Anja and the Druid

Chapter 4

The Rescuers!

Anja's party moved out and under the glare of the Blaue Monck and Prinz Eugen peaks, headed southward. The Konig Eric Pass climbed steadily upward with only the occasional downhill stretch to ease the calves and the travellers were glad of the overcast sky they travelled beneath. When they broke to rest at mid afternoon, the Citadel was still in view, a dark spot beside the Blausee. They managed only another ten kilo's before the light began to fade, so by popular consent they made camp in the lee of a bluff that ran parallel to the roadway.

If their luck held they were now perhaps as close as half a day, but certainly no more than three, behind those they sought. They each took a watch during the cold night, but none slept well or long. After a quick breakfast they rejoined the trail and after little more than two hours, the Hohe See came into sight, the dunes of the Southern Desert rising away beyond to the horizon.

As they made the slight descent into the basin that the lake sat in, they kept watch for the kidnappers, but it was evident that they were departed. They reached the northern shore and Dav located a recent campsite that seemed to confirm the nomad's tale. They rested awhile; Anja noted a renewed interest in the Mogwach's eyes as it sat with them. Resuming their quest, they followed the roadway as it hugged the western shore to the lakes southern tip, then began the steep ascent up into the dunes that encircled the Southern Desert. By noon they had reached the cairn marking the edge of the desert proper and the Mogwach was getting quite agitated.

After they had eaten, they moved on but after a short way Dav called a halt and with Ogen he went to investigate some tracks in the dry earth. Returning to his waiting companions he apprised them that a party of the size they sought had headed out south east into the desert. Not the news that Anja or any of the party particularly wanted to hear, but if they were to rescue Vymura and Mercedes, they would have to follow.

The Southern Desert, although surrounded by sand dunes of prodigious size was in fact mostly an arid plateau of loose soil, which blew about constantly in dust clouds. Cacti and a few other hardy plants suited to the arid conditions made the most of any moisture available. The trail left by the marauders was easy to follow for now, Dav estimated it at less than a day old, however a dust cloud could obliterate it at any time. By mid afternoon they walked beneath a clear blue sky, even with the ever-present wind the temperature was just barely bearable. They walked until nightfall then settled down for a sleepless night on the desert, the howl of Desert Fox punctuated the rapidly cooling air at regular intervals.

Pieter spotted a fireglow across the desert, but at this distance there was no way to know if it was of those they sought or just a nomad camp. They resumed their pursuit before the sun's arrival on a particularly clear day, much clearer than any since their arrival at the monastery. As a result, the heat built steadily until what started out as a cooling breeze changed to a searing draught, so that by mid morning they were encumbered by a large percentage of their clothing. Soon after their luck turned, a dark smudge on the horizon to the west approached and revealed itself as a dust storm of some ferocity.

They huddled under their cloaks in the little shelter some stunted bushes allowed whilst the storm passed. When they re-emerged some two hours later, the tracks they had been following had effectively been vacuumed from existence. Dav attempted to locate signs of passage but to no avail. After a brief discussion they decided that to continue in the general direction they were previously headed was as good a plan as any.

By days end they had still not picked up any sign of their quarry but the cold clear night did, a faint glow of a campfire was revealed, a little south of their day's course. They caught a little more sleep during their second desert night and were much better rested when the sun rose anew. Although they had made little impression on the gap between them and their quarry the previous day, they started the new day with renewed confidence.

Dav led as they set out in the direction of the previous nights fire glow, this day much like the previous one. They crossed a series of bluffs during the morning and shortly before the sun reached its zenith, came to the trail left by those they sought. The Mogwach became highly agitated at this and took some calming down before they could continue. Stopping only briefly to eat and drink, they followed the trail as fast as they could. Late in the afternoon the rock formation known as Goat Skull Rocks appeared on the horizon, their path headed directly for it. When darkness once again overtook them, they continued, now guided by fireglow. They halted around midnight, the Goat Skull outlined by the moonlight, the friends caught a last snatch of sleep before the almost inevitable battle to come, which now dominated their thoughts.

Morning came and the kidnap party was still there unmoved from their camp below the rocks. Anja couldn't believe their luck and it was with minimum delay that they set out to cross the remaining distance. The young woman thought of the Oaes Par currently residing within her tunic and secretly prayed that the Druids words concerning its use were true. The gap was crossed they were quickly hidden within the rocks within hailing distance, no lookouts were posted, the captors obviously secure enough to not bother with such.

They could see now that the captives were held to one side of the still unmoving camp, a nomad style felt tent stood centrally with a line of pack animals tethered nearby. In front of the tent lay the remains of last nights fire, most of the kidnap party were sprawled about the dying embers. Anja and her colleagues were outnumbered by at least three to one; surprise would need to be a major weapon. That meant a night time attack, in the meantime they needed to address the small matter of making good their escape, hopefully with all six of the captives.

Anja led her colleagues to another more sheltered spot where they could keep the camp in view, but which gave some shade from the elements too. The camp was plainly staying put for some reason; the battleground was to be here at Goat Skull Rocks. They spent the wait plotting the evening's exertions and then took turns in topping up the batteries with more sleep. The plan was not for all out attack, rather it was aimed at a stealthy release and escape with the captives with as little trouble as possible. Day turned to night and the members of the rescue party moved to their positions nearer to the campsite.

A nearly full moon in a clear sky provided illumination enough for the watchers as they waited for the camp's activity to cease. Pieter's patience was wearing thin but sense ruled the day, his colleagues restraining him from hasty action. Eventually the last of the abductors settled down for the night and Anja's party moved in.

Dav kept watch on the sleeping ruffians while Anja, Pieter and the Mogwach made their way to the prisoners. Ogen found his master, the Prince Vymura, the sell sword and her friend making short work of the prisoner's bindings. Within five minutes the rescue party and the rescued were gone from the campsite, Dav even managed to purloin some extra supplies and spoil more to delay the still slumbering kidnappers.

Escapees and escort were soon at the Goat Skull Rocks where a brief regrouping took place. The group now consisted of a round dozen including the Mogwach, too many in Anja's view. Explanations were kept to a minimum while Dav ensured all present had supplies. After a short discussion it was agreed that they would split into two groups, anja would take Vymura, his intended Mercedes, with Ogen and a young man name of Ordi. Dav and Pieter would escort the larger party to their rendezvous at the Bochumwaldsee.

The larger party moved out westward while anja led her charges south. They made good progress through the night and early morning so that as night began fading to day they were already in the high dunes that split the desert in two east to west. Ordi was constantly watching their trail for pursuit but so far no sign of such was to be seen and shortly after dawn, anja called a halt.

Back at the Goat Skull Rocks, discovery of the escape had resulted in much shouting and Dav's work at scuppering their supplies brought renewed anger. The mercenaries had soon found the trail of the escapees, the big mistake they made was in following the bigger group in pursuit of the prince.

With the girl Mercedes the exception, they each took a watch whilst the sun crossed the sky, anja having impressed on them the need for rest before the nights activity. A makeshift tent of capes provided protection in the heat of the day, anja exchanged the tale of pursuit with her new charges one of capture and forced march. As the temperature dropped, they ate in preperation for the nights walk across the dunes. So it was that with a sinking sun the five set out southward again across the high sands.

Progress was often difficult and as the moon reached its zenith they were still amongst the sands. After a brief stop for refreshment they resumed walking now in a more westerly direction. Another hours walk saw them break out of the dunes onto a hard packed desert floor. Anja now led the party almost directly west skirting the sands to their right. Walking being much easier now, the fugitives progress enough that when they camped as dawn arrived, they had covered an additional twenty kilometres.

To the north Dav and Pieter were making somewhat slower progress; their pursuers were gaining, if slowly on them despite their supply shortages. The escapees included four young women, none of whom were used to such a march, they tired quickly and needed more rest than the males in the party or their pursuers.

The second day passed as uneventful for Anja's party as the previous one and once again they started out in the failing light of dusk. The now full moon lit their way allowing a good pace to be kept up throughout the night and early morning. Mercedes although not complaining was obviously in some distress by the time they halted, Vymura having to lend support for the last hour of travel.

Another typical desert day passed, the heat reaching in excess of 40 degrees shortly after noon and staying there until early evening. The elven girl had recovered well by the time Anja indicated they should move on, although the prince was as ready as ever to offer his beloved his assistance. Two hours after midnight they struck the road that led south east to Odin Bay and west to the Klein Glacier. Now out of the desert proper a bit more vegetation was in evidence as they moved on to the west.

As dawn arrived, the tired party could see the mountains ahead of them and to their left the hollow which the Bochumwald occupied could just be made out. Ordi found some suitable shelter away from the roadway for the day's rest and they all collapsed thankfully from their day's exertions.

No one passed on the track that day and the rested party resumed their travels as night again descended. The cool of the night didn't prevent them building a head of steam by the time they reached the cairn marking the crossing of the Konig Eric Pass. After a brief stop for food and drink they continued, selecting now the road south toward the Bochumwald and the Plain of Aragon. The rolling road delivered them to the rim of the Bochumwald shortly after dawn; the waters of their destination could just be seen glinting in the distance.

Today however, instead of camping for the whole day, they rested only for a short time before resuming their march. The tired travellers dropped down into the bowl of the forest into a dim world of shrieking birds and dense undergrowth. They went cautiously along the road, the trees keeping them from direct sunlight but making the roadway they traversed very humid.

The road rose and dipped gently across the floor of the depression, the sub tropical fauna covering the ground in every direction without break, apart from the roadway. By early evening however they came to a more open area and away to their right, their destination, Bochumwaldsee. With Ordi bringing up the rear they crossed the broad clearing to the lakeside where they made camp to await the larger party, who it must be said were taking a much more circuitous route to the lake.

Once her companions were settled in to await the other party, anja excused herself from the campsite and sought a secluded spot a short way off. She made herself comfortable and retrieved the seeing stone that the Druid had given her some days ago. The instruction she had received with it was rudimentary to say the least, but without really expecting a result she held the orb in her left palm and held her arm out in front of her.

She closed her eyes and envisioned the Druid, moments later she perceived a brought light through her eyelids and on opening her eyes found an intense aura about her hand. She watched as slowly the form of the Druid materialised in miniature in her palm.

'Good day my child' the image addressed her directly much to the young woman's surprise.

'Good day Druid' she replied

'Do not fret, this is but a projected image. How may I assist?'

'I have custody of the Prince, Dav and Pieter have the larger part of the party, I expect them here at Bochumwaldsee tomorrow. What now? Where do we take them?'

'You have done well, I will inform Anaglypta of your success. When the rest of your party arrives you must dress in that blue dress you have been carting about and wear the Oaes Par. Arrange everyone into a ring, each touching the next, the elven magic will then take care of you'

'How? What will happen?'

'I have to go now, farewell'

With that the image in her hand faded and the glow about her hand dimmed leaving just the milky white seeing stone in her palm. She was still confused and awed by what had just occurred, it was several minutes before she regained her composure and returned the orb to its carrying place. The sell sword returned to where Ordi was standing watch and relieved the young elf of that duty.

The remainder of the day was peaceful enough; Mercedes prepared a meal that was indeed fit for a prince, from their meagre rations. Vymura and Ordi spelled Anja at watch, an arrangement that continued through the night. However Anja slept little, going over the druids comments and speculating over the part that the Oaes Par had and would play.

Dawn arrived, heralded by birdsong from the surrounding forest and with Ordi's assistance, Mercedes again prepared a meal. They waited, patiently for the most part, all of that day and by evening anja was becoming concerned for her friends. In the fading light of evening however, the weary party hove into view and soon all were reunited.

Whilst the elves prepared vitals for the new arrivals, Anja took Dav and Pieter to one side and revealed her contact with the Druid. In return her colleague told of their oft-fraught journey to join her. They agreed that the Oaes Par should be used ASAP, they were still being pursued.

Anja departed from the now busy campsite and returning to her refuge, changed into the blue gown as the Druid had instructed and placed the Oaes Par at her neck and completed the arrangement with the matching drop earrings. Pausing only to brush her tangled hair into some sort of order, she returned to the others who were by now aware of what was to occur and were waiting expectantly.

Dav motioned for them to form the circle, the Prince at Anja's left with Mercedes next, the Mogwach at his ankles. To her left, Pieter stood next to Ordi and then in turn Dav with the other elves ranged to fill the space to Mercedes. Anja looked apprehensively about the clearing then without further ado motioned that they should each hold their neighbours' hands, so that quickly they were all joined in this fashion and stood in an unbroken ring.

The Oaes Par began to glow, an intense blue light enveloping first anja then quickly the entire circle until those opposite could be seen only faintly through the aura. A keening broke the silence, building slowly into a wail that stopped as suddenly as it started, the light disappearing simultaneously. They looked about to find themselves not in a forest clearing but in a meadow that was part of a landscape that anja did not recognise. The elves however did as they erupted into a flurry of hugging and general excitement.

Pieter drew her attention to a group of riders approaching from the meadows edge, the rescue party each readied themselves for combat, anja cursing under her breath at the gown she wore. However it was soon apparent that the riders were elves aboard their sturdy ponies, at their head was the king himself, Anaglypta, the prince rushed to greet his father. When the furore died down some the king raised his arms for quiet so he could address the gathering.

'The bearer of the Oaes Par has completed the task requested, our thanks go to you and your companions. Come we will feast at the palace.'

At a discreet signal, ponies were brought forward for the new arrivals. The three adventurers but rarely rode, Dav in particular found it trying. However they were all soon mounted on the sturdy little beasts and on their way to the royal residence. After what seemed like eternity but was in fact less than an hour, they entered the palace of Anaglypta. Families were reunited, the sell sword and her friends thanked many times over. The wily old king eventually rescued the trio from the throng and escorted them personally to the guest wing where a wizened house servant took charge of them. Soon they were each ensconced in comfortable apartments, where they were able to rest a while before joining the royal party in a quiet evening meal.

When anja awoke next morning it was to be greeted by breakfast and her clothes freshly laundered. A bath was also waiting, a commodity she was in need of after the days in the desert, and sand had gotten into some odd places during their flight!

When she emerged from her quarters, freshly laundered and refresh in waiting page escorted her to the throne room where she found Dav and Pieter along with the King, his son and several other elves, whom Anja did not recognise that were obviously of some importance within the elven community. She was all warmly greeted, but felt a little uncomfortable. The killing brought the gathering to order and made a short speech of thanks, Anja felt more for protocol than a genuine need, and he finished by inviting the three rescuers to remain in Empiron few days before returning to the domain of man.

The young ones the curiosity was immeasurable and with nods of ascent from her friends accepted the invitation. Over the next day's free explored Empiron, the city and its surrounds, they were welcomed everywhere and payment was refused for anything they required.

The city stood among low rolling hills and in its centre stood the palace enclosure. Seemingly on every corner were public gardens tended by a small army of gardeners. The white washed cottages and houses of the city were also decked with window boxes containing blooms, some additionally bore painted designs decorating doorways, windows and eaves. People were of a universal good nature and exchanged greetings with the visitors without reserve.

Beyond the city's boundaries the country contained a few small farms, stock farms breeding the ubiquitous elven ponies, and others growing grain and keeping cattle. The country was teeming with game of every type, pheasant, partridge, Woodcock, the small roe deer and the locally indigenous pigs. Their questions were always answered with candour except when they alluded to where on the Continent Empiron was, those enquiries always side-stepped.

They remained in the city for the marriage of Vymura and Mercedes where they were honoured guests, soon after Anja's itchy feet made their presence felt and Anaglypta was informed of their desire to depart. They could not however leave without a further show of hospitality; a huge banquet was thrown in their honour. After the festivities, Anaglypta again took them to the throne room.

'Anja, you and your friends, accepted the challenge of the movie Oaes Par with honour and vigour and again on the dole than people find you. However now that you have your side of the bargain I must tell you of ours. When the Stones were set they were imbued with several properties which would remain inherent until this last act. Only one of these remains extant, that of teleportation, providing the true holder of the Oaes Par is wearing them, they and any number of others can pass to Empiron as you did recently simply by forming an unbroken ring. If performed in the city you will be returned from where you left. Few know how to access the Elven Kingdom but to you this method of arrival is permitted. Do not use it frivolously but if you need our help please use it Go now, may your journey's be pleasant and your lives long.'

With that he left the three alone.

They retrieved their packs from their lodgings and reassembled in the throne room. The newly Weds and Ordi awaited them and the six of them exchange farewells. Eventually though with entreaties to return they separated and the travellers formed the circle and again experienced the powers of the blue stones. When the light receded they were again in the Bochumwald by the lake.

The party made camp for the remainder of the night and at first light departed to return to more familiar territory. By evening they had reached the crossroads and that night camped in the shelter of the cairn. The new day brought a chill with it as they passed over a low pass and then began dropping to the, despite its name, Klein Glacier. They discussed their recent weeks, Anja now having only vague recollections of any other life and feeling equally at ease with her companions as they were with her.

That evening they sheltered below the Klein Alp and morning saw them resume at their trek. All of that day they skirted the glacier and only in late evening did they reach the Klein See beneath the glaciers limit, the wall of ice almost one hundred metres thick here.

The new day took them along the ravine of the Klein Brucke to the Great Sink where the waters disappeared below ground to emerge over the 200 metres below in the Kloster Vallee. The deafening roar was left behind as the path turned west along the cliff top towards the Grosser Glacier where they camped. from here to the village of Klosters was an easy day's walk despite the distance and by the following evening they were safely within the town's confines.

Pieter wanted to return home as soon as possible, his companions were as yet undecided so they elected to have a farewell meal that night, the young swordsman would then leave next day. So it was that the trio enjoyed a good, honest meal of venison pudding and root vegetables, washed down with copious quantities of ale. By the time they retired for the night they, like much of the inns clientele were more than slightly inebriated.

Due to that, Anja was not quite sure that the feeling of foreboding she felt that night was real or drink induced. Certainly a sense of impending trouble of some sort invaded her thoughts as she drifted in and out of sleep that night.

Want to Comment? click here Email me to Email me

On to Chapter 5 Back to Chapter 3 Look at the Map Back to The Library

Disclaimer The images used above have been selected from various sources. If you hold the copyright to any image and wish it removed contact me.