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fantasy novel chapter 45
questing hero novel text online

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


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Chapter 45

        When Togura woke, he found himself in the green bottle. Bit by bit, he remembered - reluctantly - what had happened to him. Presumably, the green bottle was still lying at the foot of Dead Man's Drop. Presumably, if he used the ring again, he would arrive outside the bottle.
        And then?
        Then he would either have to run away or return to Keep and kill Cromarty. At the moment, the latter course seemed infinitely preferable. He wanted Cromarty dead.
        "No mercy!" shouted Togura.
        Then wished he hadn't shouted quite so loudly. After all, there were at least two other people in the green bottle - the priate Bluewater Draven and the unknown warrior he had last seen drawing steel, perhaps with murderous intent.
        Those two were dangerous.
        On the other hand ...
        They might just possibly prove to be an asset.
        If he met them, Togura would have to explain a number of things. First, why he had concealed the ring from Draven. He could say he had swallowed it, and had only recovered it shortly before using it. Second, why he had left Draven in the bottle. He could say he had been captured (and tortured, and cut to pieces and resurrected afterwards) by people on the Lesser Teeth. Third, why they should help him. He could say he could reward them with his inheritance when he became baron, which was true enough.
        As plans went, it was a little shaky.
        Still, if Draven turned murderous, Togura could always bring him to heel by mentioning the dralkosh Yen Olass Ampadara. That had brought him to order once, and might well do so again.
        And, whatever the dangers of seeking out Draven and his sparring partner, it was certainly much safer than trying to take on Cromarty and all his fellow murderers single-handed.
        "Anyone home?" cried Togura.
        Nobody answered.
        "It's me!" he shouted. "Togura Poulaan! Barak the Battleman! Forester! I can explain everything!"
        Still no answer.
        Togura found a set of stairs and started downwards. Below, he found the remains of a storeroom. From the empty crocks, barrels and wineskins lying about, it seemed there must once have been a considerable supply of food here. Ferreting about, Togura managed to uncover a bit of smoked pork and some wine. Well - not wine exactly, more like vinegar. But it was still drinkable.
        He ate.
        He drank.
        Then, fortified, descended.
        He followed a series of stairways downwards from one level to the next, into increasingly larger chambers. After a while, he quite lost count of the number of levels he had descended.
        Then, a while later, the chambers started to get smaller. What did that mean? It meant, perhaps, that he was getting near the bottom. And still no sign of the two men he was looking for, or, for that matter, any others.
        Perhaps he had better go up.
        The stillness and the silence within the green bottle were uncanny. Unnerving.
        On the other hand, it was a long, long way up. There was nowhere the two men could have disappeared to. They had to be down below.
        "Courage!" said Togura to Togura.
        And, though still apprehensive, continued his descent.
        He went down one last set of stairs and found himself in a small chamber which seemed to be the bottom, as there was no way out of it. Trapped in a cage built into the wall of the chamber were two men. They seemed to be dead.
        "Gods!" said Togura.
        At his voice, the men stirred. Snorted. Woke. One was Draven and the other was a burly stranger of middle years.
        "Togura!" roared Draven. "Get us the hell out of here!"
        From the vigour of the pirate's voice, Togura deduced that he had not been trapped in the cage for very long.
        "Who put you in there?" said Togura, glancing about nervously.
        "Nobody put us in here, boy," said the second man in the cage. "We stepped in here, and it closed on us. Say ... don't I know you from somewhere?"
        "I've seen you before, I think," said Togura, puzzled. "But I couldn't say when or where. Why did you get in the cage?"
        "There was no cage to start with," said Draven. "Just a hole in the wall. Iwent in. Then he joined me. Then the bars caged us."
        "Why did you go in anyway?"
        "Oh, pigs buggeration!" said Draven. "Quit the questions and open the cage!"
        "I only asked a civil question," said Togura mildly.
        "Why you - "
        At a word from the stranger, Draven fell silent. The stranger held up a blue bottle.
        "Boy," said the stranger, "we came down here looking for a way out. We found this blue bottle in this hole. We think perhaps it's a magic bottle. We were on our hands and knees looking for the ring which might command it. The bars trapped us."
        "You didn't find the ring?"
        "No, boy," said the stranger. He held up a small casket, marked with the sign of a heart and a hand. "Just this."
        "I want that!" said Togura sharply.
        It was another magic casket. Inside, there should by rights be another index.
        "Then you shall have it," said the stranger. "Once we have given you our assurances, and you have let us out of here. I will give you my assurances first. My name is Guest Gulkan. I am the rightful heir to the leadership of the Yarglat horsetribes, the rightful heir to the rule of Tameran. I swear, by the secret name of the Horse who was Horse, by the blood of the Rider who was Rider, by the Witness within the Wind and by the Witness beyond the Wind, by the honour of my dynasty and by the honour of my own heartbeat's blood, that I will do you no harm."
        "And," said Togura, "that you will yield up that casket."
        "I will," said Guest Gulkan of Tameran.
        "And," said Togura, "that you will help me kill my half-brother Cromarty."
        "Sure," said Guest Gulkan, unable to conceal his contempt for a man who could not do his own killing. "And rape your half-sister, too, if that's your requirement."
        "I've got a rightful claim to Cromarty's head!" shouted Togura.
        "Peace, boy," said Guest Gulkan, his voice soothing. "I'm sure you have. Once we're out, you can tell us all about it. Draven, give the boy your assurances. Come on now!"
        "I swear to your safety," muttered Draven. "By a pirate's honour."
        "Pirate's honour!" said Togura. "What kind of honour is that? I saved your life once, and you had me thrown overboard to sea serpents. I showed you how to get control of your ship at Androlmarphos and got precious little thanks afterwards. And what kind of honour did you show - "
        "That's enough!" said Guest Gulkan. "I'll vouch for him. He'll honour his oath or my steel will dishonour his neck."
        Togura bowed.
        "You, my lord," said Togura, "I trust."
        And Togura began to hunt around for some way to open the cage. He explored the bars of the cage, then the surrounding walls, where he found a little catch hidden in a small indentation. He pulled it. The cage opened. Draven and Guest Gulkan came out, Draven scowling, Guest Gulkan smiling.
        "Here," said Guest Gulkan, handing Togura the magic casket. "Here's the first part of my oath fulfilled."
        "Thank you," said Togura.
        At that moment, a wall of rock crashed down, blocking the way up the stairs.
        "Grief!" said Draven.
        The wall growled. And began to grind its way toward them. Its entire surface came alive: became a seething mass of grinding graunching teeth.
        "Yaa-hoo!" screamed Guest Gulkan, drawing his sword and attacking the wall.
        It munched his steel without faltering and continued to chomp its way toward them. Togura turned the ring on his finger, once, then again, then again, trying to get out of the green bottle. But it was useless. He was trapped.
        He was going to die.
        Raging at his death, Togura, screaming, picked up the blue bottle Guest Gulkan had dropped, and threw it at the wall.
        The wall munched into it.
        The teeth faltered.
        The teeth closed around the blue bottle and began to vibrate. The bottle began to crack. So did the teeth. Suddenly the bottle shattered. The teeth, uncoordinated, began to chatter. The wall tried to continue its advance. But something was wrong. It was vibrating badly. As they watched, it shook itself to bits.
        And, suddenly, with a roar, all the walls around split open. Gravity shifted. They were flung head over heels and spilt out through a crack, landing in the mud and muck and detritus amongst the pinnacles at the foot of Dead Man's Drop.
        "By the blood of a weeping virgin!" muttered Draven, looking around. "Where are we?"
        Arching overhead was a huge, curved green wall, with gaping cracks in it, some big enough to permit a mammoth entrance and egress. It rose at least three hundred or so paces high, and seemed to curve away for the better part of a league or so.
        "I think," said Guest Gulkan, quietly, "we're looking at the wreckage of the green bottle. I think we broke it open by smashing the blue bottle inside it."
        "Well, right or wrong," said Draven, "we're out. What now?"
        Togura salvaged the magic casket from the mud at his feet. He spoke the Word. The casket opened. Inside was a triple-harp - or, to call it by its other name, an index.
        "Now," said Togura, with determination, "we've got to set the world to rights. First by taking revenge!"
        "First," said Guest Gulkan, "we've got to get our hands on some weapons. And a meal before that, if possible."
        "Come," said Togura. "We're going up there. See? It's a long walk, and we've not much daylight left - but I know what to do when we get there."
        He explained all as they went along.
        It would probably be night by the time they had traversed the roundabout roads leading back to Keep. Their first move then would be to go to see Raznak the Golsh, of the Suet clan, who would be sure to provide them with weapons, a meal, a bed for the night, and, if necessary, with reinforcements.

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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.