher over them as they solemnly approached. Closer, they discerned rare windows in its narrow circumference. “Windows suggest an inner passage,” Harmon said hopefully. “Mundane barriers will not stop us.”
Something else might. The huge spider—perhaps another one remarkably like it—skittered into view straight ahead of them, its fiendish immensity blocking the lane. “No help for it,” cried Nantrech. “We shall pass, or perish in the attempt. Phillipan, do your duty, and honor us all.”
The stout Captain did not flinch from the dire command. Gathering unto him every man armed, he led the charge into battle against the oncoming horror. And the men of Dyrezan did fight the thing, though fear of unspeakable death chilled all their hearts. Swords flashed, shields rattled, armor rang. Loathsome legs and claws and dripping fangs ripped at them. Nantrech and Harmon raised their staffs, chanted in unison, lent aid against the foe with fire balls and blinding mist. Three men died, including one heroic bearer who had no business at the front; chewed in that poisonous maw or shredded by those eight steel-hard appendages that darted and struck like hissing snakes... but scores of wounds slowed, then lamed the nightmare creature, until noble Phillipan's last thrust punctured its carapace behind the eyes, and the monster crumpled into itself, heaved once, fell forever motionless.
“Well done,” declared Lord Nantrech. “One day our people will sing of this exploit. Onward to the tower!”
Soon after they arrived at its base, a huge, blocky complex with one small door flanked by lions of gold. Into this they passed, mounted the steps of what proved an almost veritable lifetime of circling flights. Rarely they attained levels possessing chambers which opened to the world, revealing the exotic scape about them. The party paused often and long, Phillipan and the liegemen weighed down by armor, the two wizards by their years. During a period of rest the Captain opined, “Far up into this lair have we passed, without meeting prepared foe or set obstacle. At this I wonder.”
Nantrech said, “The hubris of Subaros may prove our main strength. Accustomed as he is to brutalizing the ignorant, perhaps he has not planned on such as we who think, and whose knowledge guides their actions.”
After ages more of climbing Lord Harmon panted, “Something festers in yon story beyond that railing; the ultimate story, I reckon.”
“Indeed,” replied Lord Nantrech, exhaling hard. “There be many wrongs ways, I presume, to proceed. I recommend the easiest: go boldly and confront.”
“So be it.” All present braced themselves. Gaining the uppermost landing, they clustered about the door. Nantrech would have knocked. Phillipan interjected himself, pushed it open. They entered a round chamber illuminated by a high skylight.
In the exact center of the otherwise barren room sat an oblong basalt dais, and atop this rested a large globe of sheer glass. Inside the globe, entirely filling its volume, roiled a greasy, semi-liquid mass of amorphous brown ooze, its substance in languid, churning motion. It was a dire vision, worse still when the quivering pile heaved, turning to bear upon them one big, darkly greenish, unfriendly eye.
And the thing spoke, in a dreadful voice that suited its appearance. “I am Thorcipas, monarch of the Seventh Sphere. Sent you by crafty Subaros to taunt? Beware, for despite this unjust prison into which he cast me by trick, at close quarters I can still smite with impunity.”
“Subaros styles himself our enemy,” Nantrech hastily declared, “inappropriately treating us as well; therefore we feel no ill will toward a fellow victim of his arrogance.”
Grumbled Thorcipas, turning away the eye to disclose a horrid travesty of needle-toothed mouth, “You be human. It is my eternal privilege to torment and annihilate lesser beings. In that I can take delight.”
“Not so readily would you best us,” Phillipan cried. “We trust in Xenophor, and by our faith will fight for our lives.”
“To no purpose, if I will it,” retorted Thorcipas. “You worship Xenophor the master of all, the creator and destroyer? That is wisdom. I serve Him, in my fashion. He may rejoice if I send you to Him.”
“That, also, to no purpose,” Harmon quickly pointed out, “for then we all lose. Thorcipas, you are strange to us, and I cannot read your mind by my arts—”
“It would kill you to try.”
“Indubitably. Nevertheless, I guess that you rebel against this shabby treatment—”
“Subaros gained a momentary advantage,” shrieked the squirming gelatine, “bombarding my essence with a magical sleight, to accomplish that which he must not, against which the Gods themselves ought revolt! Binding me here, to his brazen bidding; cheap commands, to include the doom woven against you; for that he has earned a thousand lives of lingering death!”
“You speak fairly,” said Nantrech, “and with estimable moderation. Might we deal, to mutual benefit?”
Thorcipas abruptly replied, “Your lives, for my release.”
“Unfortunately—” Nantrech spoke most apologetically, coughed— “your munificent offer does not suffice. I beg you to reverse the impious spell he wrung from you, that inordinately lessened our stature. On this I insist. Also—” here he nodded to his friend Harmon— “we desire entry into the citadel of Subaros, that we may revel in the concealed wonders of his arcane library and scholarly accessories.”
Thorcipas snarled, or emitted some such sound not amenable to polite classification. “You ask too much, man. Even as a slave I will not bow to your greedy yelps.”
“Then let us divide duties,” continued Nantrech. “No need that all of the burden should fall on you. Eager you are, I aver, to return to your unearthly kingdom. That I can arrange. Your material prison is mere glass, the slightest film— only enchantment holds you within—and that spell I, leagued with my excellent colleague here, can negate. Once done, you may hasten away to your realm, leaving foolish Subaros to our justice.”
Queried Thorcipas, “What would you have?”
Terms stated, all parties in agreement, having sworn oaths of honor to Xenophor, Lord of All Things, Nantrech and Harmon set to work, brewing a mighty magic, and when they were done all but Nantrech drew back, pressing themselves against the curving wall, while Nantrech advanced, spoke the words—words that rang in the ears of those who heard, though he whispered them under his breath—and with his staff smashed the thin glass globe to slivers. Nothing remained on the dais but gleaming fragments. The grotesque form of Thorcipas had vanished on the instant, though a nasty sound lingered momentarily; perhaps a laugh, were glee mixed with implacable animosity.
With another beat of their hearts the men of Dyrezan stood on rather than in the miniature city, it having appeared to shrink to its just proportions as they magically regained theirs. Several noteworthy buildings and monuments crumbled or cracked under the freshly enlarged boots of those who trod on them while endeavoring to maintain balance on the uneven surface. Phillipan, to steady himself, clutched at the slim tower in which they had lately resided. Its bulbous green top came off in his fist.
Lord Nantrech surveyed the area, the sad hovels below, the upward sweep of Subaros' ridiculous city, the bright glassy citadel atop the peak, found all as should be. Then his gaze darted down among the toy structures. “Seek underfoot, men,” said he. “One part of the bargain complete; did Thorcipas perform the second half?”
They hunted for what they hoped to find. A swordsman made the discovery of verification. Nantrech crouched down, peered with amusement and disdain at the seeming insect that stamped and squeaked up at him. He bent lower to catch the words, presently rose. “Raving madness,” he concluded. “Still our late host dreams of his pointless vengeance.”
Lord Harmon said, “The tables turn, little Subaros, thanks to the machinations of our disagreeable ally, who has fortunately fled beyond the veil without smiting us backhand. Clever one, did not your pride shrink with your flesh?”
Phillipan, stepping forward, declared, “I will stamp the life out of him.”
Nantrech demurred at this. “Nay, Captain. While such unworthy thoughts did pass my mind, I think better now, finding no glory in besting this small fry. I desired justice. What say you all, if we leave wee Subaros to the mercies of his people in Brisbett? They surely possess a catalogue of scores requiring settlement. As for me, I say make for the citadel. I wish to explore its chambers before night falls.”
With the annunciation of this pretty wish the citadel of Subaros fell, or rather it exploded with a deafening boom into a million flashing, twinkling shards which then fell like glistening snow. Its minute, former master waved its little sticks of arms, threw itself down kicking its skinny little legs, and sobbed a tinny wail of helpless fury. After a stunned silence Harmon, observing these antics, guffawed in unstately manner. Said he, “The final joke is on us. This be the doing of Thorcipas, I reckon; his parting slap at a world he despises. He denies us the library of Subaros.”
“Xenophor's curse on him,” Nantrech growled. “As payment for pains, I longed to ransack that stash of lore.” He jabbed with his staff at the air, shrugged and grinned. “Well, the dice roll for us neither high nor low. We lose nothing we had, retain our hold on life and health. What say we seek shelter this night among the folk of Brisbett? Undoubtedly they will smother us with gratitude. Tomorrow we march on. Somewhere, on the road ahead, more delectable marvels await.”
© Jeffery Scott Sims 2012
Jeffery Scott Sims lives in Arizona, which forms the background for many of his fantastic tales. Recent publications include a novel, The Journey of Jacob Bleek, and the short stories "The God In the Machine", "The Love of Jacob Bleek", "The House On Anderson Mesa", "The Nasty Club", and "The Mystery of the Inner Basin Lodge". "In the Hills of Yost" appeared in our April issue.