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fantasy novel chapter 27
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Warning: this novel is intended for an adult audience. It contains violence and vulgar language and, additionally, contains at least a little sexual content.

THE WORDSMITHS AND THE WARGUILD by Hugh Cook - Chapter 27

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Chapter 27

        What had moved?
        As far as Togura could see, nothing had changed.
        Then he noticed that the casket bearing the design of a heart and a hand was ajar. For some reason, the decoration on the lid of the box seemed familiar. Of course! Now he remembered! Long ago, in the Wordsmiths' stronghold in Keep, Brother Troop had sketched that identical design for him. Later, the wizard of Drum had drawn the same. At his feet was the box which held the index!
        Or so he hoped.
        Togura stooped to secure the box. As he lifted the casket, the lid snapped shut. He could not pry it loose by any exercise of brute force.
        "Sholabarakosh!" said Togura.
        Raising the lid, he saw within a very curious device, which he removed, discarding the box. This device was, he presumed, the index which he had been questing for - on and off, with varying degrees of resolve - for so long.
        It looked rather like three miniature harps stuck together, each harp string ending in a pearl-white button. The three layers of buttons, corresponding to the three layers of strings, were stepped, so they did not obscure each other. There were also a dozen multicoloured buttons which were not attached to any strings.
        Cautiously, Togura plucked a harp string with one of his broken black-rimmed fingernails. It did not respond. Then he touched one of the buttons. A pure, clear note, sweeter than birdsong, sounded through the hall. Other buttons raided other notes, some low, some high. Togura was at first entranced, then disappointed. This could hardly be the index, for it did not speak. It was no more than a musical plaything from the days of antiqity - charming, but ultimately useless.
        He tossed it aside.
        Then he sat down in the dust, feeling despondent.
        He must have been crazy to think that he had found the index. The index, as he knew full well, was at the bottom of a bottle guarded by a monster in Castle Vaunting, at Lorford, now many leagues to the north. So it could hardly be here. There was, after all, only one index.
        Or was there?
        Togura tried to remember precisely what he had been told about the index, but it was difficult. He lacked the scholarly impulse; if he was honest with himself, he would have to admit that he had never given his full attention either to Brother Troop or the Wordsmiths or to the wizard of Drum. His chaotic lifestyle, full of death, horror, disaster and sundry shocks to the system - sea serpents, walking rocks! - had not improved matters. It was hard to spare much thought for scholarly revision when one starving to the bone in a foreign land, or being hunted through the wilds by assorted rapists and butchers.
        Nevertheless, after some concentrated thought, Togura did manage to remember something of the lectures he had endured. The wizard of Drum, Hostaja Torsen Sken-Pitilkin, had talked about the index in connection with the Old City of Penvash. Or was that the odex he had been talking about? Brother Troop had mentioned that there might be another index in Chi'ash-lan - or was it Galsh Ebrek? There had been some mention of other places, too. Androlmarphos? No. But some place in the south.
        "Let's be honest," said Togura, speaking aloud. "To tell the truth, I've forgotten."
        His voice sounded so forlorn and lonely in that old, dusty hall that he wished he had not spoken. He gave the musical instrument a little kick. He was tempted to break it, but his mercantile instincts restrained him. In context, the triple-harp was a useless piece of junk, but in a cultured city like Selzirk it might well be worth a fortune. Togura put the triple-harp back in its casket. Harp and box were light and easy to carry.
        "On your way, Togura Poulaan," said Togura.
        He left the hall by way of a high, arched doorway. The floor beneath was paved, not by bricks but by huge slabs of stone.
        "Curious," said Togura.
        He advanced boldly down the passageway, then stopped when one of the huge slabs of stone seemed to shift underfoot.
        "Curiousr still," said Togura, sweating a little.
        Cautiously, he started to retreat back the way he had come. But he had taken only two steps when the stone slab pivoted, flipped, and precipitated him into the darkness below. Screaming, Togura fell through the darkness toward a roar of thunder.


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The text on this page is part of the fantasy novel The Wordsmith and the Warguild by Hugh Cook, which, when published in North America in 1988, was divided into two separate volumes, The Questing Hero and The Hero's Return. This text can be read for free online. However, the text is copyright - all rights reserved. For permission to use this text or any portion of it contact Hugh Cook.

The Wordsmiths and the Warguild was first published in 1987. Copyright © 1987, 1988, 1998, 2004, 2006 Hugh Cook.


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