Maelstrom

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The letter T!he flying ship drifted lazily over the barren landscape below, its sails lowered in the evening breeze.

"I'll see him now, Tahngarth," Sisay of the Weatherlight said to the Talruum minotaur standing impassive guard at her stateroom's door. "You should wait outside."

Tahngarth snorted in protest, his nose-ring quivering, but did as his captain suggested. Ducking low to clear his horns, he stepped out into the hallway and gestured to the man pacing in the shadows. The man cringed before the hulking minotaur.

"Don't mind him, Starke," Sisay called from the table. "Tahngarth would only hurt you if you gave him cause."

"Ah, but who knows what the Talruums consider cause?" the man said as he entered the stateroom. He closed the door behind him.

"What do you know about the Legacy?" Sisay asked without preamble. She sat up straighter, placing her smooth dark fingers on the tabletop. Her gold ring caught and reflected the dim cabin light. "Tell me."

"I know it to be the only means of defeating the Lord of the Wastes," Starke answered. "I know it to be represented by many different items, each forged from destruction, each a unique artifact unto itself."

"So you know the myths."

"I have learned that many of its pieces were stolen from a child named Gerrard many years ago. I know these pieces were stolen by a sidar's son. I know you and the others aboard this flying ship seek these pieces."

Sisay leaned forward. "How do you know these things?"

A faint smile twitched across Starke's lips. "Because I know the sidar's son was thought dead. I also know he is alive and now called Volrath." Starke paused. "I know where he is--and how much of the Legacy yet remains with him."

For a long moment Sisay was silent, watching Starke as he ran one hand through his thinning hair, methodically smoothing it down with his fingertips.

Finally, she said, "Tell me your asking price for this information."

"My daughter," Starke answered.


The letter D!oesn't mean a thing," Gerrard said, sampling the exotic fruits stacked in a bowl on the floor between him and an older man sitting across from him in the sunroom. He selected a brownish, egg-shaped fruit and leaned back into his pillows. "Talruum minotaurs probably visit this city every day."

"Perhaps," Pol Cordel agreed. He smiled as Gerrard sniffed the fruit and grimaced. "But it seems unlikely, given the stir surrounding this one's presence. You're in the military, and I've yet to encounter a group more composed of gossip scamps. How frequently do you hear of minotaurs roaming Benalish docks?"

"Masters-of-arms don't listen to gossip." He tossed the uneaten fruit back into the bowl and wiped his hand on his vest. The hourglass pendant around his neck jingled as he leaned back.

"Gerrard," Cordel said, "this particular Talruum arrived aboard a flying ship."

Gerrard didn't look surprised, but he avoided meeting his friend's eyes. "You think she's come looking for me."

"It would be a good thing for you if she has."

"The Legacy."

"Yes."

Gerrard held up his necklace. "This is all I ever wanted from the Legacy. Sisay wanted the rest of it more than most of us want life." The pendant thumped back against his chest with a light jangle. "You and I have been through this before, Pol--chasing after the Legacy cost the lives of friends. That's why I left the Weatherlight."

"That was a long time ago," Cordel said. "You yourself have said that perhaps you were hasty in your decision. Furthermore, you're older now and, in theory, wiser."

"In theory," Gerrard agreed.

"And the Legacy offers a much higher class of enemy than the dredges you've grown accustomed to."

Gerrard smiled as he stood up. "All right then. A convincing argument at last. Which docks?"


The letter W!ith a cry of surprise, Starke sat up suddenly in his bunk, groping blindly in the tent's darkness for the dagger beneath his bed. The massive shape towering over him shoved him back with one monstrous hand before he could find the weapon.

"Who is that? What do you want?" he whispered, blinking.

"Your life," the figure in the dark rumbled.

Maraxus_of_Keld "Maraxus?" Starke twisted in his sheets, working his feet free from the restrictive coverings. His fear, creeping across his skin like a fever, paused for a heartbeat. "How did you get here?"

"Your life," the figure said again. Its voice was like a rockslide, pounding down upon Starke from the looming mountain above. Starke heard a sword leave its sheath.

"Volrath sent you?" he ventured hurriedly.

The figure didn't answer.

"Maraxus, be calm," he urged, his voice becoming wild. He tried to swallow but could not. "You are so very different from the other warlords of Keld--because you are an individual. One with his own mind. Ask yourself if I would not be more useful to Volrath alive than dead."

"You spoke his secrets to an enemy," the figure growled. "To my enemy. You are more useful dead."

"Ah, but wait." Starke finally freed his body from the twisted bedding, felt the cold floor of the tent with his feet. With one heel, he could feel the pointed tip of his dagger. "I told them to someone who was once an ally to Gerrard. Gerrard, eh? And Volrath would very much like to know where Gerrard has gone these days, would he not?"

A sharp and enormous blade touched Starke's throat in the darkness.

"Where?" the figure demanded.

"I do not know that," Starke confessed. He maneuvered the blade with the sole of his foot, sliding it from beneath the bunk. "But I can give you the woman who knows. And if she will not tell, she can still serve to draw Gerrard from hiding. Volrath would then get not only more of the Legacy, but the heir to the Legacy himself--which is what Volrath wants most, yes?"

He carefully worked the dagger with his toes until it was directly between his feet, within reach were he quick enough. The blade at his throat, however, kept him frozen in place. For agonizing moments he waited, his muscles bunched. The figure didn't move, didn't speak.

"Bring her," it said suddenly.

"Yes," Starke gasped with relief. "As soon as I can arrange it. She may be somewhat suspicious of--"

He broke off as the sword disappeared from his throat. In a rush, he scooped up his dagger and lunged high into the darkness at Maraxus's throat.

His blade only found darkness. The figure was gone.


The letter G!errard could hear the Talruum roar even from the far end of the docks.

"Horn-hater!" the voice boomed in the minotaur language. "Be on your way or be on your way to your gods!"

"Uh oh," Gerrard murmured, and broke into a run.

Benalish_Missionary A crowd had already gathered around the raging minotaur and the balding middle-aged missionary of the Church of Angelfire before him. The missionary faced the minotaur bravely, even as the Talruum swelled to his full height. Gerrard brushed through the crowd to the minotaur's side.

"Easy, Tahngarth," he murmured, taking the Talruum's arm. The minotaur glanced down at him. "No killing."

"Torahn gore you," Tahngarth snorted in reply.

Gerrard grinned. "Nice to see you again, too."

"Many sins have no voice," the missionary interrupted in a small voice, "but killing bellows in the voice of the gods."

"I wouldn't know about that," Gerrard said, gesturing at Tahngarth's great blade and fierce scowl, "but I'd hate to test that belief by letting him kill you."

"Letting me?" Tahngarth turned his scowl on Gerrard. "To this day, you misunderstand."

The missionary was backing away. "No harm meant to the minotaur. Ah, but could I speak his tongue, this might have been a different discussion!"

Tahngarth grunted, and Gerrard could tell that the fight had already gone out of him. Ignoring the missionary, the minotaur turned on Gerrard, crossing his large arms across his chest.

"We came here to find you," he said.

"Well," Gerrard answered, "it's lucky then that I found you. Where's the ship?"

"It's here."

The crowd was beginning to drift away, and Gerrard watched the people go. "So how's Sisay?"

"That is why we've come back for you," the minotaur said, his deep voice quavering, "something terrible has happened."


The letter S!omething exciting is happening," Sisay said to Tahngarth as they strolled the Weatherlight's deck together. The moons were rising, and the sky both above and below the ship was clear.

"Starke?" Tahngarth said.

"Not Starke himself, of course," Sisay laughed lightly, "but what he knows about the Lord of the Wastes and the Lord's servants. One servant in particular, who holds key pieces of the Legacy."

"Starke has rotted horns, Sisay. Trust him like an enemy."

"I won't pretend I don't." The two of them stopped at the ship's railing, and Sisay leaned over to see the open plains below. The Weatherlight hovered over the reddish fields like a bird frozen in flight, and the moons threw a ghostly light across both ship and shore. "This servant, Volrath, is holding Starke's daughter prisoner. I agreed to help rescue her in exchange for information about the Legacy."

Tahngarth adjusted his dreadlocks and snorted. "I knew it was not from the goodness of his heart that he spoke. Torahn gore the selfish."

"Starke is thinking of his daughter," Sisay said softly. "You're thinking of Gerrard."

"It was a long time ago."

"But still a fresh wound."

"He should not have left us. The Legacy is his birthright," Tahngarth said, clenching his mighty jaw. "Were he a Talruum, he would have been killed the moment he even suggested abandoning the ship. Now he is free of the Legacy."

Sisay shook her head, leaning back to look up at the sky. "No, Tahngarth. He'll never be free of the Legacy. He just doesn't know it yet."


Master_of_Arms The letter S!o they came looking for me," Gerrard concluded, having returned from the docks. He and Pol Cordel sat in the sunroom once more, but the sun was gone and the room was cold. Cordel glanced as Gerrard stood and paced back and forth.

"Are you asking my advice?" Cordel asked.

"No. I know your advice."

"If I knew nothing at all about the Legacy, or your heritage, I would still say you should help your friends." Cordel stood up. "You would disappoint us both if you didn't."

Gerrard didn't answer. "The Legacy didn't begin with Sisay," Cordel continued. "Would you have her die for your destiny?"

"Maybe once," Gerrard said. "Maybe long ago. That's why I'm leaving, Pol. Tomorrow morning I'm going back to the Weatherlight."

Cordel nodded and put his hand on his Gerrard's shoulder. "I'm sorry to see you go. It's a shame you must leave to know how much you enjoy my company."

"Well, you're not rid of me," Gerrard said gruffly, shifting uncomfortably. "I'll come back."

"Of course."

"Until I do, I want you to keep this for me." He took the hourglass necklace from around his neck and handed it to Cordel. "This belonged to my parents. It's also the only part of the Legacy I kept when I left the ship. But it's not just valuable to me, it's valuable to my enemies. I'm not stupid enough to put it within their reach."

Cordel accepted the pendant solemnly. "I will hold it close to my heart until you return."

The following morning, the Weatherlight, with Gerrard aboard, set sail from Benalia.


The letter S!isay smiled. "That would be a long story for such a late hour. It's enough to say that it serves as a reminder of my village in Jamuraa."

Starke sat across from her at the table in her stateroom, turning her ring over and over in his hands. "Quite nice. Excellent craftsmanship."

"Did you really come in the middle of the night to discuss precious metals with me, Starke?" Sisay asked, amused. She reached for her ring. "Or was there something more important?"

"Yes." Starke clenched the ring in his fist. "I came to discuss Volrath, evincar of the Lord of the Wastes, arivarum set vainn."

"What are you--" Sisay began, her eyes narrowing as she shoved away from the table and leapt to her feet, drawing her sword.

Behind her, a sickly blue glow spread out in an growing circle, swirling like a whirlpool in the air until it had reached the size of a door. From its center, ghostly tendrils began to creep together to form fingers.

"Tahngarth!" Sisay cried, but she knew the sleeping minotaur wouldn't hear. She was alone with the traitor, alone against Volrath's power, directed at her by Starke. From within the circle, massive hands lunged for her.

"I'll see you again Starke."

"Not in this world," he answered.

Sisay swung once with her blade as the hands clawed around her, and then she was gone. The circle disappeared.

Starke shivered as he put Volrath's abduction note on the table with Sisay's ring. This would draw Gerrard, he was sure, but he could not afford to stay and find out. He already knew that Volrath and Maraxus would not give him back his daughter, not even as a reward for this treachery. Shivering again, he turned and fled the room. Once on deck, he slipped easily over the side and down the rope ladder to the ground below. Without another look over his shoulder, he disappeared into the night, away from Maraxus and away from the Weatherlight.

The following morning, the Weatherlight, without Sisay aboard, set sail for Benalia.

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