The Wrong Wizards Chapter 12
(There wasn't going to be art but surprise there is!
If you prefer reading books on phone apps here are the mirrors for The Wrong Wizards on Moonquill and Tapas:
Moonquill Mirror: https://www.moonquill.com/book/the-wrong-wizards
Tapas Mirror: https://tapas.io/series/The-Wrong-Wizards/info
Chapters will go up here on my blog on Wednesdays and then update on Moonquill and Tapas on Mondays. We shall see if I can stick to this!
I will be speaking on a panel at Dallas FanExpo this month on June 18th at about 2:30pm, by the way. So that's going to be different. I am nervous about crowds and Covid. :s Thank you for being so patient and believing in me. Here's Chapter 12 of The Wrong Wizards! Featuring the best future girlfriend in the world Sigyn!
-Sarah "Neila" Elkins)
Chapter 12: Heavy Lifting
I have had the strength magic of my boots turned off since setting the elf down in the wagon but I'm tempted to reengage it. Instead I go over to where Nikola and Merlin are walking behind the wagon. The large stones beneath our feet are a lot more smooth than the cobblestone streets of Centrum. They're also worn from years of wagons traveling over them and remind me of ancient Roman roads that are still used back home. Built to last. There's no telling how old these paths are.
"Hey," I say before glancing back to confirm the tall figure who looks an awful lot like the dragon woman is still behind us. Granted it looks like they're about a mile away, they're still there on the road, matching our pace. "So, not to alarm you both but the dragon lady who's been following us is maybe still doing that."
Then I remember I didn't tell them about seeing her at the inn, or anywhere else.
"Okay, so there's been this big buff dragon person who's been, almost everywhere we have when we have and last night she was at the inn demanding a room. New Look told her there weren't any rooms. I spoke up and the dragon lady got scared and left."
"Why didn't tell us this before we agreed to protect a wagon transporting dragon eggs destined to be made into omelets?" Nikola hisses.
I take a deep breath. "Because I wasn't thinking beyond 'get out of town as quickly as possible.'"
"What do we do?" Merlin asks, her hand on the sword at her hip.
"We keep moving forward," I say. "If she gets closer I'll use my boots and do my best. Maybe I can scare her off again?"
"Unlikely," Nikola says.
I can tell he's annoyed I had sat on the information about the dragon woman. Not only did I say nothing about her but also not telling them about the vampires shows a pattern in my behavior. And not a good one. I'm not trustworthy.
Nikola heads to where I had been walking on the right side of the wagon and Merlin moves to the left leaving me in the rear and closest to where the dragon woman is. She's still pretty far away. No one else is following us. No other wagons on the road or people on foot. The land has gotten even more flat. We travel along the plain for a few yards before I notice something in the distance approaching us. Off in the grasslands to our right are five or six large things, dark in color, are moving quite quickly.
"Hey, Image!" I shout. "What are those thingies to our right?"
"To our right?" He calls back. Then he shrieks. "OH GODS NO! WHAT ARE THOSE DOING HERE?!"
"What?" Merlin asks. She runs ahead so she can see around the wagon and shades her eyes with a hand to get a better look. "They look like horses."
I look back at the figures and discover they are a lot closer than before. They do look a lot like horses but Image's continued alarm doesn't seem like a good sign.
"Abandon the cargo!" Image shouts as he scrambles to stop Airplane Mode. "Leave Airplane Mode. Head back to Centrum!"
"What? Abandon your orycturine?" Nikola asks.
Image leaps down from the wagon and books it back the way we came. "If we're lucky she'll slow them down!"
"Slow them down?" I ask. "Slow what down?"
That doesn't sound good.
I knock an arrow and aim my bow at the oncoming creatures. They're way closer now. Disturbingly fast and huge. Six Clydesdale sized horse-like creatures, with hoofed feet that also somehow have sizeable claws. They've also got sabertooth cat-like teeth and appear to be coated in blood that almost mists off of them with every pounding step they take. To my surprise Nikola and Merlin are by my side, weapons drawn. I let the arrow fly and manage to hit the closest of the marrow ponies in the eye. The animal doesn't even notice it.
I pull another arrow from my quiver and don't have time to draw the bow before a gold and red mass hits the marrow pony like a runaway freight train. The other animals break from their gallop and change directions after their leader is knocked to the ground. I follow the direction of the movement and stare in horrified amazement as the huge dragon woman who's been following us tears into the marrow pony with a series of open handed swipes. The pony bites at her and she replies by latching on to its throat with her own crocodile-like teeth, before rolling over the pony's back and spinning the horse-like creature in a death roll that flings it further from the road into the grass.The dragon woman stands between us and the marrow ponies, panting, covered in blood. The lead marrow pony gets to its feet, the other five look to it then follow it back into the grasslands when it leaves at a quick gallop.
None of us speak but I lower my arrow as the dragon woman turns around. She smiles, at least I think she does.
Wow, she is big.
"Sorry about that," she says. "Not sure why they're out here but things are weird lately." She spots my bow and arrow. "You probably would've been fine. Your arrow was totally killing it."
I hear footsteps scrambling toward us on the road and turn to see Image running back to the wagon. "Thank you!" he calls with his arms in the air. "Thank you so much oh noble fafniric warrior!"
"Heh," the dragon woman huffs before bowing toward Image. "It's no problem, I was heading this way as well."
She's easily seven feet tall, probably more, especially if you count her horns. They aren't huge but they're still pointy and stick up out of the top her her bright fluffy hair like an ebony crown.
Image is falling over himself, rambling and bowing, as he continues to thank the dragon woman for saving his cargo. She looks at him but her gaze keeps coming back to me. I find it more than a bit unsettling considering she's still covered in a lot of blood.
"Do you mind if I travel with your party?" She asks me.
She raises a scaly eyebrow. "I'm not sure what that word means."
"What?" I say.
"My name is Sigyn," she explains. "She and her," she says with a bow. Then she looks down at me while still bent at the waist and adds, "I'd like to join your party."
"Sure," I reply weakly.
What else am I possibly going to say? No?
We travel for hours in relative silence. Nikola and Merlin take turns riding with Image at the front of the wagon while I'm stuck walking in the back with Sigyn. She keeps her head on a swivel looking for possible danger and doesn't say anything when she catches me staring at her more than once. I still don't know why she's been following us, or how she can be okay with being covered in so much blood from the marrow pony she fought. It smells disgusting to me so I can only imagine how bad it must smell to her since she's got such a long...muzzle? Snout? Snoot?
I shouldn't call it a 'snoot' I don't want to be disemboweled.
"There's the Fluxtorrent River," Image calls from the wagon. "There's a Sanctuary Oasis a few miles past it where we can camp tonight. It's the midway point between Centrum and Joesphine City."
"He means we're almost ready to take a break traveling," Sigyn says with a soft snort.
"Thanks," I reply. It's been bothering me so I just go ahead and ask, "Why didn't you kill the marrow pony? You could have, right?"
She sighs a bit. "If I had the others wouldn't have broken off. Injure the head marrow pony and the pack will follow as it retreats if they don't eat it right away."
I shudder at the thought of the horse-like creatures devouring their injured leader. I don't ask anymore questions as we continue to walk down the stone road.
The bridge we cross is also stone, of course, and forms a high arch over the river. The slope is just gentle enough to be easily walked, but I'm exhausted so it takes a lot out of me. I debate turning the strength spell of my boots on to take a break but decide not to. Instead, I trudge forward for what feels like forever until the bridge is no longer visible behind us and Image pulls the wagon off into a circular clearing of woods. Large standing stones of flat black slate mark the perimeter of an area where crushed gray gravel is spread in a very orderly fashion. In the center of the larger circle is a sizable fire pit surrounded by stone stools of varying heights. There's several smaller areas with small fire pits and flat stone slabs within the circle that remind me of campsites back home. Image pulls the wagon to one of the larger camp sites and dismounts. He sees to Airplane Mode to make sure the animal is in good shape and has water and food. Nikola and Merlin don't seem like they want to talk to me but Sigyn lingers a few steps behind me wherever I wander in the rest area. The large standing stones around the circle have patterns engraved on them, but I can't make sense of it. They are kind of pretty.
"This is the oasis," Sigyn finally says from behind me.
"I gathered that," I say.
"Your friends are unhappy with you," Sigyn notes before grabbing my shoulder. "Which means you are going to help me gather firewood."
"Wha-" My words are cut off as I'm picked into the air for a moment before I'm set back down and shoved at the back to move forward. "Hey!"
"'Hey' nothing. That way," Sigyn says before pushing me again. It's enough force to make me move but not hard enough to hurt, or throw me across the entire campsite, which I'm sure she could manage without breaking a sweat.
Does she even sweat? I wonder.
We wander out of the clearing, past the standing stones and into the wooded area along a trail. Sigyn pulls an empty bag out of a satchel at her hip. I notice the bag she hands me is rather large and made of canvas but doesn't have any floral embroidery like the one she took it out of. An added bonus, for me, is it's not covered in blood like her flower bag is.
"Pick up any dry pieces of wood you find on the ground and put them in there," she says. "I'm going to rinse off in the creek."
"I know how to pick up fire wood," I say before realizing she's gone and I'm alone.
I decide to stick near the path. The woods aren't super thick but they're still unfamiliar and for all I know magical or infested with more marrow ponies. After a while I've nearly filled the bag with small sticks and larger chunks of wood. Then I notice the sound of water from the creek Sigyn mentioned. The last thing I want to do is piss her off by wandering up while she's bathing so I stop and turn around and go back to picking up any firewood I think will work for the night. I pack more limbs and sticks in the bag as best I can.
"Heading back?" A growling voice asks from behind me.
I jump a little before turning slowly to see Sigyn, now blood free, walking up the path with some larger pieces of wood in hand. Her floral bag is clean and dry, as are the dark green long sleeve tunic and pants she wears under her dark steel armor pieces.
"Yeah," I say. "Didn't know how long you'd be."
She lets out a little huff of a laugh. "Considerate," she says. "I wonder why they're angry with you."
I look down at the crushed gravel path. "I...didn't tell them you were following us...or that there were vampires staying at our inn."
"That's it?" She says before walking past me, her large gold and red crocodile-like tail swaying with each step. "I'm surprised you didn't tell them. I know you saw me a few times."
"Why were you following us?" I ask as catch up to her.
"I made a promise to a friend to help anyone I met who was also from another world," Sigyn says as we near the clearing.
"Also?" I echo. "As in...your friend was from another world or you are from another world?"
"My friend is," she says. "She and a few others were brought here a few years ago. They were transported to a village in the mountains."
My head swims with this new information. There have been other people brought to Heimur before us. Was this the event Image had mentioned before?
"Still, why? Sure, your friend may be from another world too but why help us?" I ask as we exit the woods. Nikola and Merlin are helping Image set up camp. None of them look up at us as we near. "What if we were evil? What if I'm evil? Why risk helping us?"
"If you were evil we wouldn't be having this conversation," Sigyn replies with a laugh before setting the wood she's collected down not far from the fire pit nearest the wagon. I set the smaller pieces of wood in my arms down with the bag.
She gestures at the clearing. "This is a Sanctuary Oasis. See those stones? The big black ones around the clearing?"
"They're part of a ward on this area. No one with ill intent can enter this location," Sigyn explains. "If you were evil you wouldn't have even been able to go into the forest much less this campsite."
"It's true," Image finally says. "There's several areas like this throughout Regno and rumors they exist all over Heimur. Legend has it a wandering wizard created them to ease the burden for travel and trade. They are a godsend."
"So...wizards do exist here?" I ask.
"They are said to be rare," Image replies. "Given how King Harnold has been the last few years there may not be any left in Regno. They could have all fled."
"My friend went looking for a way back to her own world," Sigyn says oddly quickly.
"Did she find one?" Nikola finally breaks his silence by asking.
"You don't know if she did?" I ask. "Or did she find a wizard to send her home?"
"I don't know," Sigyn says. "I haven't seen her in a few years. Last I knew she was heading East searching for a way home, or at least some safety. Wizards don't nest in great towers. This isn't the Wizard of Oz."
I stare at the seven and a half foot tall dragon woman before me. "How do you know about the Wizard of Oz?"
"The what?" Nikola asks.
"It's a famous book," Merlin says quietly. "You know? Girl gets sucked into a magical land and has to team up with a bunch of weird strangers to get home? Kinda like us, but we're all human." She glances at Sigyn. "Well, most of us are human."
Nikola shakes his head. "I've never heard of that story."
"That's because it wasn't published yet," I say.
"It was, I read it," Sigyn says. "My friend has a copy. It's how I learned to read one of the languages from her world."
"No, I mean it wasn't published yet for him," I point at Nikola. "He's from a different time than us. We're all from different worlds and timelines and I am so sorry I didn't tell y'all there were vampires in our hotel and a dragon woman stalking us."
"It's fine," Merlin says with a shrug.
"Indeed," Nikola says.
"I thought y'all were mad at me!" I almost shout.
"Please," Image finally interjects. "Let us rest and share a meal. It has been a long day and I am thankful for your assistance but I am also quite weary. If you must argue can you do it after we've eaten something?"
"Yeah, sorry," I say while shaking my head. "Maybe I'm hangry."
"We should also see to the woman," Nikola says. "I admit I have been frightened to check on her..."
"Woman?" Sigyn asks with a raised eyebrow.
"The elf lady," Merlin says. "In the wagon."
"That's what I smell?" Sigyn pushes past me and opens the wagon while sniffing furiously. The doorway is barely big enough for her to get her head in it. She emerges quickly. "She's in a bad way. I'll make some medicine for her."
"What?" I ask as Sigyn heads back down the trail.
"I'll be back in a half hour. Get the fire started," she calls back before disappearing into the woods.
I look at Nikola and the others. "She said 'medicine' so I hope that means she can help her?"
After that we awkwardly get to making a meal with the supplies Image has with him. He shows us how to assemble a cast iron tripod to hold the large pot he has with him. Most of the food Image has are root vegetables, carrots, potatoes, some kinda onion looking thing I'm not sure about. They all get chopped up into small pieces before going into the pot with some water and a few pieces of salted meat. I do not know what animal the meat is from and I don't really want to ask. The camp area has a small spring coming out of an ornate fountain for fresh drinking water where we fill our water skins, it's also where Image got water for the stew. We distribute some of the bread we bought this morning while the stew is beginning to boil. The sun is getting low and I'm glad we aren't walking anymore but I wish the soup would cook a bit faster. It's starting to smell pretty good. It is cooking but not boiling very quickly.
Maybe I'm just feeling impatient? Maybe I really am hangry?
The clock on my cell phone says more than an hour has passed before Sigyn returns with a glass bottle full of pink liquid. The bottle looks small in her leathery hand but isn't. The color of the fluid reminds me of an antacid. She doesn't say a word as she walks past where we're all sitting around the fire. The dragon woman heads straight to the wagon and opens it. I shrink into myself on my stool as I nibble my small bread loaf. After a bit Sigyn returned from the wagon, grabs one of the larger stone stools as if it weighs the same as a pillow, and brings it to our camping area before sitting down.
"I'll keep watch tonight," she says.
"But people with ill intent can't enter this area," Nikola said.
"Animals can," she replies. "And arrows shot at a distance."
That's disconcerting, I think to myself.
"The elf should recover over time," Sigyn adds. "Magic exhaustion is not a fun way to die."
There are fun ways to die??
"It's still another day's travel to Easthaven," she continues. "Do you have a destination after that, Egg Seller?"
Image shakes his head, his mustache bouncing a bit as he does so. I'm surprised he's still got his monocle. He didn't even lose it when he was running from the marrow ponies.
"No, Easthaven is my destination," he says. "I plan to sell my whole stock there and stay until the spring."
"Then I will see to it that you all arrive safely," Sigyn says.
"We can't stop there," I say before looking at Nikola and Merlin. I straighten up in my seat and take in a deep breath before continuing, "We have to find a way to get home."
"I figured," Sigyn huffs. "We'll work that out tomorrow. Rest, eat, recover. Leave the heavy lifting to me."
I can't tell if she winks at me or not, but I think she does.
( The Wrong Wizards Chapter links:
Chapter 12: YOU ARE HERE!
These Links will be updated as I write and post new chapters! - N )