Far Horizons: Tales of Sci-Fi, Fantasy and Horror. Issue #13 April 2015 - Page 140

Gamying and Aglaral tended their wounds. Kris uncurled himself and stood up. He looked sheepishly towards Manfred. “Forgive me great Sage, I...” of burning flesh and the howls of agony. By the time the sun had risen, the wargs were gone. Many partially burned bodies remained, together with the three that had died by the sword. Manfred replaced his staff inside his cloak. Just one time, I’m going to blow the end of my staff like a gunslinger in a western movie. He laughed at the thought. Manfred cut him short. “Not now. We shall talk at length when we get below the mountain at Devil’s Mouth. Your actions tonight may have cost us dearly.” Kris returned to his foetal position and rocked backwards and forwards. He seemed to be in despair. There “My Sage,” Aglaral said. “Why do you laugh?” is more going on there than I have the time to fathom at the moment. I’ll deal with him later. Let him stew in “You wouldn’t understand, my friend. Just an old his own juices. Bring on the dogs. man’s vanity. Let us be away from here as quickly as we can. The creatures that eat carrion warg are not Manfred didn’t have to wait too long. The first rays of pretty or sweet smelling.” dawn were visible on the horizon. In the gloom, the pack assembled again, restless, nervous, and eager to As they made ready to leave, forsaking breakfast for finish the job. The leader again moved forward. “Why a rapid departure, Gamying approached Manfred and fight? All die soon. Make easy for you. Better tear whispered to him. “Was it wise to tell Weylyn about throat. Slow death not funny. What say you?” the Hero?” Manfred stood up and slowly drew himself to his full height, his aged back creaking and complaining. The wizened old man withdrew his staff from inside his cloak and held it before him. The staff began to glow with blue light and Manfred seemed to grow to twice his height. His voice now was loud and powerful. “Be gone, wargs! Lest I turn you all into rat fodder. Know you not with whom you are dealing? I am Manfred the Magician, leader of the Council of the Wise, maintainer of the Balance. You will let me and my companions pass to Devil’s Mouth and on to Tamarlan without further hindrance. Cross me, and you shall pay with your lives. Take this message to Weylyn your leader. Tell him that Manfred is coming for him and he brings the Everlasting Hero to cleanse FirstWorld of him and all of his scum.” The leader snarled with fury and jumped forward to attack Manfred’s throat. Gamying and Aglaral were too slow to react and the warg crossed the threshold. Manfred muttered a few words and a bright flash jumped from his staff to the warg. The warg’s anger quickly changed to surprise, then pain and fear. Its shaggy coat erupted into flames. It was flung backwards, out of the hut and into the midst of the pack. It screamed its last howl. The flames quickly spread to others. The air was filled with acrid smoke, the smell “The damage had already been done, by Kris. Better now to let him think we are further advanced than we are. It may panic him, or rather his master, to premature actions that may aid our cause. He will wonder whether we have the Sword. We have not played all of our cards yet.” “Let us hope that we will have that card to play.” “Let us hope indeed.” Manfred’s thoughts turned again to Simon. He looks on me as a grandfather. Would a grandfather send his grandson on such a dangerous errand without support? Again, Gamying seemed to sense his mood. “You could do no more than you have done, Manfred. The power of the four you have sent will be enough. Let us climb the Ice Stair and visit my good friend Dia son of Din son of Dane, King Beneath the Mountain. Things will look better with a foaming pint of ale in your hand, a good meal in your belly, and a warm fire to tell tales around.” They left the noisome hut and the bloody battleground and began the long ascent of the Ice Stair. The fresh, crisp morning air cleansed them of the foul odours they had endured. They said little. Each was lost in his PAGE 139