A Journey to Britannia

  By Sergorn of Dargonia



            Before I proceed in telling the story of my journey to Britannia, I think I should tell you more about myself and my homeland of Dargonia, for this knowledge will prove to be most important in the story I am about to tell. Should a Dargonian read this story, he already knows what I am about to tell, but should a Britannian read it, I think I should bring some light about the world of Dargonia and the events that brought the King of this land to be.
            Actually I spent the first part of my life on a world that its inhabitants called Earth. Was it twenty years? Thirty years? Somehow I cannot seem to remember properly. I had long thought that this world was my home, and for all the time I spent there, I never even imagined who I really was. I lived what one would call a normal life there. However, it all changed very suddenly.
            Let us say that by some events, which I should enter in the details here, I discovered in fact that I was not human, and that ultimately, Earth was not my homeworld, for I came from another world named as Dargonia. Not a human? Indeed, although I may look like one, I am in fact a descendant of an ancient race called the Drakains. Drakains were once a predominant race of dragonmen living upon Dargonia, even though they are now almost all but extinct, as most of them died as the result of the Great War hundreds of years ago. The important thing one should know of a drakain, though, is that although he might normally appear as a human, a drakain has the ability to change form. One of the forms he can take is one of a mighty Mithril Dragon. The other is the form of a dragonman, which is indeed the drakain's true appearance.

            Eventually I was lead to the world of Dargonia by a portal through the void, only to discover the actual reason I had been hidden on Earth for all these years: Dargonia was on the brink of War, and the Great Evil that had once been defeated during the Great War was back. Supposedly, according to an old Prophecy, I was to lead the Dargonian armies to victory. I don’t need to tell you that I was quite confused by the whole ordeal, for indeed it is not often that from one day to next, you find yourself with the fate of an entire world resting on your shoulders. I guess, to some degree, it was quite comparable to what this ‘Avatar’ felt the first time he came to Sosaria; and much like him, in spite of my youth and inexperience, I accepted to undergo the task at end.
            I will not enter into details of the wars that followed, nor the many tasks I had to accomplish in the many years of this devastating war. However, something I must point out is that I rapidly discovered that the main general of my enemy was actually my twin brother Ergoth; whom of course I had never known. Eventually, he rallied to our cause, and together we managed to bring an end to the Great Evil.
            After the evil was defeated, I was crowned the King of Dargonia, while my brother became the Lord Knight of the Drakains Order; the name I had given to the order of chivalry. And thus began the long and slow reconstruction of the land.

            I must now point that in the world of Dargonia, much revolved around the Five Sacred Elements that Agamem used to create our world so long ago: the Earth, the Fire, the Air, the Water and the Ether. All the magic of the world was built around it, and so was the Knight Order of the Drakains. What I must say, though, is that a long time ago after the Religion War that followed His appearance on the world, Agamem gave life to five Elemental Powers, born from the spirits of five mighty warriors who died during the war. As each Power itself encompasses an Element, they are aware of the world around, and indeed a part of the land itself.
            And so, one day, an emissary from the Order of Earth brought me a strange black stone that Maya, the Elemental Power of Earth, wanted me to study. I tried many experiments on it without any success, until one day I finally decided to try to use my magic powers on the stone, focusing my thoughts and all of my magical energy upon it. As a reaction to this, a powerful force seemed to come out of it and suddenly a strange thin gate, the color as black as the darkest of nights, appeared in the room. And I realized I was attracted to it, as if an unknown force was trying to pull me towards the gate. I tried to resist it but I was too tired after the experiment, and as I was pulled through the door, I lost consciousness…

Chapter I: The Awakening

            I woke up in a strange, dark forest. The last thing I could remember was that an emissary from Maya brought me a black stone, but I couldn't figure out how I got here. I had a strange feeling; my powers seemed diminished and the forest didn't look like any forest I had seen in Dargonia. Letting my instinct guide me, I started exploring the region. After walking a few minutes, I heard noises of battle not far from me. I ran in that direction and saw a middle-aged man armed only with a short sword surrounded by four green-skinned creature like I had never seen before.
            These creatures attacked the man at the same time. Fearing that he wouldn’t be able to defeat them, I decided to help him. Having no weapons with me, I rushed on the nearest monster and knocked him to the ground. I concentrated and cast a fire bolt at the creature, which killed it. When I turned back to help the man to defeat the other creatures, I saw that he had already killed two of them and was facing the last one. Within a few seconds he had dealt with it, and I understood that he could have defeated all of them without any help.
            Cleaning his short-sword, he looked at me, smiling. "Well, I do not often see visitors around here! I thank thee for thy help milord. I don't know if could have defeated all of them myself!"
            I realized that I could understand his language, though I've never heard it before. No. Actually I had heard it before, a long time ago, for his language was very similar the ancient English on Earth!
            "My name is Shamino," he continued, "may I ask the name of the person who helped me?"
            "I am Sergorn Drakaël." I answered, thinking he would recognize my name.
            "Well I'm glad to make your acquaintance, Sergorn! Can I ask you what you are doing here? You are not wearing the outfit of someone here to hunt."
            "I… I’m afraid I’m not sure where I am, actually" I answered, a bit confused. "I don't recognize this place..."
            "Well, you are in the deep forest my friend, to the east of Yew."
            "The deep forest!? Yew!? I've never heard of any such place on Dargonia!"
            "Dargonia?" He said. There was strange tone in his voice.
            "It's the name world where I live! The name is -this- world." I hesitated. "Isn’t it?"
            "Dargonia you said? No. I’m afraid not at least. I have never heard of any place called Dargonia in my entire life; and a very long life I have had already. The name of this world of Sosaria, and you stand in the land of Britannia."
            I just stared at him. I didn't know what to say! Another world? How? Indeed, that was quite possible, Dargonia was most likely not the only world existing within the Multiverse, but still, I couldn’t figure out how, or why, I was now standing in another world.
            "It seems you have left your world one way or another. You are not the first to go through such an experience. Have you not entered some kind of blue shimmering gate? They are called Moongates. Many people arrive in Britannia this way."
            "I don't know." I answered "I... I can't remember how I got here!" I suddenly felt dizzy. I realized that my spell used more of my energy than I thought it would.
            "Sergorn! Are you all right? You do not look well!"
            "It'll be okay… I think. It's just that this spell really tired me. It’s strange… it was a simple spell… I shouldn’t feel so…"
            "It’s alright," said Shamino. "It might be a consequence of you journey here. Come with me, I have a friend who lives not far from here, I am sure he will be glad to meet you. We shall see what we can do for you once we get there. Besides, it will be night soon, and creatures more dangerous than any goblins dwell here at night."
            I followed Shamino for some time without any idea of where he was leading me. After a few hours, we arrived at a small house standing in the forest. Shamino knocked at the door. No answer. "Hey Iolo! Open these doors!" he yelled, knocking the door even louder.
            "I'm coming, I'm coming," answered a voice from inside. The doors opened, revealing an aged man with grey hairs and a long beard.
            "Well what do you want? I hope it is important enough for you to disturb me at night!"
            "Well indeed it is. I just met this fellow in the forest!" He introduced me to the man.
"His name his Sergorn. It seems he is from another world but he can't remember how he got here. He doesn't feel well, though, so I thought you might give him shelter for the night."
            The elderly man looked at me, as if examining me. "Well please, come in. I am pleased to meet you, Sergorn."
            "Thanks!" I answered while entering the house, "I don't know what I would have done without you and your son."
            "My –what-?" he gasped, actually seeming shocked.
            "W…well, from your age I just thought Shamino was your son and…"
            Shamino started laughing loudly.
            "I, the son of Iolo, what a weird idea!"
            "I apologize! I didn’t mean to offend either of you…"
            "And you did not, my new friend. Iolo is just an old friend. His son, really." Shamino was still chuckling at the idea; Iolo had a grim look on his face though. While Shamino felt my mistake to be quite amusing, his friend didn’t look so pleased. "Come and sit down, Sergorn. Let us see what we can do for you. Hey Iolo! Would you not have something to eat? I am hungry and Sergorn probably is as well.
            "Of course," said Iolo.

            During the dinner they told me more about themselves and Britannia. Apparently they were old comrades who had shared many adventures along with another fellow called the ‘Avatar’ (a rather strange name I might add), whom they hadn't seen for a century or so. It seemed that for some reason, both of them had a most unusual lifespan. Indeed, Iolo explained to me that time could flow differently between dimensions, and thus could have unexpected consequences on outworlders. Iolo actually confessed to me that he was an earthling, coming from the same Earth I had left so long ago, and I assumed Shamino must had been from some other world as well. It seemed this entire world was under the rule of a single king called Lord British (a strange name as well actually), who was a wise ruler respected among his people.
            After the dinner, I finally told them about myself. I told them about my coming to Dargonia, the drakains, and the wars. Me. While I have no doubt they believed me, I could see they were quite surprised and curious about my world and my story. I finally told them of the last thing I remembered: the Black Stone Maya had sent me.
            "The stone you describe," said Iolo pensively, "It sounds like a Moonstone, an Orb of the Moons to be more specific."
            "A Moonstone?"
            "It's a magical stone," answered Shamino, "when using an Orb of the Moons, you may raise a portal, a Moongate, that can make you travel almost everywhere on the land, even to other worlds when used properly. It is with such Moongates that Iolo and the Avatar came to this world."
            Memories of the black gate suddenly came back to my mind. "That's it!" I yelled, "I remember! I tried many experiences on the stone without success, but then I used my full magic strength on it, and a strange Black Gate suddenly rose from the stone. It attracted me… It felt powerful, unresisting, and while I was drawn to the gate, trying to resist, I lost consciousness, and woke in that forest."
            "A Black Gate!?" said Shamino and Iolo at the same time with a strange look on their faces.
            "Indeed, a deep black, like looking inside a bottomless pit… Is there a problem?"
            "This is… most unusual," answered Iolo, "The gates that come to Britannia are always blue as the morning sky, or red when summoned with an Orb of the Moons, yet I had never heard of a Black Gate before…"
            I sighed. "Does that really matter anyway? You world seems fascinating, and I would love to spend some time within it. Yet I am the King of my people, I must get back to Dargonia one way or another. Agamem knows what might happen while I’m missing. You both seem to have some knowledge on such stones; which means only you can help me return to my world. Am I right to assume that you know of someone who possess such an Orb, as you call it?"
            "Your assumption is correct," said Shamino. "In fact, there are to my knowledge only two people who possess an Orb of the Moons, our friend the Avatar, and Lord British."
            "Lord British? You mean the king of Britannia?" Shamino nodded. "But that’s impossible, I will never be able to get close to him – and even if I do, it might take time, weeks… months… who knows how much time would have passed in Dargonia since then."
            Shamino just smiled at me quietly. "Calm down my friend, you should not worry needlessly. Lord British is an old acquaintance too. We won’t have any trouble to arrange a meeting. In fact, I believe he will be most interested in you story."
            "We’d better get some sleep now," said Iolo. "We shall leave for Britain tomorrow"
            I had a strange nightmare that night. I had visions of cities in flame, in ruins. But it was cities I had never seen. A strange dream, really….

Chapter II: Hail to the King

            We left Iolo’s house early in the morning. It took us about two weeks to reach the city of Britain. The journey was a pleasant one I might add, as Iolo and Shamino proved themselves to be good and trustworthy companions. The City of Britain was really big. A dirty and noisy city, with lots of people always coming and leaving though. I guess it's all you can expect from such a big town. The Castle of Lord British was at the north side of the Town. It was really huge, and beautiful. Upon our arrival we were lead to the king at once. It seemed that Iolo and Shamino were quite famous in the land. We soon arrived in the throne room where the King, a brown-haired man with a beard in his middle-years was talking to a dark-haired warrior in armor.
            As we approached, Lord British's face enlightened. "Iolo! Shamino! What a pleasant surprise! It has been a long time since you visited me, my old friends!"
            "I know milord," said Iolo a bit embarrassed, "I guess we were a little busy in these times..."
            "It matters not! I am glad to see both of you!" said British smiling.
            The warrior smiled at them too. I guessed he was an old friend as well. Iolo and Shamino seemed to know many people.
            "And how is your wife, Iolo, the Lady Gwenno?" asked the warrior, "I haven't seen her in a very long time. I trust all is well?"
            "I haven’t seen here in a while either I must say," answered the elder man, with a grin, "You know how she is, always leaving without a warning. I think she had some business with the Artisans Guild, so she's probably in Minoc right now."
            "I shall pay her my respects, should my path lead me to Minoc"
            That was the moment Lord British finally noticed me. He looked at me, eyes wide open, and surprised apparently that he hadn’t paid attention to me sooner. "And who is this man who accompanies you? I’m afraid we do not have the pleasure of being acquainted."
            "Indeed, he is actually the reason of our presence here Milord," answered Shamino. "Sergorn Drakaël, allow me to introduce you to his majesty, Lord British…"
            "It is an honor, milord," I said while saluting him.
            "... and Sir Geoffrey, the Captain of the King’s Guards."
            "A pleasure, sir."
            Lord British looked at me with his dark eyes; which seemed to be sparkling with curiosity. "Well Sergorn, since you managed to get theses two fellows to finally pay a visit, I guess you can have an audience with me," said the Lord smiling. "So what is the reason of your presence here?"
            Before I could start my tale though, Sir Geoffrey interrupted me. "Sorry to interrupt you, but I must leave" he said. "I have an important business that awaits me."
            "Is there something wrong?" asked Iolo"
            Geoffrey, hesitant, gave me a quick look, and then faced the king. Lord British nodded. "It seems a group of brigands has been constantly harassing people on the roads leading to Vesper and Minoc for the last month. Many people were robbed, some even murdered. Now travellers fear from they life, and trade routes between the cities are unsure. So I'm going to Vesper in order to conduct some searches and hopefully stop theses raids."
            "Do you need some help?" asked Shamino.
            "Do not trouble yourself my friend, I'll be fine, I have a full garrison of soldiers coming with me. We intend to stop theses raiders once and for all."
            "All right, we shall see you when you come back then."
            "Of course!" said Geoffrey, "Fare thee well." I looked cautiously at Geoffrey while leaving the room; somehow I had a strange feeling while listening to his conversation. As soon as Geoffrey left the room, though, Lord British turned his attention towards me again. "Well. So tell me, Sergorn. What brings you here? I assume it must be some matter of importance, else I don’t think Iolo and Shamino would have bothered to bring you all to way to me."
            "Indeed Milord, it is a long story…"

            So I proceeded to tell the King about Dargonia and the events that lead me to his land. He was actually quite fascinated by my tales, and showed much interest in my homeworld.
            "...so you understand why I need your moonstone." I told him as I finished my tale. "I beg thee milord, I need your help."
            "I must say I am intrigued by your story, and even more by this world of yours. I hope our lands will be able to know more of each others some day…" said British, pondering. "I would be glad to help you find your way back to your world; there was once a time when I was myself exiled from my throne, and I know what consequences a missing monarch can have towards a kingdom. However…" The King paused, as if he seemed unsure how to continue. "…however, I’m afraid I won’t be able to lend you my Orb of the Moons. Not that I don’t want to," added the Lord as he noticed that I had just opened my mouth to protest, "but the matter is that one of my counsellors borrowed it two weeks ago because he wanted to go to the Shrine of Honor. Unfortunately, he hasn't returned yet and I fear something might have happened to him."
            I clenched my fists in anger. "Then there is nothing we can do but wait?"
            "Not necessarily," replied the King. "I have already sent a search party to the Shrine of Honor to look out for my lost counsellor. In any case they will probably not be back for some time, so you might better spend this time doing something more constructive. You told me you came from your world by entering a Black Gate, yet I am not sure it would even be possible to create such a Gate with my Orb, or even if it is, how to do it. I remember however having read something relative to Black Gates in an old book. I do not have it here but they should probably have it at the Lycaeum. They have a unique collection of books of every sort, and if they do not have a copy of it, it means there is probably no more existing copies of it. Ah…" Lord British sighed. "It is a shame I cannot seem to remember the name of this book. Hopefully they will be able to help you there. There are cunning scholars there. Yes. I think this is what you should do. You should go to Lycaeum and look for references to the gate. Hopefully, by the time you come back, my search party will have returned with my counsellor, and the Orb."
            I stood there, pondering what Lord British had just told me. "It is a wise advice you have given me, milord. It would indeed me most helpful to spend this time looking for clues that might show me the way back to my world, rather than waiting here helplessly. I shall go there at once! Thank you, your majesty," I added quickly. However I soon realised something. "I’m afraid that I have absolutely no idea of the location of this ‘Lycaeum’ of yours though."
            Shamino laughed softly. "Actually the Lycaeum lies north of the City of Moonglow, on Dagger Isle far to East."
            "I am afraid you will not be able to get there on your feet only." added Iolo.
            "Indeed," replied the King, "However I have a ship bound to Dagger Isle in a few days, I will arrange for the three of you – because I assume Iolo and Shamino will want to join you, rather than staying with the old and boring King," he added with a smile. Iolo almost felt embarrassed, Shamino on the other hand just chuckled.
            With a bow, I thanked the monarch for his help. "Thank you for your help Milord. You have my gratitude, Lord British."

            We spent the next few days preparing for the departure. Iolo was kind enough to spare me some money, so I bought a swift and sturdy sword as well as a suit of light armor. I had a feeling that somehow I would need it (and I must confess that I always feel naked without a sword). At last the day of the departure finally came and we left Britain on board the ‘Sea Faerie’, which was under the command of Captain Dorian Farnel. He told us that the journey to Moonglow would probably take a few weeks depending on the wind and the will of the Sea. The Sea’s willing, it might be less than three weeks, but should She be angry, it could take more than a month. I spent most of the time in training during the journey because my skills seemed very diminished. According to Shamino, it was a natural consequence of travelling through the Multiverse (or the ‘Void’ as he calls it), and usually the stronger you are, the weaker you could become. However, it would eventually come back with training. The journey went fine for the first three weeks, but on the fourth, something unexpected happened.
            "Captain!" yelled a sailor from the mast, "I can see a frigate on the port side, She seem to be coming toward us. Very fast!"
            "Can you see where she hails from?" asked Captain Farnel.
            "Oh my…!" yelled the sailor in a squeaking voice. He sounded completely panicked. "It is a pirate vessel Sir!"
            The Captain however remained steady. "All right, everybody, calm down! Prepare for battle. Get the cannons ready!" But it was too late and the pirates were already on us. "Up lads and at 'em!" Yelled the Pirate Captain.
            We tried to defend ourselves as best we could but we were outnumbered, and the small crew of the ship was rapidly overwhelmed but the numerous pirates coming from the huge frigate. On Dargonia I could have used my powers to sink their boat in a second, but here, there was nothing I could do except... surrender. Captain Farnel had just fallen, and I had no intention of following him to death. All the survivors of the Sea Faerie were captured and chained in the hold. After they took the cargo from the ship, they sank her, and the pirate ship left for an unknown destination.
            The positive side, however, was that I was alive, albeit chained, next to Iolo and Shamino. "Talk about bad luck!" I said angrily. "Agamem knows what will happen of us now. What have I done to deserve this?"
            "You have met Shamino," said Iolo suddenly, "and where he goes trouble always follows"
            "What kind of foolishness are you saying, you old, pitiful excuse for an archer?" replied Shamino.
            "Oh! You know I’m right; do not deny it! Think about that time the Shadowlords injured you; all you had to do was to greet the Avatar quickly and yet… And what about that time when…"
            And they continued arguing all the time during the next few hours. Looking back I think I’ve made a mistake. The positive side was that I was alive. The negative was that I was next to Iolo and Shamino.

Chapter III: A New Ally

            A few days after these events, the pirates attacked another frigate that was being escorted by two smaller ships. The frigate and one of the smaller vessels endured the same fate as the Sea Faerie, although the other one managed to escape. The survivors of their crew were captured and chained in the hold as well. And so we met with a very attractive woman named Selvynia Windire. She was the First Mate of the recently attacked frigate. Luckily, or unluckily, she got captured, unlike her captain, who was killed during the battle. We talked with her a lot, and she told us that we were being held on the ‘Hawk's Eye’, the vessel of the infamous Captain Roberts, who has been raiding the seas of Britannia for many years. Her ship worked for the Britannian Council, and was coming back to Britain filled with gold crowns - obviously the reason of the escort - after having collected the taxes upon the various Isles of Britannia. She couldn't tell, however, why the pirates were holding captive so many of us. While they could have sold a few of us as slaves on Buccaner's Den, it was unlikely they could find customers for so many people.
            About a week latter, the ship accosted a small isle where, I assume, they buried their treasure. A week later, we arrived at another isle, which was actually Buccaneer’s Den, which according to both Iolo and Shamino was "an isle full of pirates, thief and brigands of all kind". However our arrival at the island was most surprising because Roberts released all of his prisoners! I actually spent some time chatting with him at a tavern on the evening following our arrival, and he told me that he didn't like spilling blood when it wasn’t necessary. That's the reason why he takes so many prisoners. He tries to get most of the opposite crew alive if possible, and release them on a nearby island as soon as possible. "I may be a pirate matey," he said to me, "but that doesn’t mean I'm a cold blooded murderer". I must say we became good friend with Selvynia on the ship, and since she had recently ‘lost her job’ she decided to ‘stick’ with us for a while.

            Buccaneer’s Den was hardly what I would call a welcoming city, but it was not the horrible town most people think it is, either. Although it would have been interesting to see more of this town, I had important business in the Lycaeum, so we needed to find a way off of this Isle. Many Captains would have agreed to take us on their ships, but only for a fair amount of gold. Gold we didn't have of course.
            "We could use the tunnels…" suggested Shamino suddenly as we were thinking of a way out, while sitting at the tavern.
            "The tunnels?" I asked.
            "Indeed." Answered Selvynia. "There is a tunnel that goes deep underground which links the main continent to Buccaneer’s Den. If we follow it we could get back to Britain with it."
            "Britain is were we came from." I said, disappointed "I don't wish to go back there, I have important business at the Lycaeum." I paused for a second, sighing. "But I guess we could use this tunnel if we don't find another way out of here. Not that we have much choice anyway."
            "It is not that easy, actually," said Iolo, "these tunnels are filled with various monsters, and while they hardly fit into the dangerous kind, we would never manage to get through it without any weapon." Of course Roberts didn’t give us our weapons back.
            "You could sing, Iolo," Shamino said suddenly with a grin, "that will make them flee." Iolo didn’t answer the pun and just gave him a sharp look. We stayed silent for a while, each of us thinking about a solution. Selvynia eventually said. "You know, I could easily ‘borrow’ some weapons... I did not always serve on a ship, and I have other ‘talents’ that could come in handy in this situation."
            "Really!" said Iolo with a disapproving tone. "So you plan to get us out of here by acting like common thieves?" He groaned.
            "I don’t think we have much choice, Iolo. Would you prefer getting stuck here forever? Stealing won’t hurt anyone. I think that’s a good idea. Get us some weapons, Selvinya. Oh! And some money as well," I added as she was about to leave. "Then meet us at the outskirt of the town, to the west." Selvynia quickly disappeared into street, Iolo still glancing toward her until she left the tavern. He then turned his attention toward me. Clearly he did not approve of this plan. "What do you plan to do next?" he asked me.
            "I will try to use my powers. Even though they are diminished, they are still there; I can feel it. I think I should be able to focus them, and change myself into a dragon…" Iolo and Shamino both looked at me quietly. While they knew of my capacities, I am not sure they fully believed me until that point.

            We met with Selvynia outside of town as it was planned, then we moved away as far as we could from the city and waited for the dusk. Selvynia then presented us the result of her ‘work’. Not much all things considered, one long sword for me, and a short one for each of them. To this she added a purse full of gold crowns, and a small dagger for the four of us. When I saw it would soon be dark, I drew my dagger and cut my wrist with it, spilling blood on the ground.
            "By Lord British!" said Iolo, shocked, "What are you doing?"
            "I'm drawing a pentagram on the ground, it will help me to focus my magic..."
            "But… but... why with your blood?" asked Selvynia, sounding both shocked and disgusted.
            "Because the blood of a Drakains is a very powerful reagent, and it will enhance the power of the pentagram. There is no time to explain right now." I added, as she was about to ask another question. Probably wondering what a Drakains was, I hadn’t had the chance to tell her everything yet. "But I will. Later."
            The pentagram finished, I healed my wound, and stood in the center of it.
            "Please forgive me if what you are about to see frightens you..." I said, looking at each of my companions deep in their eyes. "Do not be worried by what you shall see. It will not be me, but I shall still be myself."
            So I started concentrating. I could feel the magic. The power. My blood, burning inside of me. It was working. The change had begun, and soon I was a dragon. Although they didn't say a word, I could see that my friends were frightened, but who wouldn't be? "Climb unto my back," I told them after the transformation. They did not move, they looked quite surprised to see me talk, actually. "There is no time to lose. We shall leave with the cover of the night. And be careful not to fall!" Quietly they climbed upon me one by one, and as the sky grew dark, I took off.
            I went high into the sky. High enough so that I could see the Dagger Isle where Moonglow stood; far, very far to the east. Then I went in that direction. What a great feeling... I rarely change into a complete dragon, but every time I sense those same wonderful feelings. They say on Dargonia that Drakains ultimately disappeared because many of us chose to remain forever as dragons. And during these time that, I too, spend living as a Dragon, I can clearly understand why.
            Flying very high and very fast I couldn’t possibly tell how long it took us to reach Dagger Isle, but there was no doubt this had been a much faster way than any ship we could have found at Buccaneer’s Den. I landed the farthest I could from the town, and changed back after my companions were safe on the ground. But without a way to focus my magic, it was painful, very painful. I thought that my brain was going to explode. I think I was back to my human form when, tired, I lost consciousness...

Chapter IV: The Search

            I woke up in a bedroom. I had no idea where I was, or how long I had stayed unconscious. It was night. The only light was coming from the fire crackling in the fireplace. Selvynia was sitting next to me. Sleeping. I think I must have made some noise while waking up because she soon opened her eyes. Looking at me. There was a strange look into her eyes. I couldn’t quite figure out what.
            "Sergorn?" She said quickly. "Are you all right? You… you lost consciousness when you landed. We… we did… we did not know what to do, so we brought you to the healer here, in Moonglow..."
            The tone of her voice was strange. She seemed almost afraid. No she –was- afraid of something. She continued speaking though, still kindly looking at me, but afraid. "...but he couldn't do anything for you. You appeared to have no physical injuries, and he did not know anything about a..." She paused trying to find the right word, "…a creature like you..."
            "A creature? What do you…?" Then I stopped and noticed for the first time what was wrong. I had not changed back into a human, at least not completely. Selvynia was afraid indeed. She was afraid of me. I sighed. "Oh my! I understand why you look so afraid now. I’m sorry."
            "But I am not…" she replied proudly.
            "But you are. Of course you are. It is… natural. I do not blame you. I have never seen a human who does not look frightened when he sees the real appearance of a Drakains." I paused. "That is why I never use this appearance unless it is really necessary. I don't want people to… see me like this. I might be a Drakains; but yet in my heart, I'm a human."
            "It’s all right, Sergorn. I am not afraid. Just… uncomfortable," she added in a whisper. "Iolo and Shamino told me of your story. I must say I would probably have had trouble believing it if it wasn’t for you now," she chuckled. She looked at me kindly. "Do not worry, you should try to sleep. You must still be exhausted."
            "Thank you, my friend." She smiled at me. I fell asleep quite easily.

            It was around noon when I finally woke up. I felt very healthy, but my powers on the other hand, still seemed very weak. The door opened, revealing Iolo, followed closely by Shamino.
            "Ha!" said Iolo entering the room, "I see our sleeping ‘beauty’ has finally awakened. So what are you still doing lying in bed?" he added with a large smile on his face. "We need to get to Lycaeum, remember?"
            "Yes, Iolo, I’m fine, Iolo! I thank you for asking! It’s so good having a friend who actually cares about you." I answered sarcastically.
            Shamino laughed. "You know my friend," he said smiling, "I have met many unusual fellows in my long life... but I must say you are the most intriguing of them all."
            "Yes... That wouldn’t surprise me. Iolo is right about one thing, though, the sooner we get to the Lycaeum, the better. We have already lost a lot of time. I’m ready to leave as soon as possible. Where is Selvynia?"
            "Well she went to get some food - we assumed you might be hungry." Indeed, I was. "But, well, since bringing you to the tavern might just create another panic - you should have seen the people when we brought you here unconscious at night, I think people are going to talk about this for a generation at this." He chuckled. "But, well, anyway we thought it would be better to eat in your room, and she volunteered. Can you think of any better task for a woman?" he asked with a laugh.
            The door was already opening as he was finishing his phrase though, and the voice Selvynia soon commented. "I heard that!"
            Shamino grinned even more. "I was only jesting Milady," and he concluded his comment with an extravagantly long bow.
            "Of course, of course." She looked at him with an evil glow in the eyes. Everyone suddenly started laughing.
            "Do you think you can change back to human?" asked Iolo while we started eating.
            I shook my head. "No. I’m too weak right now, unfortunately. Hopefully, I will be able to try out in a few days, but even then I’m not sure it’s going to work…"
            Selvynia looked at me, pensive. "Why don’t you try to focus your magic with one of your…" she paused, trying to remember the word, "Pentagram? Yes pentagram. If you could change into a dragon with this, I assume it would not be a problem changing back into a mere human."
            "In theory, it should be easy, however… well I’m not sure we have a weapon powerful enough to possibly injure me around here. Being a Drakains offers certain advantages. We have a thick skin you could say." I added, chuckling.
            They all stopped eating, staring at me. "Oh well! I can't say I'm surprised," said Shamino, "I guess we should be prepared for everything with you around."
            "That is a real problem though", said Iolo, "You can't go out like this. You should have seen the panic when we brought you, still unconscious. I cannot imagine what would happen if the people see you perfectly healthy!"
            "Bring me cloak or a cape. Something to hide my face. We’ll be leaving at night. Hopefully, we won’t be noticed. How long will it take us to reach the Lycaeum?"
            "About five or six days I would say," answered Iolo.
            "Good. I will try to change back once we arrive."
            We left during the evening. As Iolo said, it took us six days to reach the Lycaeum. The journey was peaceful, but then I think nobody would have been foolish enough to attack us. My power seemed stronger, so I tried to change back. I concentrated, and again my blood started burning within me. It was painful, very painful. I started to cry out with pain, but at least the change worked. I was tired, and my body was shaking all over but at least I was a human again.
            "Sergorn! Are you all right?" asked Selvynia anxious.
            "It'll be fine... I just need some rest..."
            "Come my friend, said Shamino. There is an inn not far from here. We will help you to get here."
            We took three rooms at the inn. Although I assured her that it was not necessary, Selvynia insisted to stay with me that night. I didn't try to argue with her since I found her company most pleasant.

            I awakened early in the morning. I left the room, being careful not to wake up Selvynia, and went to wake up Iolo and Shamino, after what we headed to the Lycaeum. A middle-aged woman greeted us.
            "Iolo! Shamino!" She said. "My old friends, I'm glad to see you again after all theses years."
            "We're glad to see you too, Mariah," said Iolo. No doubt this Mariah was an old acquaintance of theirs too.
            "So tell me! What brings you to the Lycaeum?" she asked.
            They introduced me to her, and we told her about the Black Gate and the book Lord British told us of.
            "I have never heard of it I’m afraid," she said, smiling, "but then we do have a lot of books here. I can direct you to all the books related to Moongates and Moonstones, but I must warn you there are many of them as well."
            And indeed, she got us all the books. If I remember correctly, there were about a hundred and a half books. Soon joined by Selvynia we spent many days and nights reading all of them, searching for any information about the Black Gate. It's Iolo who first found something about it.
            "Look at that text!" He showed me a book called Converting Moongates to Thine Own Uses’, apparently written by some mage known as Erethian. "According to it there are different kinds of moongates. The Blue and the Red Moongates, which we already know, they allow one to travel through the lands, and through worlds. The Silver Time Gate, which allows travelling through time... and the Black Gate, which allows one to travel between dimensions. It says however that Black Gates and the Silver Time Gate are only theories..." He added with a frown.
            I looked pensively at the book, pondering that last information. "Well, at least we know that these Black Gates are not just theoretical. I wonder what it can mean, though. Travelling between dimensions? It might suggest that Dargonia and Britannia exist on different planes of existance. Makes you wonder how a Moonstone would have got there anyway. Interesting. In any case we haven't really advanced yet, theories are fine but we need to find a way to reproduce this Black Gate..."
            So we kept on searching, and searching, and searching, until finally Selvynia found something interesting. She came toward me, carrying a book called Pathways of Planar Travel’.
            "This books contains a lot of information and theories about others dimensions. This mage, Nicodemus, suggests that a Black Gate could be created with an Orb of the Moons similar to the one used for a Red Moongate. It suggests that to create a Black Gate, one would need to possess extremely powerful magical energy, and concentrate it towards on the stone." Selvynia closed the book, pondering for a moment. "Unless I am mistaken, that is what you tried on the Orb in your homeworld, isn’t it?"
            "Indeed. That would explain it. At least it means that if Lord British gets his Orb back, I might be able to recreate the Gate. That leaves another problem though; even if I manage to recreate the Gate, how shall I know if the gate will indeed take me back to Dargonia? For all we know, it might be sheer luck that brought me to Britannia, and taking the way back without knowing precisely the destination…" I paused for a while. "…Well I might end up getting stuck Agamem knows where!"
            "Who or what is this ‘Agamem’ you always refer to?" Selvynia asked suddenly.
            "Huh? What? Oh, He is my God. The God upon my world." I answered.
            "Ah. I see." She looked at me strangely
            "But why are you asking me that?" I puzzled.
            "Oh no reason. I mean… I just wondered. You often seem to refer to him and…" She sighed. "Well, okay, I guess I’m not much help much there. You certainly have a point, though, there has got to be a way to control your destination. Hmmm." Selvynia closed her eyes, trying to think. Iolo, who was silently listening to the conversation while looking into another book, suddenly spoke up.
            "Wait a minute! What did you say the name of this mage was? You know the one who wrote that book?"
            "Hmmm, hold on," answered Selvynia while she was looking inside the book. "Ah! Here it is: Nicodemus. Why?"
            "Nicodemus?" Iolo gave a laugh. "Nicodemus, indeed! I know him. He is still alive. Shamino and I met him during our last adventure with the Avatar. A rather odd fellow, he lives in a house within the deep forest."
            "Who lives within the deep forest?" asked Shamino who was coming this way. We rapidly filled him in with what we had discovered. "Ah. Nicodemus. Indeed. Rather odd, but he is wise and scholarly. I say it would be worth it to pay him a visit; he might be of help in this matter. He probably knows more than everything he has written in his book. So what do you think Sergorn?"
            "Agreed. We’d better pay him a visit."
            "So I guess we've found what we were looking for," said Shamino happily, "we should go back to continent as soon as possible."
            However I still had a strange feeling. "No," I said. "Not yet. I don't know... I just have the feeling that we're missing something important. I suggest we finish the remaining books on the gates before we leave. Just to make sure we aren’t missing anything."
            So we kept searching for a few days, until it appeared we wouldn’t find anything else on that. So we left the Lyceaum, and started our way back to Moonglow. Yet I still had this feeling that we missed something important...

Chapter V: Clues and Wisdom

            "So how are we going to get back to the main continent?" I asked on our way back to Moonglow. "I can tell you that I’m not going to try the Dragon trick again in a very long time." I sighed. "Well, that’ll be another boat, I guess. With our luck, we’ll probably stumble on pirates again."
            "Well, actually" said Iolo smiling, "we might have a better option. Unless I am mistaken the moons will soon be in position for a gate to Yew. That would allow us to gain back much of the time we lost during our journey here and would aslo be the safest and fastest way to get there!"
            "There are eight moonstones buried across the lands," explained Shamino, as he noticed that I had no idea what Iolo referred to. "Every night, a Blue Moongate rises from them, which will take you to another gate, depending on the position of the moons."
            "An interesting way of travel..." I said, "A pity you hadn’t thought of it -before-, it would have spared us a lot of trouble. "
            "But then you wouldn’t have got the chance to meet me." Interrupted Selvynia.
            "Indeed!" I answered, with a big grin on my face. Selvynia gave me a hard look, while Shamino and Iolo burst out laughing.
            We continued on the road to Moonglow, where we spent the next five days at the inn. On the fifth day, shortly before night fell, my companions lead me to a circle of stones outside the town. When night finally came, a Blue Moongate immediately arose from the floor, lighting the area with an intriguing blue light. It was quite beautiful. As we passed through it, we instantly arrived at another circle of stone. (I must point out it is probably one of the fastest ways of travel I've ever seen!)
            "Follow me!" said Iolo. "My hut is not far from here; we will spend the night there, and then we’ll head for Nicodemus’ house tomorrow morning."
            We quietly followed Iolo as he lead the way through the dark. Even in the darkness, he seemed familiar with the surrounding, and we soon arrived at his home, where we spent the rest of the night. We woke early in the morning, preparing to go to Nicodemus’ house. As I left the house with Iolo, though, I noticed that some kind of a small stable was lying right behind the hut. Within it was a beautiful brown horse.
            "Oh, interesting! I didn’t notice that the first time," I said aloud, "you didn’t told me you had a horse, Iolo."
            Iolo just looked at the horse. "Oh, he’s not really my horse, more like a neighbour of some kind. His name his Smith."
            "Smith, hmmm? Well I’m pleased to meet you, Smith." I said while stroking his head.
            "Well good for you, sir!" the horse said suddenly. "But will you will stop stroking my hair? I’m not a dog. Besides courtesy demands that you introduce yourself first."
            I completely freaked out, making a large jump backward with a cry. "What? What? What?" Somehow I couldn’t make any sense. I was just standing there speechless, pointing towards the creature.
            Shamino came running out of the hut. "What’s happening?" he asked. Then he noticed me pointing at the horse and started laughing. "So, I see you have met Smith."
            "But… but…" I still couldn’t make sense.
            "Smith?" said another voice, coming from the hut. Selvynia saw the horse, and had a big smile on her face. "So this is him!" she added as she approached the creature. "I have always wanted to meet you, I've heard a lot about you," she finished while stroking the creature’s head.
            Smith was apparently quite pleased. "Ah! It is pleasant to see someone who appreciates a marvel at its true value."
            "Cut it otu, Smith!" said Iolo, "we have business to attend to. Selvynia, Sergorn. Come on!"
            Yet my eyes was still locked on the… ‘horse’. "But…" I finally managed to say, "It’s a talking HORSE!"
            "We know!" they all said at once.
            Shamino kept laughing. "Ah! We can’t blame Sergorn for being so surprised. I remember the Avatar himself was quite shocked the first time he met Smith. And I think there are still many Britannians that would be speechless should they ever meet him," he added smiling.
            "Hmm, okay, sorry." I was quite embarrassed, as I realized I really made a fool of myself. "Let’s go see Nicodemus!"
            We were about to leave when Smith suddenly muttered, "Sergorn?" I looked toward him. "Sergorn… Sergorn…" He seemed… pensive. "Ah! Yes. Sergorn!" He jumped over the fence and came toward me. "I remember now: I had a very important message for you."
            "For me?" I asked, surprised.
            "Yes, Indeed! What was is already?" He kept silent for a moment. "Ah yes! I was supposed to tell you that you should not fight your brother, for indeed he is not evil. In fact, he shall be your most precious ally in your struggle to defeat the Great Evil. There! I hope it helps." He finished proudly. Actually, if that was possible, I would say he was smiling.
            I looked at him, confused. "What are you saying your stupid horse?" I said angrily. "The Great Evil is dead already! My brother leads the Knights. And where did you hear of this anyway?"
            Shamino interrupted me. "You’d better ignore it. I am afraid he always has the tendency to do that. Come on, let us go to Nicodemus."
            So I followed Shamino and my other companions, leaving the talking horse behind. As we left, though, I heard him muttering behind. "These heroes. All the same. You try to help them, and all you get in exchange are insults. That’s it, I’m done with it!" He seemed quite angry, spouting curses continuously. However, we soon got far enough away not to hear him mumbling anymore.

            We walked for a few hours through the forest, heading northeast. We tried to be careful to avoid any beasts or creatures, for in truth we were still under-armed since our ‘halt’ in Buccaneer’s Den, and most of the money had been spent on food and lodging. After a while, we arrived at a rather large house standing near a river within the forest. There didn’t seem to be any windows, and there was only one door. I knocked on it, but there was no answer. I knocked louder on the door. Still no answer.
            "Maybe he is not there."
            "Doubtful," said Iolo, "the old mage rarely goes out of there. He spends all his time on his experiments. No, I bet he is still there inside, and just doesn’t want to be bothered by visitors." Iolo went over to the door and tried to open it. No success. I then noticed that a strange shimmering light was coming from the lock. "It is locked of course. And magically locked. I wish we had a Skull Key." He sighed. "I should have thought of it. Or at least brought some reagents with us. Unfortunately, I am afraid we will have to postpone our visit to Nicodemus. I am sorry, Sergorn."
            But I hardly listened to the second half of his sentence. My thoughts focused on the magic lock. "I should be able to…" I murmured. And then I weaved a thread of air within the lock, soon joined by a spark of Ether. I turned my hand, and the lock opened.
            "Impressive." Noted Selvynia. "I assume your powers are growing back, aren’t they?"
            "They are." I said simply.
            So we all entered the house. After passing through a small corridor, we entered a very large room, which looked like some sort of laboratory. The lab was full of different sorts of apparatus, potions, scrolls, books and reagents. From my point of view, it looked like a complete mess, though I guess everything probably felt in order to the mage. And the mage indeed was standing inside the room, apparently looking at some experiment he was conducting. He had short greyish hair, and a beard as well, but what was most noticable was the five-branched star tattooed on his forehead. He didn’t seemed to pay any attention to us, though.
            "Excuse me?" I said quietly. No answer. "Excuse me!" I asked louder.
            The mage looked at us for a second, then returned to his experiment. He was busy with a strange glass apparatus, where something appeared to be boiling, and was constantly tampering the heat of the oven.
            "Look, I’m really sorry to interrupt you but…"
            Nicodemus raised his head, looking me in the eyes, notifying me to keep silent with his hand. After a few minutes, the content of the apparatus seemed to disappear before turning into a strange darkish liquid. The liquid was then siphoned through a tube, until it filled a small bottle at the other end. Nicodemus closed the bottle, and shook it for a few moments, after which he put it down on a shelf, next to other similar potions.
            "What it is?" he asked. His tone was a bit upset. "Could you not wait for a few moments at the door instead of bursting in? Did you not think there might have been a reason why the door was -magically- locked?" He sighed heavily. "Potions of Invisibility are very delicate to prepare. Indeed, the whole thing can blow up if you do not watch it carefully. Next time, knock and wait!" He insisted heavily on the last word. I gave Iolo a hard look. "So tell me. What do you want? Are you another fellow toying with magic who suddenly decided to become my apprentice? I tell you, I do want and do not need an apprentice. Though, of course, if you just want to buy some spells or reagents you are welcome."
            "No, it’s not that, I…"
            I could not finish my phrase though, as he suddenly noticed my companions. He promptly ignored Selvynia, but looked sharply at Iolo and Shamino. "You! I recognize you. What was it already? Ah, yes! Iolo and Shamino. You were with the Avatar the last time I saw you, that must have been…" He paused for a moment, "… a hundred years ago or so, isn’t it?" Iolo nodded. "So in any case what brings you here? If you do not wish apprenticeship, or need any of my service, I must wonder why you are here? Ah! But please excuse me; I am failing in all my duties as a host. You must already know this, but my name is Nicodemus. Please, you and your companions may take a seat," He pointed to a rather small table, which was pretty much clean compared to rest of the laboratory. We followed him and sat around it. "So tell me, what can I do for you…? Oh forgive me, I don’t think I caught your name."
            "Indeed, I don’t think I have told you. My name is Sergorn, we are here because we wish to talk about a book you have written…"
            But I couldn’t finish my sentence since as I announced my named Nicodemus just gaped, and soon interrupted me. "Sergorn? Sergorn indeed!" He laughed. "Yes, I was expecting you would come."
            "You know who I am?" Everyone seemed as surprised as I was.
            "I do. At least I have heard of you. Let me just say, I have a friend – a very old friend, who mentioned your name to me. He told me of a traveller from another world that would soon appear on Britannia. You indeed. He said you had some business in Britannia and also that you would eventually come to me. And so here you are." He smiled. "I assume you wish to talk to me about my book Pathways of Planar Travel’"
            "Indeed! But how?" I asked. I couldn’t understand how this old mage could have possibly heard of me. "Do I know this friend of yours? Who is he?"
            Nicodemus just gave me an enigmatic smile. "I’m afraid I am not allowed to divulge that information. I can tell you this much however: You do not know him – but he knows of you. He has vast knowledge about the different planes - and you do have common friends as well - but you have never met him in person, and you probably never will. As for what you want from me, you have just mentioned a book. Being a traveller of the planes yourself, it only made sense that you would ask me about this book. Simple logic, really. So tell me, what do you want to know?"
            So I told Nicodemus the entire story of my coming to Britannia. The Black Gate, and the search which lead to the Lycaeum, and that eventually brought us here.
            "So Black Gates actually exist." Nicodemus said pensively. "I hope I will someday get the chance to witness that experience." He sat for a while, looking quietly toward the roof. Then he turned his eyes back toward me. "I think your assumption is probably correct. If you came to Britannia from a Black Gate, it must mean that Dargonia exists on a different plane. Makes you wonder how an Orb of the Moons could have arrived in your world. Most interaction between worlds is usually accidental; a Red or Blue gate randomly appearing on another world. It happens from time to time; there was a fellow like this I met once; Gorn, I think, or something like that - still trying to find his way back. But you are a whole different matter. I do not think a Moongate could have accidentally appeared on your world, much less a Moonstone. I wonder if your arrival on this world was not intentional somehow. However… I think you are on the right track if you wish to return to your world. If you reproduce the event that led you to create the Black Gate, you should probably be able to recreate a second gate. As for the destination, I’m afraid I only have theories and no actual facts that I could share with you. Since you are from a different plane, maybe the Orb will automatically create a portal to your world. But I have no way to be sure. Since you seem to have such strong magical energy, I would advise this: whilst you concentrate your energy within the Orb, try to divert enough energy to reproduce a distinct image of the place you're trying to reach within your mind. From what you have told me of the magic on your world, I think it should be possible. If we are lucky, the energy inside the stone and within your mind will entangle, creating a direct portal toward your destination."
            I pondered for a while the information Nicodemus had given me. Indeed, it sounded possible. Now all we needed to try was Lord British’s Orb of the Moons. I thanked Nicodemus for all the helped he had given me. Hopefully, thanks to his wisdom, I would soon be able to get back to my world. And so we left his home, and got back to Iolo’s hut. It was time to return to Britain.

Chapter VI: Decision

            Rather than risking another long journey on the roads, we waited for a week until the moons were aligned properly for the Moongates to take us to Britain. As we arrived at the circle of stones outside the city, we decided to camp there for the rest of the night. When we woke up in the morning, we headed directly to Castle Britannia.
            We were immediately lead to the King, but while he greeted us as if everything was fine, I could see in his eyes that he was deeply troubled. There are things you have to learn when you are a monarch, and one is to hide your doubts from the eyes of your people, but I had had these kinds of feelings too much not to notice them in Lord British’s eyes. We introduced Selvynia to him, who felt quite intimidated standing in front of the King of Britannia, and we told him about our journey to the Lycaeum, our encounter with Nicodemus, and of our discoveries regarding the Gate.
            "Then I have good news for you, Sergorn!" he said, "While you were gone, my search party returned from the Shrine of Honor with my lost Orb. Alas, it seems my counsellor suffered a most unfortunate fate at the hand of a band of Goblins that dwelt near the Shrine, but my soldiers managed to dispatch them and get the stone back." The King smiled kindly at me. "So it means you will be able to go back to your world. Please wait here a second." He left the room for a while, then came back in a few minutes later, handing me a stone identical to the one I received on Dargonia. "Here it is, Sergorn. Just remember to give it back to me once you manage to create the Gate."
            I held the stone in my hand. Carefully, I weaved the five elements into it, increasing slowly the magical energy within the stone. And suddenly, a thin Black Gate rose from the ground in the throne room. Unlike the one on Dargonia, though, it seemed pretty stable, probably because I only increased the energy slowly rather that putting everything in at once. And then, according to Nicodemus’ advice, I pulled a weave of Ether from the Gate, and within my mind I focused on a clear picture of my fair city of Dariel. I let the weave swallow it and then put it back within the gate. The Black Gate started shimmering, I half expected it to disappear, but instead the gate somehow transmuted. Instead of a deep black, the gate was now showing the city of Dariel in Dargonia. I was most surprised indeed, for in front of me was standing a portal identical to the one that lead me from Earth to Dargonia so many years ago. I released the weaves from the stone, and the portal still stood within the throne room. I could go home.
            After the surprise due to appearance of the gate, my friends cheered happily.
            "Indeed, that is a strange moongate if I ever saw one," said Shamino ,smiling, "I am sure Nicodemus will be most interested by this."
            "I guess it is time to bid farewell to you, my friend," Selvynia said with a sad tone. " I… I shall miss you," she added while holding my hands.
            "Feel free to come back here whenever you want," said Iolo. "There is still much you have to see here, and I would not mind having a look at your world either, eventually."
            But their words didn’t seem to reach me. I just looked at the Gate, thinking. My world was right behind it. Yet I hesitated. I thought back to the events that lead me to Britannia, at the events that happened here, and eventually the words of Nicodemus: "He told me of a traveller from another world that would soon appear on Britannia… He said you had some business in Britannia… I am wondering if your coming to this world was not intentional…" And then I made my decision. "I’m not leaving." I said simply, and upon that I undid the weaves within the portal, and it faded away.
            My companions, and even the King himself looked very surprised. I turned towards the Lord, handing him the Orb, and then I did something I had never done before: I kneeled before him, looking directly toward his eyes.
            "Milord. When I first arrived on your world, I was certain that my coming here was an accident. But since then I have been thinking: On my world, Maya is the most powerful of all the Elemental Powers, for she controls the Earth itself, and I am now certain that it would impossible for her to ignore the existence of an artifact such as your moonstones. Even more, the discussion I had with Nicodemus about his mysterious friend only seemed to confirm my suspicion. I had a strange feeling during my entire journey here, a feeling that I was somehow needed here. It is this feeling that made stay here and not go through the gate." I paused. "All of these elements lead me to one conclusion: I am here because I have to be here. For some reason, Maya wanted me to unfold the power of the Orb, and to come to Britannia. I don't know the reason yet, but until I find out, I wish to remain here, and whilst I am here, I pledge to serve you with all of my abilities." I finished with a slight bow of the head.
            Lord British remained silent, quietly looking at me, and then he finally spoke. "If you wish to stay here, you are most welcome Lord Sergorn. But I shall greet you as an equal, and not as a subject, for you have a noble heart, I can see it. However, I hope you shall not regret your decision, so if you ever have the feeling that your world calls you to come back, even if you do not find what you are looking for here, my Orb shall be at your disposal."
            "You have my gratitude, Lord British." I said, but I kept looking into his eyes. "If you'll allow me, milord, I can read in your eyes that you are troubled. I can see it even though you try to hide it. And it is as an equal that I respectfully ask that you let me be help you if I can."
            British closed his eyes for a moment. When he opened them again, he looked at me seriously. "You are correct when you say that my mind is troubled. You might remember the brigands Sir Geoffrey told you about shortly before you left for Moonglow?" As I nodded, he continued. "It seems they are more organized than we thought, and better fighters than we expected. More numerous as well." He sighed heavily. "Geoffrey had a hard battle. He was badly injured and most of the garrison was vanquished. The raids on the trading route continue on, and I fear that if I send another garrison, it will suffer the same fate. What I need is someone that could investigate these brigands. Find out more about their leaders, their organisation, and their number. So if you still want to help me, this is the mission I shall give you. Go to Vesper. Go to Minoc. Learn everything you can about these bandits, and report to me back here. Will you accept this task?"
            "On my honor, my lord!" I answered with a bow as I rose to my feet.
            "With you permission, milord," Selvynia said suddenly, apparently struggling with the intimidation she was feeling, "I wish to help him on his task." And she bowed deeply in front of the King.
            "I would like to go as well," said Shamino, "It has been far too long since we last saved Britannia," he added with a grin.
            "Then I guess I will have to come and watch over him, just to make sure he doesn’t lead the kids into any trouble." said Iolo.
            "And I expected nothing less from each of you, my old friends," said British as he looked at Iolo and Shamino. "As for the Lady Selvynia," and he looked deeply into her eyes, "it is said that it is when in perils that one can test the strength of a true friendship. Be sure to know your own boundaries before you reach that point. I shall grant my permission to each of you. You shall join Sergorn and help him in his task to the best of your abilities. And all of you, care of yourselves."
            We bowed and left the throne room. We spent the rest of the day preparing for our journey, replacing the equipment we had lost from the pirates. Lord British then provided us with his best horses and we left for Vesper at dawn the day after...

Chapter VII: Ambush

            We rode as fast as we could in the direction of Vesper. The first week passed without any problems, but as when we were nearly at Vesper, something happened. It was night and, as usual, I was doing my watch. Shamino, Iolo, and Selvynia were sleeping. I sensed about a dozen people approaching furtively. I woke my companions, motioning them not to make any noise.
            "Get your weapons!" I whispered.
            They understood what was going on immediately and armed themselves.
            "Get to your horses, and go in the direction of Vesper as fast as you can! I’ll take care of them!"
            "But you will never be able to defeat all of them alone!" said Selvynia.
            "Don’t worry. I’m going to prepare them a nasty little spell," I answered, grinning.
            I started to concentrate, drawing energy from the Ether; I began drawing the appropriate fire rune in the air, and chanted the mantra. The rune lightened, revealing the bandits not far from us. Seeing that they were revealed, they began running towards us, armed with their swords.
            "Now go!" I yelled, "I'll meet you in Vesper!"
            I cast the spell as I heard the sound of the riding horses. Waves of fire spread towards my enemies, and most of them were fried at once before understanding what was happening. Only four of them remained. I drew my sword.
            "I guess you are the people I'm looking for," I said with an evil grin. "It seems I've been overestimating you. Only one little spell and you're almost entirely vanquished!"
            "Let us see what you can do without your magic, sorcerer!" yelled one of them as he attacked me.
            But he was clumsy, and didn't know how to wield a sword. I avoided his swing, and jabbed him through the throat with my sword. As I removed my sword, the dead body fell to the ground. "Who's next?" I asked. But the three others were not as foolish. They surrounded me and attacked me at the same time. I avoided the slash of one of them, as well as the swing from the second, but the third managed to pierce my left shoulder. As he removed the sword, I made a circular swing with my own blade and managed to behead one of them. As the two remaining bandits tried to jab me, I made a spin with my sword and disarmed them. I pierced one of them through the heart. Understanding he had no way to win, the last one ran away. I ran after him and knocked him to the ground. Holding him down, I put my sword to his throat.
            "Are you the ones responsible for the raids?"
            "No, we are not! I swear, milord!"
            "Then why did you attack us?" I asked.
            "We were hired to attack a group of four people matching your description..."
            Mercenaries. "Whom are you working for?" No answer. "Speak and I shall let you live!"
            "We…we were hired at Cove by a man named Calterse. He is tall, brown hair, long bear, his face is always hidden under a black hood. You can't miss him. We were…" He paused, gulping. "We were supposed to bring your heads to him back at Cove's Inn after killing you."
            "And what do you know about him?"
            "Not much. When one offers such a well-paid job, we don't ask questions..." He was shaking with fear. "That is all I know, please let me live. You will never hear of me again."
            "Sorry, but I'm afraid I can't do that…" I said, killing him. I knew it wasn't fair after all the information he had given me, but I had a special plan in mind.
            Dargonian magic offers many possibilities. As you have seen before, one is to weave energy from the five elements in order to perform a specific task. The magic I used against the mercenaries is the runic magic, which is mainly used by the Sorcerers. One other form, very prized by the Ethereal Mages, is the magic of Illusion. Another one that no sensible spell caster, either a Mage or a Sorcerer, would ever use is Necromancy. Although eventually I had to learn it, I had never actually tried it - I really can't stand this idea of messing with corpses - until now.
            I ‘took’ the heads of four of the bandits and used necromancy to fashion them each a new face. I think you can guess whose. I gave them the heads of my companions and myself, and put each of them into a bag within my backpack. Exhausted after all those spells, I healed the wound on my shoulder and rested for an hour. After that I mounted my horse and rode straight to Cove, which was only two days away. I knew that Iolo, Shamino, and Selvynia would be looking for me, but I believed I had to get to Cove as fast as I could if I wanted my plan to succeed.

            I arrived at the small village on an evening two days later. Before entering the town, though, I used Illusion Magic to give myself the face of the man I believed to be the leader of the brigands who had attacked me. I went straight to the inn. There weren’t many people in there. A man matching the description of Calterse was eating at a table. I went to straight to him and sat at the nearest table.
            "Have you settled the little business I required?" he asked without looking at me
            "Yes, I have," I said with a hard tone, "but all my men were killed! You didn't tell me that one of them was a powerful mage!"
            "Calm down, my friend, calm down." He said with a tight smile. "You have completed your mission and you are alive. Isn’t that the most important thing? And besides, that means more gold for you. Isn't gold the only thing that matters to mercenaries such as yourself?" He paused. "Of course, you must prove to me that you completed the job successfully."
            "Yes... I have the ‘package’ here..."
            "Good. Then let us go to my room so that we can settle this matter."
            We climbed the stairs and went to his room. I showed him the heads of my victims. He appeared satisfied and gave me ‘my’ payment. Gold. A lot of gold. "Here you are! You did a good job and I thank you, but now I have to leave. You can keep my room for the night if you want."
            He headed toward the door, but I did not intend on letting him go so quickly. "You work for the group responsible of all these raids lately, don't you? The one who vanquished Lord British's garrison..." I said.
            He stopped. "You have a very good imagination, my friend." He said without turning back. "These people were just old acquaintances. We had a score to settle. And thanks to your help, it has been settled."
            "You're lying. Their leader had a mandate from the King himself saying that they were investigating these raids." I paused. He turned back and looked at me, straight in my eyes. "They were sent on a mission by the king, and then you appear, offering a large amount of money to anyone who will to take care of them. I don't believe in coincidences. This can only mean one thing: you are working for the raiders."
            He looked at me, amused. "I thought you were only a stupid mercenary, but you seem smarter than you look. Yes, as you guessed, I work with this group. And who knows what else you may have guessed. You know too much. I am afraid I cannot let you live!" He drew his sword.
            "You know that I wouldn't have brought my knowledge to your attention without a good reason," I said.
            "Indeed, though I wonder what the reason is that make you feel like dying tonight."
            "I want to join your organization!"
            He seemed... surprised. "And what makes you think our group could have a use for a lowly mercenary like you?"
            "The fact that, by myself, I managed to complete the mission you gave me."
            He lowered his sword, smiling. "You have a point. Our organization could use a warrior like you." He pondered for a while. "But no; you are only a mercenary. You would turn against us if you were paid enough, which means you cannot be trusted. Sorry, but you must die!"
            He attacked me, but I managed to draw my sword before he reached me and parried his attack. "Well, it seems my plan has failed after all," I said, smiling, as I made the illusion fade away. "As you can see, your puny mercenaries failed, and now you are the one who is going to die."
            This had the effect I was hoping for. Calterse was surprised. For a second, he was no longer concentrated on the fight, and this second of inattention was lethal. I struck his sword aside and killed him, thrusting my sword through his heart. He fell to the ground, dead.
            I searched his body, but, alas, there was nothing of interest on it. I left the inn and went back to my horse. I started riding in the direction of Vesper. My friends were probably worried by now...

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