Authors: Kira Morgana
Party at Castle Grof
Book Two of The Tower and the Eye
A Blue Hour Publication
Published by Blue Hour Publishing 2016
Copyright©Kira Morgana 2015
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system or transmitted in any form by any means without prior written permission of the publisher or author, except by a reviewer who may quote brief passages in a review to be printed in a newspaper, magazine or journal.
The right of Kira Morgana to be identified as the author of this work has been asserted by her in accordance with the Copyright Designs and Patents Act 1988.
The novel is a work of fiction. The names and characters are the product of the author’s imagination and resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental. Objections to the content of this book should be directed towards the author and owner of the intellectual property rights as registered with their local government.
Cover Design by Elizabeth Bank
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Castle Grof has claimed the lives of many already, but Lord Harnaz of Valdez is determined to clear the menace of the dungeon underneath the ruins completely.
Drawn into the quest with a barbarian warrior, a monk of Tyr and an old friend, Aranok and his half sister, Ariana, begin to wonder if they will actually return to their home in the elven realm of Alethdariel alive…
High in the Heart Mountains stands a Tower. The rough-cut basalt walls grow from the forbidding landscape and form a shape reminiscent of a giant ossified tree. The dark red glow discharged from the encircling windows into the predawn darkness is the only sign that someone is home…
From his throne, Aracan Katuvana surveyed the room around him, his hood obscuring his face. A suit of black armour hung on a stand to one side, a sinister helm with a mottled gold crown riveted to the brow on a table beside it. On the weapon’s stand next to the table, a massive double-handed sword and black steel mace glittered in the candlelight.
Clapping his hands, the Aracan summoned an ancient, gnarled Goblin wearing a black tabard.
The goblin bowed to the red and black robed figure on the tarnished throne and turned to a pedestal where a large, polished basalt Jar with a carving of a monocular face on the front rested.
The eye opened; an iris like green swirling mist regarded the goblin.
“Well? I can’t see what is going on from here, Stupid.”
The Goblin bowed again, moved behind the pedestal and picked the Jar up.
“Good Morrow, Lord,” the Jar said as the Goblin brought it around to face Aracan Katuvana. “What is your plan for this fine day?”
Rising, the Aracan strode to the western windows, his robes flowing softly around him. The Goblin scurried behind, carrying the Jar.
Tapping a symbol engraved into the windowsill, Katuvana brought up the image of a large city amongst foothills, cradled on one side by red rock and on the other by the granite.
The Jar blinked and pursed its lips.
“If I do not miss my guess that is Valdez, the capital city of Valdier. What do you wish to know?”
Katuvana grunted. The Jar looked up at the Goblin.
“Stupid, put me down and bring volume three of the Valdier text.”
The goblin put the Jar on a plinth next to the window, turned and left the room, his joints creaking. He returned with a massive book, which he placed on a reading stand beside the Jar.
“Page eight hundred and three, Stupid.” The Jar watched as the goblin turned the pages, counting silently. When he stopped turning the pages, the Jar ran its eye over the text quickly. “Very well Lord, here is the overview of Valdier: Home to a valiant and brave people who fight for what they believe in, but have sharp tempers and sharper swords.” The Jar let out a bark of a laugh. “Sounds like they’d make excellent additions to your army, but their sense of honour would cause a few problems.”
The Aracan Katuvana folded his arms, a growling sound emerging from under the hood.
“There are very few from that city in our ranks, my Lord. I take it that you would like to cause some chaos there?” The Jar seemed relieved when the Aracan Katuvana gave a sharp nod. “Where do you wish to start?”
Katuvana pressed a second icon and the view zoomed into the north side of the city, centring on a large building on one side of a market square.
“Ah, the Mountain’s Shadow Tavern, plenty of potential entertainment here. Is there anyone in particular within that you would like to use?” The Jar smiled as the Aracan indicated a barbarian warrior, sitting outside.
The warrior had a large tankard of ale in one hand and a bread roll in the other. Across from him, a mage in the grey robes of neutrality picked at a plate of cheese and bread in front of him.
“An excellent choice, Lord. Would you prefer to possess or just watch this human?”
The Aracan Katuvana snapped his fingers and the view focused on the warrior.
* * *
A fly swooped past Grald’s eyes, buzzing.
“What was that?” he muttered. The fly looped around and landed on his nose.
“Stay right there, you insectile nuisance,” he said and aimed a slap at it and then cursed as he hit his own face. “Whoops.” He blinked rapidly to uncross his eyes.
“What was what?” his undernourished companion asked, looking up from his plate as he spread soft cheese on a hunk of bread.
“Something buzzed me and now I feel odd,” Grald mumbled, trying to work out what he’d done to himself.
“You always feel odd drinking Wingdangs. Why don’t you try the local mead?” the other man said.
“You may have it there, Shilir. Ho, bar wench.” Grald waved at one of the girls who were delivering food and drink to a nearby table, momentarily forgetting the flagon of Wizard Wingdangs Original Ale in that hand. It slopped over the side of the tankard and splashed all over the dwarf sitting at the next table.
“What do ye think ye’re doing, Laddie!” The dwarf erupted out of his seat, the sweet, caramel-smelling ale dripping from the horns on his helm and soaking into his thick beard.
“I’m sorry sir, it was an accident and he didn’t mean anything by it.” Shilir got up and pushed between Grald and the dwarf.
“A lad that big never does things by accident, mage,” the dwarf said.
“Believe me, in the whole time I have known him, Grald has done a lot of things by accident,” Shilir essayed a nervous grin.
“Shilir, get out of the way; let me deal with this half-pint drinker.” Grald surged forward and looked surprised when Shilir pushed him back. He stumbled, caught himself against the table and bit his tongue. “Ow.”
“Half-Pint drinker, ye say? I’ll have ye’re ears for that, ya overgrown lout.” The dwarf threw Shilir aside and launched himself at the barbarian.
Scrambling up from the ruins of the bench he had landed on, Shilir almost knocked someone in white robes flying. Elbowing his way through the gathering crowd he dashed into the bar.
“Help, my companion won’t be able to defend himself. Help him!”
The Tavern Keeper glanced out at the fight going on outside and shook his head, rolling his eyes. “I hope he can pay for the damage.”
Shilir groaned and turned to the half-elf beside him. “Please?”
“Which one is your friend?” the half-elf asked, looking over at the fight.
“Grald the Barbarian.” Shilir started to panic and grabbed the half-elf’s arm.
“The big guy? You’re worried about the dwarf beating
up. He looks like he can handle himself,” the half-elf laughed.
“You don’t understand. He’s been drinking Wizard Wingdangs Original Ale... it weakens him to the point where a kitten could maim him with one swat of its tail; even a feather could knock him over.
“Why should we help your friend? I don’t even know why the fight started.” A feminine voice floated over his shoulder. Shilir turned to see the white robed mage he had bumped into.
“You took your time, Ariana,” the half-elf said, without turning round.
“The Guild wanted to hear my report. It took a little while,” Ariana replied, irritation etching her elegant face.
“If it had taken any longer, you’d have been peeling me up off the floor.”
“Well, if you didn’t drink human ale, Aranok, you wouldn’t need my hangover potion.” The mage looked over at the fight in the corner. “The barbarian does seem to be coming off worse in his fight with the dwarf.”
Shilir looked at Ariana hopefully. “Can you help?”
“I used most of my mana up on illusions during my report. Sorry, big brother.” She shook her head. “I haven’t replenished my mana potions yet.” Ariana tilted her head to one side and smiled at Shilir. “Unless you have a spare one?”
Shilir groaned. “I haven’t restocked yet either. Grald and I only arrived this morning.”
Grald was starting to wonder if responding to the dwarf had been a bad idea. An insistent trickle of blood from a cut on his forehead interfered with his vision, dripping through his thick eyebrows.
“How about we talk about this?” he asked, wiping his eyes again.
The dwarf growled and slammed a fist into Grald’s chest. Grald gasped and staggered back.
“Maybe not then,” he wheezed, grabbing the dwarf by his chest plate and attempting to drop kick him through the window. Unfortunately his befuddled body barely allowed him to lift the dwarf off the ground.
The dwarf leaned back in his grip, planted a foot into Grald’s stomach and used the other one to kick at his nose. Grald lurched backward, sat down hard on a bench and dropped the dwarf at the same time.
The dwarf landed on his chest and took the opportunity to punch Grald in the mouth. The bench tipped from the movement, sending the labourer sitting on it flying through the air into the window and spilling both Grald and the dwarf onto the straw strewn cobbles.
The window smashed as the labourer flew through it and landed on a table. The occupants of the table, a group of bakers having their lunchtime game of cards, swore as the cards and coins scattered under the man’s landing.
The table broke, all the tankards on it tipped over and the bakers left trying to gather up their coppers and piled onto the unfortunate labourer.
“I’ll be adding that window to your friend’s bill.” The Tavern Keeper carried on polishing his tankards calmly.
Sighing, Aranok pulled a field tip arrow out of his quiver and twisted on his stool to face the fight. The crowd around the bar drew back as he sighted along it and threw it like a dart.
Grald stood up and stared in shock at the result of his near miss with a dwarven boot.
“Did I do that?” he murmured, swaying a little as the dwarf tried to trip him up.
Something brushed past his ear, so he turned to see what it was. Tripping over his own feet, Grald fell over and landed on the next table. The boards splintered under his weight and as Grald hit the floor, he knocked himself senseless on his own mace.
“Hah! That’s what ye get for spilling ale on Avinger McCraken!” The dwarf laughed and kicked Grald in the balls. Then he stomped away, shouting, “I ain’t standing for that kind o’treatment. I’m gonna get the Watch!”
“Oh great, now I have to try and pick him up again. I put my back out for a week last time I did that. I don’t suppose that you could give me a hand?” Shilir groaned.
“Yeah, all right,” Aranok said, handing his bow and quiver to Ariana before following Shilir out to the prone barbarian.
Ariana took their things to a free table, while between them the skinny mage and the half-elven ranger manhandled the eight-foot slab of muscle into the tavern and onto the bench across from her.
“You got one of those hangover potions?” Aranok waved a hand at his companion.
She sighed and rummaged in her bag.
“Here, pour this down his throat.” Ariana handed Shilir a tiny vial with a red liquid in it. “It takes about three minutes to clear the alcohol’s effects.”
Shilir fed Grald the potion.
“I’d better go and pay the Tavern Keeper for the damage. Can I get you a drink to show my thanks?” He pulled out his money pouch as he stood up.
“Galivorn Firewater, please,” Aranok said, dropping onto a stool beside Ariana.
“Aleth Ale for me, please,” Ariana smiled at the skinny mage, who smiled back hesitantly.
Aranok grimaced at his sister’s effect on men. “Ariana, stop that!”
She laughed. “You stop with the protective brother thing then.”
“Be careful around my sister, Mage. She had an even half dozen men of all sorts of races chasing her the last time I looked.” Aranok rolled his eyes.
Shilir blushed. “Ah. Can you stay here and keep an eye on my friend, please. I’ll, um, be back in a jiffy.” He wandered off in the direction of the bar.
Aranok waved a hand. “Will do.”
“Aranok, you’re just too soft hearted, do you know that? We should be restocking for our trip home,” Ariana said, rummaging in her cloak pockets as the other mage disappeared into the crowd.
“I know,” the Ranger grunted. “It comes from my mother’s half. We can wait a couple of hours before we set out.” Settling his back against the wall, Aranok yawned and closed his eyes.
“No falling asleep on me, Aranok, or I’ll pour your drink over you to wake you up,” Ariana warned him.
Aranok stuck his tongue out at her without opening his eyes.
“I swear you’re the most childish half-elf I have ever met,” his sister sighed. “Liana will never say yes if you don’t grow up soon.”
“She’ll say yes. I know she will,” the ranger grunted. “We grew up together, I know her better than I know you.”
“Only because you two were born a hundred or so years before me.” Ariana shook her head. “And you’re still acting like you’re a child of fifty, not an adult of a hundred and ninety-two.”
The tavern door flew open, forestalling Aranok’s rejoinder and Avinger McCraken stormed back into the common room, followed by a full squad of the City Watch.
“Where is he, McCraken?” the officer asked in a noble accent, as he absently balled a soft cloth from a belt pouch and buffed the gilded vambrace protecting his left forearm.
The dwarf scanned the room, and spotted Grald rising groggily from the bench as the potion finished its work. The dwarf yelled, and pointed at Grald.