The Mardots' Deceit

     Ckowlyn reared her antimony head into the greenish haze that drifted along the banks of the seaport. The haze broke up into a grid pattern not unlike a fine mesh sieve. She could smell the nearness of her quarry, and was tense with the excitement.
     Tense also was Greunweiln. His fleet of longships had travelled for nigh onto eighty seven days to come this far. With each passing day Greunweiln paced the deck in greater agitation. On the evening of the sixty fifth day he felt that he could stand it no longer, and desired Tzimar to strike dead any of his crewmen who gave not all they could to row faster. Day by day he grew ever moreso anxious. And every time that his fleet drew near to a planet realm he cursed Ckowlyn for making no motion to signal their arrival at the ports of the North lands wherein the Lunn dwelt.
     In silence, for so long, they had traveled the skies' oceans, guided by Ckowlyn. Even as they slept with sails drawn tight to form a tent across lowered mast poles, Ckowlyn was alert and watching. In patience she searched for her quarry.
     But now Ckowlyn reared her majestic head and caused the mist to fragment. The clear blue of the skies gave way to bands of varying tones. The light shining forth from Helmantma swirled in helical swaths toward the Lunn seaports. The obsidian hulls of the great longships were made to sparkle with the lustre of cut diamonds. Greunweiln laughed a hearty laugh as he gazed down on the Lunn who stared transfixed at the unearthly display of light and cascading geometric shapes. He laughed, knowing that they were blinded by the dazzling visions. And Tzimar smiled for Ckowlyn's success.
     Through the bewitched air Greunweiln, The Balance In Space, passed with his silent armada. All the Lunn stared straight through flotilla and their Mardots squadron without even seeing them, their senses deadened in mesmerized trance.
     All, that is, except Baeoinfaermn. To be sure, he was amazed at the spectacle, but he was versed in the alchemical arts, and could not be so easily misled. He had never met with the Mardots, but he knew of their art. Very few of the arts had escaped his study in his quest to know the TrueArt. Like Nordo before him, he understood well the marriage between the visual and occult arts.
     When he had first espied the illusions that the Mardots fabricated to conceal their entry into the lands of the Lunn, Baeoinfaermn sensed their deceit. He knew not the reason for this deceit, but he instinctively realized that their visit to the North Lands was not to be on friendly terms.
     Baeoinfaermn was in the act of latching his door shut when the Mardots host fell upon him. They battered at his door with their quarterstaffs hewn of blackest ebony and ironwood. With halberd wrought of invar and ytterbium they hacked at the shuttered windows. Their assault was relentless.
     "Let no man dream of returning home to Ęberaun alive if this worm be not taken" Greunweiln raged.
     Despite the barricades he constructed before all portals of ingress, his defences could not withstand the force of the Mardots' thrusts, and Baeoinfaermn reached for a crucible of magical powder. As his fingers touched the glassen surface which held the red stone he heard the splintering crunch of wood at his back. The Mardots had broken through.
     He could see that struggle would be futile with the points of at least a dozen scimitars aimed at his throat. He stood there in mortal fear for what seemed like an eternity, with the shrill whistle of the Mardots' growls ringing in his ears. But this died away as his captors parted to permit the entrance of Greunweiln into the room. With surety and determination he strode into the hall, himself carrying Ckowlyn who sparked and spurted illusions of triangular and circular shapes into the air. Perhaps it was because of Ckowlyn's majestic radiance that Greunweiln appeared more radiant than even the light which poured from Helmantma to light the dark of the waning hours. Perhaps it came from the glow of success that shone from his brooding and slitted eyes that highlighted Greunweiln's appearance. In any case, he cut a striking figure as he strode through the door, past the parting troops to face the fair Baeoinfaermn, whom the Lunn called The Wind What Canst Sleep.
     In notes culled from the A Major chord Greunweiln sang out, "The Tales Of The Golden Comet And Sundry winds Of King Nordo are mine, and so you must give them to me now!"
     "No" said Baeoinfaermn in reply, "the Tales were committed unto the Lunn by Nordo himself, and your claims are false."
     This infuriated Greunweiln much, and he made a motion as if to strike he who is called The Wind What Canst Sleep with the staff of Ckowlyn. Tzimar stilled his rash hand with a hot wind that he drew from the folds of his voluminous cloak.
     "My friend, there are other ways" he said calmly.
     Without another word, Tzimar raised his arms above his head, and began to hum a haunting melody much like that which echoes through the jagged spires of treacherous Ęberaun. The ghostly serenade started out softly at first, and built steadily, to the point where it scorched the ears of all in the room, and even the Mardots were obliged, to put their hands over their ears from the pain that ensued.
     In a delirium that spread over Baeoinfaermn, the figures of those about him became diffuse and hazy. He swayed slightly for an instant, and then lurched forward to the floor of hand wrought chalcedony. But he never seemed to reach the floor. He kept falling forward as if through something wet and sticky. In moist, sucking sounds it pressed around him in orange oblivion.
     He soon came to realize that it was this same wet and sticky substance that was the sound produced by the conjurings of Tzimar. It was in the instant that he realized the nature of the enchantment that he broke through its hellish grasp, and found himself sprawled upon the floor all alone. His eyes darted swiftly around him, but fell upon none of the Mardots.
     It was now morning for Helmantma shone its warmth through the gaping shreds of what had been a door. He could not be sure of how many days he might have lain there. The only thing he was certain of was that the Mardots had tricked him, and were probably well on their way back to Ęberaun.
     Baeoinfaermn pulled himself up from his prone position, and started across the room to where he kept the sacred writings of Nordo safe within the confines of an oaken chest. He tried to convince himself that they would be lying there in peace, that he had only imagined all that went before in a cruel nightmare. But his worst fears were proven true when he undid the hasp and yanked open the lid to find the chest bare of all its contents.

     Just then a splintering crash ripped the air behind Baeoinfaermn. He turned around quickly, and stared straight into the grinning faces of Greunweiln and Tzimar.
     "I'll have the book now, if you please" Greunweiln stated, "or would you prefer to join our dance a short while longer?"
     Baeoinfaermn's eyes darted back to the chest, and there the book of Nordo lay, unharmed upon its cushion of brocade. He was confused. An expression of dazed shock that betrayed his feeling of nightmarish futility spread across his face; he could feel the involuntary stiffening of his jaw muscles, and it only aggravated his helplessness. He reached for the book, but the pain of tension in his face gave way to the pain of a backhanded slap that Greunweiln gave him, and instead of touching the soft velvet of the book's cover his hands drew up to feel the warm blood that broke through the skin just below his right eye.
     "It was cruel of Tzimar to deprive me of that pleasure before", The Balance In Space said in a laugh. He grabbed up the fabled book, and clenched it tight to his chest. "Your meek Lunn neighbors did not give us the fight we so desired. This trip was a waste in that respect; we had much hoped to engage in a grand battle in order that our tales would be worth the while to tell when we return to Ęberaun. But you worms spoiled it all."
     "Much as I hate to once more abridge your amusement, my lord, I would suggest that we, in haste, sail back to Ęberaun, for she calls out for your return. Her spires wait to congratulate you on the recovery of your cherished tome." Tzimar's well timed speech halted Greunweiln's intention to strike, the Wind What Canst Sleep yet another time.
     As Greunweiln stepped away from him, Baeoinfaermn looked into the eyes of Tzimar. He thought he sensed a bit of compassion in the fellow alchemist's gaze. Such is the way of those who know art. He made no move to retaliate against the accursed Greunweiln, partly out of fear from what had just gone before, and partly out of respect for the wager Tzimar had staked in decoying Greunweiln.
      As Greunweiln strode past him and out of the hall, Tzimar turned back to Baeoinfaermn and said, "you shall be spared this time only because in my heart I regret this foul deed, but be warned that should you attempt to retrieve the book from my lord at some future time, I will not so readily side with you. The course of events are laid, and my arts are futile against them. There is no art that can change reality, art can only change our view of reality.
     With that he turned, and the Mardots were no more in the North Lands.