Book 8 - Conquest for the Truth - Chapter 15 - The Smoke Grows

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httyyd
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Joined: 10/12/2013

I had in my mind I wanted to write two chapters as I several things have prevented me from writing this week, so reason why this is getting posted on Saturday, as the more I get delayed in writing, the more the ideas of keep coming of what is going to happen.  It is nice that I am getting things figured out, but I am getting too many ideas and I need to get it written down in chapter format so I can move on to other things.  But as this chapter went, I think I ended up writing two chapters anyway.

 

Hope you all enjoy the 6,511 word chapter!

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The Wedding

New - Part 4

 

Book 8 Coming Soon!!

 

Destiny in the Dark

Chapter 3 - Friends and Enemies

 

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Here are links to the chapters of my fan-fic series.  The books go in chronological order.

 

The Clue of the Missing Socks.

Chapters 1 and 2                         Chapter 3                                       Chapter 4

Chapter 5                                      Chapter 6                                        Chapter 7

Chapters 8 and 9                        Chapter 10                                     Chapter 11

Chapters 12 and 13                     Chapters 14, 15, and 16             Chapter 17

Chapter 18                                    Chapter 19                                      Chapter 20

Chapter 21 and 22                      Chapter 23                                     Chapter 24 and 25

Chapter 26 - There is a hidden surprise.  Can you find it?

Chapter 27                                   Chapter 28, Part 1                         Chapter 28, Part 2

Chapter 29                                   Chapter 30                                       Chapter 31

Chapter 32                                   Chapter 33                                       Chapter 34

Chapter 35                                   Chapter 36                                       Chapter 37

Chapter 38                                   Chapter 39                                       Chapter 40

Chapter 41                                   Chapter 42                                       Chapter 43

Chapter 44                                   Chapter 45, Parts 1 and 2

 

The Mysterious Frozen Fire

Chapter 1         Chapter 2         Chapter 3         Chapter 4         Chapter 5         Chapter 6

Chapter 7         Chapter 8         Chapter 9         Chapter 10       Chapter 11       Chapter 12

Chapter 13       Chapter 14       Chapter 15        Chapter 16       Chapter 17       Chapter 18  

Chapter 19       Chapter 20      Chapter 21        Chapter 22, Part 1       Chapter 22, Part 2 

Chapter 22, Part 3

Epilogue/Preview for my Third Story!

 

Thoughts of Guilt

Chapters 1 and 2          Chapters 3 and 4          Chapter 5          Chapter 6          Chapter 7

Chapter 8          Chapter 9          Chapter 10          Chapter 11          Chapter 12, Part 1

Chapter 12, Part 2          Chapter 13         Chapter 14         Chapter 15         Chapter 16

Chapter 17 and 18         Chapter 19         Chapter 20         Chapter 21         Chapter 22

Chapter 23         Chapter 24         Chapter 25         Chapter 26         Chapter 27

Chapter 28         Chapter 29         Chapter 30         Chapter 31         Chapter 32

Chapter 33         Chapter 34         Chapter 35         Chapter 36 and 37

Chapter 38, Part 1         Chapter 39, Part 2         Chapter 40, Part 3         Chapter 41

Chapter 42, Parts 1 and 2         Chapter 43         Chapter 44

Chapter 45, Part 1         Chapter 45, Part 2

 

On the Edge of Mystery

Chapter 1          Chapter 2         Chapter 3        Chapters 4 & 5    Chapter 6, Parts 1 and 2   

Chapter 7          Chapter 8         Chapter 9            Chapter 10       Chapter 11        Chapter 12

Chapter 13        Chapter 14       Chapter 15          Chapter 16        Chapter 17       Chapter 18

Chapter 19        Chapter 20       Chapter 21          Chapter 22       Chapter 23      Chapter 24

Chapter 25        Chapter 26       Chapter 27         Chapter 28        Chapter 29 Parts 1 and 2 

Chapter 30       Chapter 31       Chapter 32 and 33                         Chapter 34 Parts 1 and 2 

Chapter 35 Part 1         Chapter 35 Part 2        Chapter 35 Part 3        Chapter 36

 

The Secret Symbol

Chapter 1    Chapter 2    Chapter 3    Chapter 4    Chapter 5

Chapter 6    Chapter 7     Chapter 8    Chapter 9    Chapter 10

Chapter 11    Chapter 12    Chapter 13    Chapter 14    Chapter 15

Chapter 16    Chapter 17    Chapter 18    Chapter 19    Chapter 20

Chapter 21   Chapter 22   Chapter 23   Chapter 24 and 25

Chapter 26    Chapter 27    Chapter 28    Chapter 29 and 30

Chapter 31    Chapter 32    Chapter 33    Chapter 34    Chapter 35

Chapter 36    Chapter 37    Chapter 38    Chapter 39

Chapter 40 and 41    Chapter 42    Chapter 43, 44, 45, and 46

 

The Legend of Shadow Mountain

Chapter 1    Chapter 2    Chapter 3    Chapter 4    Chapter 5

Chapter 6    Chapter 7    Chapter 8    Chapter 9    Chapter 10

Chapter 11    Chapter 12    Chapter 13    Chapter 14    Chapter 15

Chapter 16   Chapter 17    Chapter 18    Chapter 19    Chapter 20

Chapter 21    Chapter 22    Chapter 23    Chapter 24    Chapter 25

Chapter 26    Chapter 27    Chapter 28    Chapter 29    Chapter 30

Chapter 31    Chapter 32    Chapter 33    Chapter 34    Chapter 35

Chapter 36    Chapter 37    Chapter 38    Chapter 39    Chapter 40

Chapter 41    Chapter 42    Chapter 43    Chapter 44    Chapter 45 & 46

Chapter 47    Chapter 48    Chapter 49    Chapter 50    Chapter 51

 

Teaser "Trailer" for Book 8 - Conquest of the Truth

 

The Crimson Storm

Chapters 1 and 2     Chapter 3    Chapter 4    Chapter 5    Chapter 6

Chapter 7    Chapter 8    Chapter 9    Chapters 10 and 11    Chapter 12

Chapter 13    Chapter 14    Chapter 15    Chapter 16    Chapter 17    Chapter 18

Chapter 19    Chapter 20    Chapter 21    Chapter 22    Chapter 23

Chapter 24    Chapter 25 and 26    Chapter 27    Chapter 28    Chapter 29

Chapter 30    Chapter 31    Chapter 32    Chapter 33    Chapter 34

Chapter 35 and Epilogue

 

The Wedding

Part 1     Part 2     Part 3 

httyyd's picture
httyyd
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Supreme Viking Champion
Joined: 10/12/2013
Drums R Round. Pi R Squared.

This next mix I have picked out is long enough I can use it for more than one chapter, so I may reuse this for the coming chapters but we will see:

10-Hour Music Mix | Epic Music Mega Mix

 

Conquest for the Truth

 

Chapter 15

The Smoke Grows

 

Jarl's Point of View

 

         Over the next several hours, we spend either taking shifts in the lookout tower where Annabeth and I was, taking note of Einar’s forces, taking a crack at the riddle, or simply just resting.  Cazi was the first to admit the riddle is a tough one.  As much as I am itching to do something, waiting, being patient, and making sure I have the ability to attack or protect is more important at the moment.  Plus, planning our next move will also be important.

         The only ones who are left missing are Asvord, Valkarik, Ali, Aiyana, Atali, and Mala.  While I am worried about all them, Asvord is on my mind.  I tell myself I need to think about them all, but Asvord is my sister.  Beyond Annabeth, I will go to nearly any length to protect my family.  Thinking about it in years past, I have been focusing on mysteries more than my own family.  I know my sisters have been with me, but I have not had much time to spend with them.

         Getting married, I have done what I am supposed by moving out and being on my own.  But to see how distraught my mother is and worried my father is, I can feel as though I am responsible.  I put my own mother through this.  They did not have to come.  Then what everyone has been reminding me is they chose to come on their own.  They knew what they were signing up for.  Yet, I feel as though I could have done better, protecting my family and friends.  I have decided in my mind I will do everything in my power to rescue everyone, protect them all, and make Einar and Vixxen pay for all they have done.

         The last point may sound like I want revenge.  I fully admit, when we started falling out of the sky like rain, I did want revenge.  But taking this time to reflect and think, I want justice now.  I will not stoop to their level.  I will make them pay the right way.  And that is making sure both Einar and Vixxen do not get their hands on what this mystery will have upon solving it.  I have to do this for my family, my friends, and the people of Izar.  This line between revenge and avenge is pretty fine.  I mean, there are only two letters different.

         After eating supper, it is well into the night though this far north the sunlight portion of the day is not very long, anyway, we started going over the riddle again.

         Thinking out loud, I suggest to my friends and others present, “Maybe we have been thinking too much of what comes next in the other two lines.  What is Aurum to Izar?”

         Hannah hangs her head up in frustration, “We’ve gone over this a hundred times.”

         “No, I mean look between the lines,” I go on.  “What is Izar known for?”

         Saga answers, “Agriculture and lumber.  But we further don’t know what it has in connection to a viking, a mind, and a dragon?”

         “Let’s just stick with the first line,” I say.  “What is the end product of agriculture?”

         Cazi questions, “Why are you asking more questions?  I thought you said just stick to the first line?”

         “Unless he has figured it out,” Annabeth smiles.  “If he has, then he wants us to figure it out too.  Have you figured it out?”

         “The first line, but maybe the way in which the riddle is supposed to be solved,” I tell her.  “The answer is food or lumber, as those are the result of agriculture and lumber.”

         Annabeth repeats the riddle’s first line with the new words, “Aurum to Izar is like lumber to a viking.  Aurum to Izar is like food to a viking.  Both fit, seeing how this is what Aurum means to Izar.”

         “Think about the next few lines,” I continue.  “What does lumber or food have to do with the mind or a dragon?”

         Elsa pipes in, “Its gotta be food because there hardly isn’t anything else on Jarl’s mind.”

         “Yeah,” I say a bit rhetorically, but they do not notice but Annabeth.  I say the line again, “Aurum to Izar is like food to a Viking.”

         “Great,” Cazi says a bit excited but not happy.  “We figured out one word, we just have four more to go plus the, ‘Who am I?’ part at the end.”

         Annabeth wonders, “Maybe it is only two.  Viking and mind are used twice.  Would the answer from the previous line be used in the next?”

         “Could be,” I agree.  “So, ‘Food to a viking is what to a mind?”

         Dagur, standing behind Annabeth and Heather, says, “I don’t know about Izarians, but certain foods give me the strength I need to knock some heads in.”  He adds as he punches his fist into his hand.

         Ashley submits, “I think Dagur is on to something.  What I often told my students in School of Dragons is that the knowledge they are learning is food for the mind.  Physical food for a viking gives him the energy to knock heads in, as Dagur elegantly put, but food for the mind is what a viking hears.  If the viking remembers it, it becomes knowledge.”

         Going on to the next line, I state, “Foo to a viking is like knowledge to a mind.  Knowledge to a mind is like what to a dragon?”

         Samantha ponders, “We know dragons are intelligent reptiles.  But if each phrase has something in connection to the one before, how does a dragon have a connection to the mind of viking using their knowledge as their strength?”

         Looking around the room, everyone is stumped… But Saga’s face has gone pale.

         Inquiring further, I ask, “Something wrong Saga?”

         “Oh, sorry,” she snaps out of it.  “It is just what Samantha said, struck a chord with me.  I think I solved your riddle.”  Everyone turns to Saga as she restates the whole riddle, “Aurum is to Izar as food is to a viking.  Food to a viking is like knowledge to a mind.  Knowledge to a mind is like a mage to a dragon.  Who am I?  A Dragon Mage!”

         No one here reacts to the solved riddle, so I deduce, “This must have some importance to you and Izar or The Legend of Shadow Mountain and its connection to Izar, because none of us know what a dragon mage is.”

         Saga responds, “It does.  According to legend, no pun intended, Dragon Mages are capable of controlling dragons.  They gain the ability by studying dragons then copying a dragon’s behavior or use a dragon’s ability.  This kind of power is coveted by many and some will take it anyway they can.  The legend says the power can also be obtained forcefully.  Using this force and threats over an Alpha Class dragon or titan wing, Dragon Mage abilities can be received.”

         Annabeth and I look at each other at the mention of “Titan Wing.”

         Saga continues, “No one knows if Dragon Mages were ever a thing or if they still exist.  Dragon Mages are very secretive about their existence.  Supposedly some existed among the population of Izar, but they still kept it a secret.  Not because the Izarians would be afraid of them or try to exile them or something, but that people you think you know turn greedy for power, committing heinous atrocities in order to obtain the power either from the dragons or extracting it from a Dragon Mage.”

         Once Saga concludes, Annabeth and I look at each other again.  We both know the look the other one is giving and know exactly what the other is thinking, “Saga is giving the answer to why Dragon Mage is the answer to, ‘Who am I?’ in the riddle in great detail.  Either the legend or myth talking about dragon mages was detailed itself… Or Saga is speaking from past experience, not from dealing with one… But that she is one!  Her reaction to Samantha’s comment is a telling clue.”

         Most would probably gloss over it, but these little things are what standout to me the most.

         Sif walks over from the shadows, “As many of know, Kaya is our Alpha’s Hand.  She is a type of Dragon Mage, but more because she is bonded to the Alpha closer than a lot of you may realize.  Kaya cannot control the Alpha, but only try to convince it on matters or give advice when dealing with vikings or other dragons even.  If this riddle holds any weight for what is at the end of the mystery, your efforts to solve this mystery before Einar just took top priority.”

         “Not until I get my crew back,” I tell her.

         Sif starts to say something back, but Saga steps in again, “Though this should be our top priority, Jarl’s friends have already gone to lengths to solve the overall mystery because of where they are.  There are still three islands left to be solved.  As Jarl has said, while this riddle is important, there is probably a physical counterpart to solve too.”

         “Well,” Sif sighs.  “If you are going to go out, now is as good a time as any.  To be on the safe side, put on some more Izarian type outer cloaks and such to blend in if you have to move in the open.  Patrols are down as much as they have been all day, still be careful out there.  If you take a small group with you, you can scout out the locations at the very least.  If you are able to solve the puzzle or whatever is out there, then by all means, do it.  If you need more help, then get back here on the double.  If Einar’s forces don’t suspect anything by morning, then they should be on their way.  Unless Einar has a purpose, he doesn’t like to stick around in one place too long, so the same goes for his forces.  Be careful.  I don’t want to have to be the one to rescue your sorry butts.”

         I nod, “Cazi, Annabeth.  You ready?”

         They both jump up and go grab their gear.  I do the same.  Thinking about Sif, she still does not like me or any of the so called “help” Garth was able to bring with him.  But who could blame her?  What help have we been that we liberated her home for a few days before Einar comes back and takes it back as if my crew and I did not even exist.  But we must put what is in the past, in the past.

         Once we get our gear and our weapons, we start to head out through the secret entrance.  Sif gives us some final instructions before we leave.  We do not bring our dragons.  Since this is first a scouting mission, the dragons will draw attention if we are not careful.  Though because we are just going out to solve the puzzle, we can move quicker while staying undetected without our dragons.  Plus, most of our dragons need more time to recover than the rest of us, especially Anora.  Although, I think it is more of the absence of Fredrick than anything else that has Anora down.  I still do not think it has set in for me.  Maybe because I do not want it to set in because I will get him back.

         Since going over all the islands before, when we were learning how to navigate the island both in the air and on foot, I saw no visible markers or sites of a possible puzzle or other area to be discovered.  Either it is well hidden in the farmlands or is hiding in plain sight.  I believe it to be the latter, so this makes the puzzle also well hidden.

         While Annabeth, Cazi, and I are traversing through the cold, snowy country side, sticking to the crop areas, forest areas, and not using any of the main roads, I do have a plan in place for what we will do.

         The plan came to me as I was collecting my gear.  I kept thinking of the riddle.  Aurum is to Izar as food is to a viking.  Food to a viking is like knowledge to a mind.  Knowledge to a mind is like a mage to a dragon.  Who am I?  A Dragon Mage.  Because of my knowledge of not seeing any plausible place where a puzzle could be at, I thought to myself, “Where is one place where a viking can find food, knowledge, and insight of the mind of a Dragon Mage?  The local tavern.”

         Telling this to the group as we went, Cazi commented, “How could you make such a connection?  I don’t see it.”

         Annabeth adds, “Leave it to Jarl to make the most random of connections which turn out to be true.”

         “Reason I made this connection is based on the information I have just said,” I tell them.  “Even though every other puzzle has been underground, somewhere in the heart of the island, somewhat close to the center of the island.  But seeing how Aurum is the farming island to the archipelago, it would view things a bit differently than the rest of the islands.  Since they do all their work on top of the island, because of the farming and lumber, I thought it would make sense that it would do the same.  However, farming is a simple job compared to the rest, but nonetheless an important one.  They too would have their secrets.  What better place to go find this out than the local tavern?”

         “Is this what the local garb we have on is for?” inquires Cazi.

         I confirm as we continue to make our way through the night to the main village of Aurum.  A “village” would be the term, but the place as Garth describes, is a collection of houses, with a Hall, a tavern, and the chief’s home of the island.

         Shortly here after, we arrive and start making our way into the village.  We did not see any patrols on our way, so hopefully this is a good sign.  The town square looks pretty much the way he described it in Garth’s book:  Reminders everywhere of the battles before and Karl the Kind -former Chief of Aurum- his home burned to the ground, though remnants of it are still standing though it looks nothing like a structure, just debris.  The tavern is to the right of the meeting hall, which is basically a miniature Great Hall compared to the one on Izar, but this hall is still as large as the one on Berk.

         But looking at any town square, something always bothered me, “Why is a town square always a circle?”

         Annabeth lightly smacks me on the back of the head, “Keep moving.  Don’t dwell on such thoughts, they may go straight to your head and make you a square.”

         We all chuckle and laugh as we walk across the circle square.

         There are a few Izarians out and about, but there is a raucous noise coming from the tavern.

         With disgust, Annabeth comments, “I think we know where those patrols went.”

         The sound is loud outside the building, once opening the doors for the Annabeth and Cazi, we knock the snow off our boots, shake off our cloaks, then go in.  The sound form inside hits us like a Thunderdrum’s blast.  There I go again.  I need to focus on the task at hand.

         The tavern is quite large, hundred square feet at least, with tables and chairs in groups with many vikings sitting and standing all about.  There is a counter where the keeper of the tavern is serving their customers.  We three walk up to it; Annabeth in the middle with me and Cazi on either side.  There is a scruffy, round but muscular old man, blue eyes, about six foot nine, standing behind the counter with a great gray beard and hair with a helmet reminiscent of Gobber’s.  He is wiping up something on the counter as we come over.

         I make the first greeting, “Quite a crowd you have tonight.”

         “Yeah,” he said a bit displeased, but quickly warmed up to us.  “But between us, I wish more Izarians would come in here.  There wouldn’t be as mess to clean up afterwards.”

         “I know what you’re talking about,” I tell the man.  “Earlier in the day, I nearly lost my home.”  I glance at Annabeth, which I then reach for her hand that is on the counter.  “But with my wife by my side, I shall always have a home.”

         “Truer words were never spoken.”  The man the see’s our scratches and bruises visible our faces, “That where you got those, trying to defend you home?”

         I nod, “Will this war ever end?”

         He shakes his head, “I wish it did, but I wish those reinforcements that the so-called resistance called in never came.  They have done more harm than good.  If they have any sense, they’ll just surrender now before anybody else gets hurt…  Or worse.  Mark my words.  If they try and retaliate now, Einar and his forces are going counter back and won’t care who gets in the way, innocent or not.”

         I continue, “We lost nearly lost everything today.  So much so, some friends had to give us some clean clothes, the ones we are wearing tonight.”

         “I hear that,” the tavern keeper replies.  “Many Izarians were pillaged today, houses taken, some taken captive, others spared.  Our captors have no regard for us, but they do leave us alone, most of the time.  But it is better to be alive then a captive slave.  Excuse me.”

         The keeper had to serve some meals to some customers.

         Cazi leans in and whispers, “You two going to talk about old times or are we going to do what we came here for?”

         Annabeth calms her down, “If we came in here asking questions right away, someone would be suspicious.  We are dressed like Izarians.  If we act like them, we will be fine.”

         “I know,” Cazi says.  “I just see so many of Einar’s forces here… I just… I just want to punch them all in the face.”

         “We all do,” I agree.  “But we must control ourselves and not bring on any more attention to ourselves than we have to.”

         Looking around, I thought the Dragon Conquerors, Protectors, or whatever they are calling themselves would be looking at us.  But it is more or less the Izarians are eyeing us; or maybe it is just me.

         The keeper comes back and says, “Looks like you three have traveled a ways, what would you like to drink?  It’s on the house.”

         Cazi quips a bit off handily, “If it is all the same to you, I’d like to have mine in here.  Much warmer that way.”

         The keeper laughs, “That’s one thing they can’t take from us.  What’ll you have?”

         I ask him what they have and when he came to hot coco, we all instantly said we will have that.  While we do have some of the plants through trading on Berk, still having coco in the winter is very nice.

         Annabeth and I add in unison, “With marshmallows.”

         We both give each other a slight smile; Cazi rolls her eyes.

         A few minutes later, the keeper comes back with our mugs and we take a few drinks.

         “Very good,” we all compliment.

         “So,” the keeper states.  “What would you like to know?”

         I pause mid-drink and look up, slowly swallowing, I set my mug down, and then open my mouth.  The keeper stops me and holds his hand up, “I’ve been running a tavern for decades.  I can tell when someone comes in here looking for information, gossip, or rumors.  We have had our fair share over the years.”

         Annabeth and Cazi both looking to me to handle the situation, I begin questioning the keeper, “With all of this sudden activity going on between the resistance’s reinforcements trying to solve some type of mystery and Einar’s forces trying to solve something else and to beat everything, some vikings coming to us and demanding information on some myth or something… It got me thinking.  If we can find out what Einar and his men are after, just hand it over, maybe they’ll finally leave, and we can have our peace.”

         The keeper interjects, “That’ll be the day.”

         I go on, “The vikings that came to us told us this one riddle, ‘Aurum is to Izar is like food to a viking.  Food to a viking is like knowledge to a mind.  Knowledge to a mind is like a Mage to a dragon.  Who am I?  A Dragon Mage.’  We had no idea what it meant, but knew those on Aurum would know it since it is an old thought-provoking problem from Aurum often given to the students of Izar in their classes; or what used to be given.  Since we are from the island southeast of Izar, we were curious as to why they would ask us what this riddle meant.  For one thing, it seemed like they solved the riddle already because I remember the riddle very differently.  But knowing the people Aurum and the rumors talked about in taverns, as you said, we thought maybe you would know something about the riddle or know someone who did.”

         “You are right to come to me,” the keeper responds.  “But I don’t know about solving this thing and giving it to Einar.  Guess I never really thought about Einar and his forces ever leaving.  I mean, I always talk about it, but never believed it.  Do you really think Einar and his forces would leave?”

         I shrug my shoulders, “Worth a shot.  You never know what might work unless you give it a go.”

         He thinks to himself for a moment before replying, “Stay right here, I’ll go see if they are here.”

         When he is gone, Cazi whispers, “I don’t like this.  This smells like a trap.”

         Annabeth retorts, “It smells like a lot of things in here.”

         “Cazi’s right,” I tell Annabeth.  “When we first came in, did you observe the vikings of the tavern?”

         “Yes,” Annabeth answers while subtly looking at the different places of the room while casually drinking her hot coco.  “Two vikings in the corner back to the left of the entrance, standing by themselves.  Sure, they have their drinks, but never once did they take a drink.  No steam is coming off their drinks and not the greatest of ideas to drink a cold drink in this weather.  There are a few around the corner of the counter to our right, standing at the counter, seemingly waiting for something to happen.  At a couple of the tables I see some vikings playing some type of card game, but they seem like they are only going through the motions.  If they were playing for money or something like that, they would be more like the group in the far corner, yelling, laughing, and carrying on between the plays of the game.  There is one viking at the back door sitting on a chair, supposedly sleeping.  He might be able to fool the everyday viking, but being married to you Jarl, I am observant and have picked up on the things you have taught me.  The guy on the chair has his arms folded, but his right hand is holding on to something.  Seeing the belt he has on, there is only one reason someone would wear two belts.  Well, unless you just want to be absolutely sure the other one will hold, but why not just wear a tighter belt?  There is a trap set for someone, question is who?”

         Cazi asks, “Is it us?”

         “I’m not sure,” I reply.  “If you look at the vikings Annabeth has pointed out, they are not of Einar’s forces, nor Vixxen’s, but they are Izarians.  I think we have walked into someone else’s trap, so maybe you will get to punch some faces after all, Cazi, but we shall see.”

         We finish our drinks and Cazi randomly asks, “Why did you come right out and say Annabeth was your wife?  I mean, if we are undercover and all, you would think that the news of the resistance’s reinforcement leaders were a young husband and wife about your age.”

          “Well, not to say that I am also proud to announce Annabeth as my wife but also to the fact:  I am not afraid of being bold in the truth,” I answer.  “Besides, I have read a few old stories many times of a husband and wife in a foreign land and the husband told everyone his wife was his sister.  Didn’t work out so well for him.  You’d think he would learn his lesson, but his son, many years down the road, did the same thing with the same result.  I always do my best to tell the truth.  It is just with the words I use, someone may take them another way and that is up to them.  If recall the words I used with talking to the keeper, I made him think that we were from the island southeast of Izar… Well… Berk is southeast of Izar too.  Can I help it if he thought I was referring to Mjolnir?  Think on the other words I used about the riddle and such, it was the truth, but the keeper took it the wrong way.  In going about our tasks, we can still do the right thing and tell the truth.  We don’t have to sacrifice our morals just to get what we want.  We can stay true to ourselves while still getting the job done.”

         Cazi nods, “I’ll drink to that.”

         Annabeth and I chuckle at Cazi’s remark.

         Ten minutes go by and not much as changed except, “The keeper has been gone a while,” Annabeth states.  “Do you think maybe something happened?”

         Cazi suggests, “Could it be whoever the trap is set for, we happened to ask the same thing of the keeper that the other group was going to ask?  This threw the keeper off and he went to go check with whoever is setting up the trap?”

         “We’ll have to wait and see,” I tell her.

         As we continue to wait, I observe the walls of the building.  On them, they have pictures of what looks like a past event on Izar.  Starting on the far wall around the corner, there is depicted large projectiles raining down on what looks to be an island.  The next few pictures look to be Izarians building something quite big, some kind of weapon.  Then on the far wall to our right, there are the projectiles but they are being obliterated by I am guessing the weapon.  What is destroying them has a very familiar coloring and design.  It is a Skrill’s electric blast!

         Requesting the girls to look at the paintings, I finish looking at the last pictures.  It looks to be the Izarians taking several things and burying them it what looks like a cave.  Then the final picture has a map of all Izar with seven points, one on each island.  But on Izar, there are an additional four points of a slightly larger size.

         Then there is some writing on the wall which I can get the gist of what it is saying; I speak softly to the girls so as not to be overheard, “The only words I can get are ‘keys,’ ‘seven,’ ‘warning,’ and the last few words are in a more recent rune script which I recognize as being the same as one used during The Mystery of Shadow Mountain.  This additional part says, ‘If anyone ever seeks out this legendary superweapon, you are an idiot.  You will be treated as such, a crazy viking chasing a myth of a superweapon that never existed.  This weapon only existed to scare anyone wanting to go to war after the Unification of Izar.  So, if you say you have found this weapon, you are as crazy a lunatic as saying you are a Dragon Mage!’”

         Annabeth marvels, “Just like you said Jarl, hide in plain sight for everyone to see yet no one would even know if they saw it.  Anyone every trying to solve the riddle or find this superweapon was always discouraged for the fact that they would be compared to a Dragon Mage.  Something everyone thinks to be a myth.  Aurum’s puzzle is not something physical, but something that makes you think.  Being the farming island, they had no time to ever set up an elaborate puzzle, if the Izarians are the ones that set up the other ones.  No one would ever understand what the riddle meant because they thought Dragon Mages are a myth anyway.  I wonder if this depiction from the paintings are in any of the other taverns or major buildings?”

         “Probably,” I agree with her.  “But I think we found what we are looking for, seeing how this is the main tavern of Aurum and probably one of the oldest buildings on Aurum.  If you compared the wood to some of the other buildings around the town square, the tavern’s wood is of a different kind and more worn than that of the other buildings.”

         Then from behind us, the doors open.  They have been opening and closing as vikings come and go, but had it not been for Cazi whipping her head around to not look at the door, someone important just came in… Someone we know.

         “Don’t look now, but I think we found who the trap is set for,” Cazi whispers.  “It’s Vixxen!”

         Not only is it the one viking who we do not want to meet right now, but she comes right up to my left side and starts banging on the counter for the keeper.  Shielding my face from her, I face Annabeth who put up her hood to cover her purple hair.  Cazi to the right of Annabeth is huddled in too to make sure Vixxen does not see any of us.

         “Keeper… Keeper!” Vixxen demands.

         Over the next several minutes, Vixxen impatiently waits as Klarp tries calm her down.  But she is not having any of it.  A moment later she actually does calm down.  I wonder if she has spotted the trap waiting for her.

         Vixxen then speaks to Klarp, “See the paintings around the walls?  Einar was right.  We need to find this thing before he does.  We’ll use him until we get what we came back here for.”

         I eye Annabeth and Cazi, they are thinking the same thing, “Vixxen knows and we are in a race to solve this mystery before they do.”

         Klarp questions Vixxen, “So, why are we staying around here for?  Let’s just get out of here.  The Izarians don’t like us anyhow.  I mean, they don’t even want to talk to us.”

         Vixxen down plays, “They’ll come around.  Once I show them they don’t have to be afraid, Izar can return to its former glory… They’ll come around.”

         I do not know if it is just me trying to stay positive but I thought I heard Vixxen’s tone as if she is trying to persuade herself, trying to make herself believe in what she is doing.  Of all the things I have seen Vixxen do, this is the first time I have ever heard her say something and not hear her strong conviction behind it.

         The keeper still had not come, so, Vixxen and Klarp decided to leave.  They turned around but did not leave, then turned right back around to the counter.

         Vixxen whispers, “Two vikings at the door… Izarian… I believe we just walked into a trap.  Go tell our vikings, ‘It’s time to go.’”

         Klarp leaves to go over to the crowd who had been making all the raucous noise this whole time.  The moment he went away, I hear footsteps.

         I then feel a few taps on the shoulder, “Excuse me, do you know when the keeper will be back,” comes Vixxen.

         Trying to ignore her, she presses further asking the same thing.  Finally, she grabs my arm and forces me to face her.

         “Jarl Mollerson!” Vixxen declares.

         “Hey.  How’s it goin’?  Catch any vikings yet?  Oh yeah, you’ve had a snow reception from many vikings, giving you the cold shoulder.”

         “What?” Vixxen says confused.

         “Not my best comeback, I didn’t expect to see you here,” I tell her.  “Surprised you didn’t see the trap before now.  Before you ask it, no, it isn’t our trap.  I’m not sure who set this up.”

         Before Vixxen could say or do anything else, one of the vikings who was at the door, comes over and says, “Thorgunna Vixxen of Iyer.  You have committed treason against Izar and your home.  Surrender now or face the consequence of being an enemy of Izar.

         Cazi comments, “At least we’re in the clear.”

         The viking continues to say, “Jarl Mollerson and company, you have drawn these foes back to us and have done little to protect our lands from falling back under the control of Einar Verodfellar.  Surrender now and we will show you mercy.”

         “There I go and open my big mouth,” Cazi states as nearly the whole tavern starts getting up and ready to fight us all.

         Klarp laughs, “Looks like we’re fighting on the same side now.”

         Annabeth adds, “We’ll never fight alongside you.”

         As the tavern vikings creep in on us, I quip, “Well, for this first little bit we will have to fight beside you as in close proximity because it seems as if these vikings are after us both, but we won’t fight alongside you.”

         Vixxen remarks, “Is he always like this?  I knew Jarl had a humorous bone but I didn’t know it made up his skeleton.”

         “Didn’t know you could return the comebacks too,” I compliment.  “But after this, know that are next meeting is going to be very different.”

         Vixxen adds, “Probably more different than you realize, but I’m not done with you right now.”

         The vikings are nearly upon us, I retort, “I think there is a line forming for that, so best not to aggravate these vikings and get back in line.”

         All this time, I had been reaching my right hand down onto my belt and into one of the holders for something, I am just waiting for the right time to use it.

         “You’ll have to catch me first,” I express as the vikings now rush us.

         But I throw down a smoke bomb and tell the girls, grabbing Annabeth’s hand who then grabs for Cazi, “Come on!”

         We three rush out of the tavern and start running.  A moment after we rush out, Vixxen is right behind us.  She too took advantage of the distraction and ran after us.

         “I said I’m not done with you,” Vixxen yells out.

         I call back, “You’ll have to catch us first.”

         Cazi speaks out, “Would be nice to have our dragons right about now… Just saying.”

         We run through the village, going between houses, around them, and between them.  Knowing we could not out run Vixxen without her seeing our tracks, I lead the girls across the last street before the edge of the village and into a nearby house.

         Our abrupt entrance startles a husband and wife with their little daughter, maybe eight years old, sitting by their fireplace.

         The husband immediately stands up and demands, “Who are you and what are you doing in our house?  Wait, you are the ones who came to help us.  I want you-.”

         Interrupting, I request, “Please, we need a place to hide.”

         From outside, getting closer, we hear Vixxen yelling our names.

         Annabeth then takes a step forward, imploring, “Please, there is a lot more at stake here then dwelling on our past mistakes.  We are trying to do the right thing, but there are those who would rather see your sons and daughters of Izar not have a future at all.  We are trying to prevent that.  You have to help us.”

         The father hesitates before quickly pointing to a nearby room, “Get in there.”

         Not more than a few minutes after getting in the room, him closing the door, did the front door fly open and someone enter.

         “Now see here!” exclaims the father.  “You have no right barging in here!”

         Vixxen’s voice is heard, “Search the house.”

         “I will not let the likes of you come into my house and tear it apart as you have done to many other families since you returned,” the father stands his ground.

         “That was Einar, I had nothing to do-,” Vixxen begins but the father stands firm.  “I have heard of you.  We called on you and the other Sentinels before, begging you to stand up against the likes of Einar.  Yet, you are only in this for yourself to prove that you alone can save us.  You are wrong.  You keep looking to atone for the past, yet you are disregarding everyone’s future.  Stop this madness before it is too late.”

         Silence comes.  The absence of Vixxen standing up for her own right is met with the truth of the matter.  Vixxen hesitates.

         Then from outside the house, I hear Klarp’s voice, “Vixxen.  We have sightings of a dragon rider flying a Flame Whipper coming in from the south.  It is one of the ones you had sent to Theodor.  Somehow, she has escaped and is flying this way.  I have our men enroute to capture her now.”

         Vixxen says nothing and exits out the house, slamming the door behind her.

         The girls and I emerge from the room and thanking the man, he replies in a more lenient tone, “Just get out of here.”

         The girls and I go to the door and I crack the door open to see if it is alright to go out.

         From behind us, I hear footsteps of the daughter then saying, “I’m afraid, Daddy.”

         Looking back, I see the girl holding on to the father’s leg.

         I smile, and tell the family, “So am I.  But we’ll run into the smoke for you if it means you will have a future.”

         Leading the girls out, I start tracking Vixxen’s path.  Valkarik is flying into an unknown trap.  She will need our help if we all are going to get back to Sif’s base without Vixxen knowing where it is at.  I will not let that happen.  It is time we go on the offensive, but we need to pick our battles.  I will not let what happened early in the day happen again.  Once my crew is rescued, Vixxen and Einar better watch their backs!