I decided that releasing the chapter "bunches" only once a week was too slow, given the total number of chapters. Therefore, I'm going to be releasing them on Wednesday as well as Saturday.
"Greetings," the sorcerer said courteously. "What was it you said your name was, friend?"
"Graham, King of Daventry," Graham replied, surmising that the small statue by the bridge was in some way an extension of the sorcerer's mind.
"Ah yes," the sorcerer said, nervously scratching the side of his head. "I'm afraid I have no name that can easily be pronounced in your tongue, however."
"Well, I'm glad to meet you nonetheless," Graham replied.
"Thank you, King Graham," the sorcerer said. "I also gathered from my friend at the bridge that you have a serious problem that may require my assistance in solving."
"In that case, if you could kindly follow me, we can sit and discuss whatever this predicament of yours is."
The sorcerer began walking stiffly towards the staircase. Graham followed him at a polite distance as the sorcerer led him down the winding steps to the second floor of the tower. The sorcerer then motioned for Graham to sit in one of the cushioned chairs in the alcove, which Graham did after removing his cloak and discreetly tucking the shield inside it, the sorcerer himself taking the remaining seat.
"So," the sorcerer said, putting his thin, bony hands together, "What is it you wish to help you with?"
Graham related the story of Edgar's sudden old age to the sorcerer, making certain to include all the details that he felt would be important, including the one about Edgar not being human and coming from another world.
"How odd," the sorcerer said when Graham finished talking. "I don't know why this should be happening to the boy. Tell me, did anything unusual happen to him in his past?"
"Yes," Graham nodded. "Many unusual things, in fact."
"He was stolen from his parents when he was an infant and was enchanted by an evil fairy, who changed him into an ugly hunchback. When he was released from the enchantment several years ago, he was taken to his true home, but was then temporarily transformed into the likeness of a troll by a malevolent relative of his."
"He went on a lengthy endeavor several months ago that involved journeying into periods from the future and the past…and a year before that, he was nearly killed by the same entity that changed him into a troll, but my daughter Rosella saved him just in the knick of time…"
"Wait," the sorcerer said abruptly, suddenly sitting up straighter in his chair. "What exactly happened when he was nearly killed?"
"I wasn't there when it happened," Graham explained, "But from what Rosella tells me, he was struck by a magical ball of fire, and when she examined him, he wasn't breathing. Edgar even claims that for a brief moment, he was actually in the Realm of the Dead."
The sorcerer kneaded his beard nervously.
"But how in the world did your daughter save this boy, if he was that close to death?"
"She 'gave' him another life. Earlier in her travels she aided a cat, who was so grateful to her that it gave her one of its lives…"
The wizard suddenly slammed his fist on the armrest of his chair and leapt to his feet.
the answer to the riddle," he gasped.
"What is?" Graham asked uncertainly. The sorcerer looked soberly at Graham.
"It's a rather sad business, king," he said. "I have never encountered a case like this before, but I think I know what is wrong with Edgar nevertheless."
He paused, and Graham quietly asked him to continue.
"It all comes down to this," the sorcerer explained. "When your daughter gave Edgar that cat's life, it somehow 'replaced' his own life. For nearly two years, he has lived on this cat's life will no ill effects, but now it seems that that life is finally catching up with him."
"What do you mean?" Graham asked worriedly.
"How old is Edgar?"
"I believe he is nearly a score and three years old."
"Well, King Graham," the sorcerer said slowly, "A cat only lives to be about twenty-five years old at most, and since Edgar is living on a cat's life and he is approaching twenty-three…I'm afraid his time is running out."
Graham sat motionless in the chair as the shock of this news washed over him. After several fearful seconds of silence, he spoke again with a dry throat:
"What can be done to help him, sorcerer?"
"Nothing that I am capable of, I'm sorry to say," the sorcerer said sadly. "This is some very deep magic at work here, and the power to restore a man's life in a situation such as this is something far beyond my own abilities."
"Then who can help Edgar?" Graham demanded.
"No one who practices only white magic," the sorcerer solemnly replied. "The art of manipulating the lives and souls of mortals is something that only the darkest of wizards would be familiar with."
Graham suddenly felt very cold. Edgar's situation had seemed dire enough before, but hearing that a black-hearted mage was the only individual who might know of a way to help him made it seem as if there was no hope for him at all.
"How can I possibly persuade such a wizard to tell me how to save my son-in-law?"
"I don't know," the sorcerer said with a shake of his head. "But tell me, king: have you ever encountered any evil wizards or sorcerers before?"
"Do you know what became of them?"
"I remember running into one many years before in Daventry," Graham recalled. "And another in the land of Kolyma. I never knew what became of either. My son Alexander defeated the wizard Manannan by changing him into a cat, but Manannan's brother Mordack found him soon afterwards and sought revenge. When I found Mordack's island fortress, I killed him and left Manannan for dead. The only other sorcerer my family has encountered was a creature of shadow disguised as a man named Shadrack, and that abomination has been destroyed."
"So," said the sorcerer, beginning to pace the floor, "That's two wizards with unknown whereabouts, and at least two dead…but tell me, how did you deal with this Manannan?"
"I put him in a sack and left him in the fortress."
"And when did this happen?"
"Nearly two years ago."
"And there was no possible way for this wizard-cat to escape the prison you put him in?"
"I…I don't think so," Graham said contemplatively. "Cats have sharp claws, and there were several monsters living on that island that might have freed him…but why are you asking all these questions, sorcerer?"
"I suspect that this Manannan might still be alive. Even though you left him the way you did, Graham, you didn't kill him…and we wizards, enchanted or not, do not die easily."
"So what should I do, then?" Graham asked.
"Return to Mordack's island and try to find the cat," the sorcerer said. "If Manannan lives, he is the only hope you have of finding a way to save Edgar."
"Return there?" Graham asked in alarm. Journeying to Mordack's fortress had been an unnerving, horribly unpleasant experience the first time he had been there, and he was more than a little reluctant to go there a second time.
"It is the only way," the sorcerer said sadly. "After all, you know the castle, and if any of the monsters you spoke of are still there, since they have no master to serve, they will probably leave you alone. All you have to concern yourself with is finding Manannan."
Graham hesitated, then sighed.
"Very well. I'll go there."
"Good, Sire," the sorcerer said. "Luckily for you, I have something which will speed your journey tremendously."
As Graham watched from his chair, the sorcerer moved over to a cupboard and began rifling through it. He eventually located a small, ornately crafted wooden box, which he opened and found empty. Frowning, he replaced the box and shuffled over to one of the room's tables. After picking through much of the debris that covered the table, he gave a triumphant shout and plucked a small iron key from its surface.
"This key will open a door to anywhere you wish to go," he explained, returning to Graham with the key held out at arm's length. "Merely use it on my door after saying where you want to go, then unlock the door using the key. When you want to come back here, merely tell the key that you wish to return, and another door leading back here will appear in the nearest wall – however, this key will only return you to this tower. Just tell the key that you want to go to Mordack's island, and – "
"Wait, sorcerer," Graham said. An unpleasant thought had suddenly occurred to him: what if this sorcerer was attempting to lure him into a trap by pretending to assist him?
"I don't know you, and it's apparent that you know little of me, so why are you extending me this much help and not asking for anything in return?"
The sorcerer paused for a moment.
"I'm afraid that there's nothing else I can do to convince you that my intentions are good, Your Majesty. I only wish to do what anyone with my powers would do when faced with a situation such as this."
"But I was told you asked the peasants you helped for nearly every coin they had in exchange for your aid," Graham said.
"True, but you are no peasant," the sorcerer said. "I merely wish to serve my king now that he has need of me. All I can give you is my word as a sorcerer that I do not wish harm upon you. If you wish, I can step through the doorway with you to show you that it is safe."
"Very well," Graham said. He rose to his feet and picked up his cloak and his shield. The sorcerer began making his way down the spiral staircase, with Graham close behind. When they reached the floor, the sorcerer approached the door, gave the iron key he carried to Graham and motioned to him to speak the name of his destination, which Graham did.
"Good. Now unlock it," the sorcerer said.
Graham inserted the key in the door's lock, turned it and then removed it.
"Do you wish me to open it?" the sorcerer asked. Graham nodded. He was still not altogether convinced that the man was as trustworthy as he appeared.
The sorcerer slowly pulled open the door, which revealed not the banks of the Raging River and the Daventry countryside, but a dark, dilapidated chamber that might have been grand once, but was now a ruin. Sections of the ceiling had collapsed, furniture lay smashed and strewn about, rugs were tattered and mildewed, fungi clung to the damp walls and various statues that had once decorated the room lay in pieces on the stone floor. Despite the room's decayed appearance, Graham still recognized it all too well: it was the vast dining hall of Mordack's castle.
With Mordack dead, the castle seemed to be slowly dying, as if his magic were all that kept it standing. Graham didn't feel an iota of sorrow upon seeing the majestic carvings that once graced the fortress's vast interior lying in pieces. After what Mordack had done to his family, Graham hoped that the castle would eventually vanish from the earth, though it seemed that it would never vanish from his memory.
"Are you ready, sire?" the sorcerer asked quietly.
Graham nodded and stepped through the doorway, the sorcerer directly behind him. As he did, the air grew much colder and a sound of distant churning waves rose around him. As soon as both men were through the door, it swiftly shut itself, then rapidly shrank until it was completely gone. Graham looked over his shoulder where the door had been on the crumbling wall, then back at the shabby interior of the chamber.
"Here we are," the sorcerer said quietly. "This is Mordack's castle, correct?"
"Yes, it is."
"Good," the sorcerer replied. "Then, if you don't mind, I'd like to return to my home now."
"You're not going to try to help me find Manannan?" Graham asked hopefully.
"Me?" the sorcerer squeaked in surprise. "An old, feeble, dried-up soul like myself? I'm sorry, my king, but I would be much more of a burden than a help to you. After all, you know this island and its fortress much better than I, and if what I know of you is true, you will surely be able to find that feline fiend in less time than it takes me to make a pot of tea."
Graham nodded solemnly.
"Now, if you would kindly open the door home for me?" the sorcerer requested.
Graham turned to face the wall behind him and held the iron key out in front of him.
"I wish to return," he told it.
Instantly, a door appeared in the wall, expanding from a miniscule speck until it had reached its full size. Graham inserted the key into the lock, turned it and pushed the door open.
"Thank you, Sire," the sorcerer said, hobbling towards the door. Through it, Graham could see the interior of the man's unusual home through the doorway.
"I promise to be waiting for you when you return," the sorcerer added. "I won't step out of the house for any reason."
"Thank you," Graham said, carefully removing the key from the door. The sorcerer smiled and nodded, then stepped through the portal that connected Daventry with Mordack's island and shut the door behind him. Once more, the door shrunk and vanished, leaving Graham alone in the ruined castle.
Graham slowly picked his way through the wreckage of the chamber. Parts of the surrounding walls, thick as they were, had fallen completely away, revealing the strange, twisted rock that Mordack's island was composed of. In fact, the wall to the south, where the castle's main entrance had once stood, was almost entirely gone, providing Graham with a good view of the path leading up to the castle.
The island didn't look nearly as dark and ominous as it had been the last time Graham had visited it. The rock seemed much more weathered and natural, and though the light of day had been obscured by a swirling mass of black clouds before, now the sun's rays streamed in from the outside. The two stone serpents that had once guarded the path to the main gate were nothing more than two piles of scattered rock, and the path itself was eaten away in sections or blocked by heaps of fallen boulders.
Graham stared out at the withered landscape as he walked through what had once been the castle's foyer. To his surprise, the stairs leading to the second floor were almost completely intact, though there were a few sizeable holes in the ceiling. The floor was strewn with sand, dirt and crumbled bits of masonry, but there were no footprints that Graham could make out. How in the world was he going to find Manannan in this tumbled-down tomb, if indeed the cat-wizard was still alive? Even though Mordack was dead and gone, his castle was still a perilous place to walk around in, for the ceiling above Graham could cave in at any minute, and he faced the danger of the floor collapsing if he decided to take his chances on the level above him.
Just as Graham was contemplating what to do, a peculiar hum emanated from some distance behind him. He turned sharply to see a glowing, black, rectangular doorway appear in the far wall. Out of this doorway lumbered a large, dark green beast with long, sinewy arms and legs. It clambered through the doorway like a huge monkey, then stopped abruptly as it noticed Graham. It stared at him for a moment out of its huge black eyes, then turned and scampered back through the doorway with an ominous low moan. The doorway flickered and vanished as soon as the beast had gone.
Graham shuddered. The beasts. He had almost forgotten about them. Mordack had somehow enslaved them and used them to protect the castle, and it had taken all of Graham's luck to evade them when he had first arrived on the island. However, Graham had only had to face two beasts: a large, bulky, elephant-like creature that skulked in the labyrinth beneath the castle; and a swift blue monster with oddly jointed limbs. He had never seen the green beast before…but it had entered the room the same way that the blue creature had, through a glowing doorway. It had to be another of Mordack's monsters that the king hadn't encountered the last time he was here, and where there was one monster, there were bound to be more.
He hoped that what the sorcerer said about the beasts having no reason to harm him was true, and that the shield would protect him if this weren't the case. He didn't have too long to fret about the particulars of this situation, since another glowing doorway appeared in the wall directly in front of him. Out of this doorway stepped the green beast, with a second creature following it: the blue beast that Graham had dealt with on his last visit.
The two monsters stared fiercely at Graham, who was too shocked at the moment to do anything but stare back. Then the green beast turned to the blue beast and made a soft, cooing-moaning sound. The blue beast turned to its companion and grunted softly, then the green beast turned and hobbled back through the doorway, which vanished as promptly as it had before.
Graham tensed his legs and prepared to flee, but oddly, the beast made no move towards him. It merely stood on its muscular hind legs, peering at the king out of its glowing reddish eyes as if it were waiting for something.
"Stay back," Graham said coldly. "You're not going to get me this time."
By these words, he had hoped to show the beast that he wasn't frightened of it, but instead, he seemed to frighten the beast. It lowered its head and shuffled back several steps, holding its clawed hands in front of its face. It was a far cry from the fierce monster Graham had faced before. The king observed the cowering creature for the better part of a minute, then addressed it again:
"Do you understand me?"
The beast cautiously looked up, then nodded its elongated head.
"Whom do you and your comrades serve?" Graham slowly asked.
The beast blinked several times. It looked left and right as if it were searching for something, then turned back to Graham, shook its head, and held out its hands with the palms facing upwards.
It seemed that the sorcerer had been right about the beasts becoming harmless after the death of their master. They hadn't been inherently malevolent, but Mordack had
been, and now that he was gone and could no longer control the beasts, they were nothing more than sad, lonesome creatures trapped on this bizarre island. Now that Graham was certain that the beasts wouldn't hurt him…could they possibly help
him in some way?
"Beast," Graham said to the blue creature. "I need to find the black cat that your master kept in this castle. Does this cat still live?"
The beast paused, looked puzzled for a moment and then nodded.
"Will you take me to where he is?"
The beast started nodding again, then stopped abruptly and slowly shook his head.
"What do you mean?" Graham asked. "Will you or won't you do what I asked?"
The beast hesitated again, then turned and began lumbering towards the flight of stairs that led up to the second floor. It stopped at the foot of the stairs, looked back at Graham, and gestured towards the staircase with its head. Graham slowly approached the beast, which began eagerly clambering up the stairs, occasionally peering over its shoulder to make sure that the king was behind him. Unsure of what he was getting himself into and uncertain whether it was the wisest course of action or not, Graham followed the blue beast up the crumbling stairs to the second floor.
The castle's upper hallway was much brighter than Graham remembered it, mostly due to the nearly nonexistent ceiling overhead. Though the walls at the right end of the hallway had collapsed almost completely, the walls at the left end were still mostly intact, and it was towards the single door at the left end that the beast was leading Graham towards.
Graham followed the beast cautiously, staying as close to the wall as he could, for fear of the floor giving out if he attempted to walk down the center of the hall. As he reached the stone doorway at the end, he heard a distant rumble, like that of several dozen pieces of masonry tumbling down. Another piece of the castle must have collapsed. Graham hoped that he would be able to find what he was looking for before another chunk of the castle decided to fall and crush him.
Through the doorway was what had once been Mordack's bedroom. There wasn't much left to identify it as such, save for a pile of wood and torn silk vaguely resembling a bed lying crushed under a heap of rubble. The floor of the room was almost completely gone, and even the beast seemed nervous as it picked its way around the border of the room to another doorway on the south wall.
Through this second doorway was a room that Graham immediately recognized as the castle's library. Unlike every other room of the fortress, this one was surprisingly intact. All of the bookcases save one were standing, and the large desk at the opposite wall of the room was immaculate except for a thick coating of dust. The ornate pillars supporting the library's ceiling still rose proudly to meet the ceiling, and the numerous long-toothed stone grotesques still leered down at Graham from their perches atop the pillars.
The beast hobbled into the center of the room, gazed about it for a moment, then ambled towards one of the bookcases. It then stopped, turned and looked expectantly at Graham. Graham looked at the beast, then glanced around the room as it had done, but didn't see Manannan anywhere.
"Where is he?" Graham asked the beast. "Where is the cat?"
The beast stared silently at him and blinked several times.
"The black cat," Graham said. "Is he in this room?"
The beast shook his head.
Graham sighed. He half-wished that his son's wife Cassima were there to help him deal with the beast. She had been kidnapped by Mordack years ago, and despite her difficult time as a slave to the cold-hearted wizard, she had proven herself to be quite a resourceful princess. She had learned how to navigate the perplexing labyrinth beneath the castle without a map, learned of a secret passage leading to a prison cell that even Mordack wasn't aware of, and even befriended the various fierce beasts that guarded the castle. Perhaps she had somehow discovered a way to understand and communicate with them. However, with Cassima expecting a child in a few weeks' time, she was in no condition to be stumbling through a collapsing castle, and even if things were different, Graham knew that she would be even less eager to return to this fortress than he was.
"All right," Graham said to the beast with an exasperated sigh, "Then why did you bring me here?"
The beast turned and gestured toward the bookcase. Puzzled, Graham approached it. When he had gotten close enough to read the smaller titles on some of the ancient volumes, the beast pointed to one of the shelves. Starting to understand what the beast wanted him to do but not clear as to why it did, Graham started slowly running a hand along the books' spines, from the left side of the shelf to the right. The beast remained still until Graham's hand touched a slim volume towards the right side of the shelf, then it nodded violently. Graham carefully withdrew the book and examined the cover, which read Conjuring Creatures From Worlds Beyond
Graham stared at the cover, then stared at the beast, which continued to look hopefully at him with its piercing red eyes. The king opened the book to a random page and began to read:
Aside from the world of mortals, there are many others that exist both inside and outside it. The most well known of these worlds are those of Light and Shadow, from which creatures occasionally slip, entering the mortal realm and either astonishing or destroying any mortals they come into contact with.
Though the denizens of Light and Shadow typically enter and leave the mortal world of their own accord and are most commonly encountered in dreams or visions, there are ways of luring them into the realm of mortals, where, once captured, they will do the bidding of whomever has ensnared them.
The creatures of Light are quite frail and docile and are useful only as companions, but the inhabitants of the Shadow world can be quite strong and fierce, and will do anything within their power to serve the man who manages to tame them.
One of the more noteworthy skills of the creatures of Shadow is their ability to travel through the Void. The Void is the empty expanse that all creatures must cross when going from one world to the next. Though a creature of Shadow cannot return to its home world once it has been summoned, it can move from one spot in the mortal realm to another in virtually no time at all. To do this, the creature will open a door into the Void, step into the Void, then open another door to its destination. The creature can even take humans with it through these doors. Obviously, the value of this skill cannot be overstated.
Graham looked up at the blue beast. So it and its companions didn't come from his world. That fact certainly explained their bizarre appearances, but Graham still couldn't fathom why the beast had taken it upon itself to educate him about its origins. He continued to leaf through the pages. They included various descriptions of the beasts one might choose to summon and the ways to bring them into the mortal world. Finally, he came to a page with a large, circular diagram on it. When the blue beast noticed the image, it sprang forward frantically and pointed at the page with its long fingers. Graham read what was printed on the page opposite the diagram:
If one should wish to return a creature of the world of Shadow to its home, a one-way door to the world of Shadow must be opened. The instructions for how to accomplish this are listed below.
The instructions were fairly basic: the design depicted on the facing page was to be either etched or drawn on the ground or floor, and it had to be a certain number of paces across. The person who drew it was to walk around it three times and repeat a magical phrase each time. If the spell was successful, a door to the world of Shadows that could only be entered from the mortal realm would open in the middle of the design, and there was another incantation that had to be spoken to close the door. Graham finally understood why he had been led to the library, and what he had to do.
"So," he said to the beast. "You want me to help you and the others from your world return home?"
The beast nodded.
"And in return for helping you
, you will help me
The beast nodded again, more vigorously this time. As fearful of the beast as Graham had been at first, he now took pity on the freakish being. It and its brothers had been snatched from their world and enslaved by one of the most unpleasant individuals in the mortal world. Now that he was gone, all they wanted was to return home, and Graham felt that that was just what the poor creatures deserved after all they had been through.
Graham had difficulty finding something to draw the diagram with. He searched the library's desk for a piece of chalk but couldn't find one, and the contents of the desk's inkwell had long since dried up. However, he soon noticed a simple clay pot lying in pieces by the single collapsed bookshelf. He picked up a shard of the pot and tried scratching the stone floor with it, and was pleased to see that it left a pale orange mark.
Pushing the large crusty carpet that dominated the floor aside, Graham started to reproduce the design. He had difficulty making straight lines on the gritty stone, and hoped that their wobbliness wouldn't send the creatures somewhere other than the Shadow world.
After several minutes of bending over the hard floor, Graham stiffly rose to his feet and turned to face the blue beast, which was still watching him from across the room.
"All I have to do now is speak the incantation and you'll all be able to go home," he said. "Will you help me find the cat now?"
The beast nodded. It began to trot out of the library, and Graham followed closely behind it. It led him across the hallway, down the stairs to the castle foyer, along the dining hall, and down a lower hallway, then stopped. The end of the hallway was covered in rubble raining down from the deteriorating ceiling above it. Graham dimly recalled that there was a doorway here that led into the castle's kitchen, but there was no sign of that doorway now.
"Er…where is he?" Graham asked the beast.
The beast moved to an unburied section of the hallway's end and pointed to a small hole in the wall, one that looked just large enough for a cat to fit through.
"I'm guessing that leads to the kitchen, and the cat is in there?" Graham said.
The beast gave its usual affirmative response.
"Well, how can I get into the kitchen when the door is buried under all this stone?" Graham asked.
The beast hesitated. It pointed to Graham, then itself, then the collapsed wall. It repeated the gesture again, and Graham soon understood what the beast was proposing.
"All right…but be careful."
The beast lumbered towards him and gently put its large arms around his waist. There was a familiar hum as a dark opening appeared in front of them. The beast lifted Graham off the ground as if he weighed nothing and strode through the opening. Graham had a fleeting vision of hundreds of distant points of light swirling around him and a strange floating sensation, but then another doorway appeared before them, this one leading to yet another decaying room in Mordack's fortress. The creature moved through this doorway, set its large hind feet down upon the cold stone floor of the room and released Graham from its clutches.
Graham barely recognized the room they now stood in as the kitchen where he had first met Cassima. Scraps of food, pots, plates and utensils littered the floor, tables had been crushed by falling chunks of masonry, and a foul smell permeated the gloom. As Graham squinted in the dim light of the kitchen, he noticed something small, dark and shaggy lying on a pile of rags in the large, cold hearth. He slowly approached the hearth and his heart raced as he saw that it was just what he sought: the former wizard, Manannan.
Manannan's feline body was quite emaciated, and his fur was unkempt and sparse. He was sleeping in a stiff, sprawled position, and his chest rose and fell slowly. The king might have pitied such a miserable looking animal were it not for the fact that the man this animal once was had kidnapped Graham's only son, and was indirectly responsible for nearly killing Graham's entire family. At least Manannan was now weak and helpless, unable to do them any more harm…or so Graham hoped.
He reached out to pick Manannan up, but before he could grasp the back of his neck, the cat's dirty golden eyes flashed open. Graham jumped back, expecting the animal to leap at him with its claws out, but all Manannan did was swat feebly at Graham and hiss half-heartedly. The ex-wizard seemed even weaker than he had first appeared, and when Graham attempted to pick him up again, all Manannan did was growl and snarl, which appeared to be all that he had the strength to do.
Graham grasped the cat by the scruff of the neck and lifted the surprisingly light creature out of the fireplace. After a moment of contemplation, Graham knelt down, removed his cloak with one hand and wrapped the protesting cat up in it, leaving only his head sticking out. He then held the immobilized feline in the crook of his right arm and gripped his shield in his right hand, and turned back to the blue beast.
"I'm ready to return you to your home," Graham said. "Take me back to the library and I'll get started."
The beast bowed, seized Graham again, pulled him through the Void and set him and Manannan down on the floor of the library. The beast then turned and vanished through the doorway before Graham could say another word to it.
With the cat and the shield still firmly in his grip, Graham consulted Conjuring Creatures From Worlds Beyond
, then began circling the design he had drawn on the floor and repeating the phrase written in the book. When he had intoned the phrase and rounded the intricate drawing three times, there was a low thrumming noise and the air within the circle seemed to pulsate and become oddly warped.
As Graham stood staring at this odd sight, a doorway to the Void opened nearby and out stepped the blue beast, followed by the green monkey-like beast, the gray, bulky beast that Cassima had called Dink, and well as two other bizarrely formed creatures. Apparently, Graham had only seen a small portion of Mordack's menagerie when he first explored the castle.
The blue beast stood aside as the other monsters lumbered eagerly towards the drawing on the library floor. As the first one stepped inside the circle, its body seemed to dissolve and vanish, and Graham thought he could detect a distant joyous baying as the creature faded away.
The other beasts all stepped through the portal one by one, none of them paying any attention to Graham save for Dink, who paused and gazed at the king with what looked like a faint smile of recognition. Then he bounded through the portal to join his comrades.
Finally, the one beast remaining was the blue one. Once again he stared unnervingly at Graham. It must have been an odd moment for both of them, Graham reflected. The beast had captured him and thrown him into a cell years before, now he had become the savior of the beast and its companions.
The beast bowed its head deeply and placed one of its limbs across its chest. Even though it couldn't speak, Graham felt that such a gesture didn't require words.
"You have my thanks as well," the king said.
With yet another nod, the beast started towards the portal to the world of Shadows.
"Wait," Graham said suddenly. He had remembered something that he wanted to ask the beast before it departed.
"One last question: Are you the one that Cassima called Sam?"
Though the beast had no mouth, the look in its red eyes made it appear very much as if it were smiling. It nodded cheerily, then trotted through the portal.
Graham made sure to close the portal and rub out the pattern on the floor as thoroughly as he could, all the while making sure to keep Manannan from wriggling out of the cloak he was wrapped in. When these two chores were finished, Graham took the iron key that the sorcerer had given him from his pocket. He was more than ready to leave this gloomy, crumbling fortress.
"I wish to return," he told it.
There was a loud grinding and crashing sound from the wall adjacent to him. Graham turned to see a bookcase being split down the middle as a wooden door appeared in its center. The shelves folded in upon themselves, either crushing books or spilling them out. It was all the pillars framing the bookshelf could do to remain standing as dust and debris rained down. Apparently, since there were no bare walls in the room, the door had materialized in the only possible location – with disastrous results.
Hurriedly, Graham unlocked the door and opened it. Then, with cat and shield firmly grasped in his hands, he bolted through the doorway into the sorcerer's home, just as the pillars gave way and the section of ceiling above them decided to follow suit. Graham quickly slammed the door before the avalanche of stone and mortar could follow him through the passageway between the island and the tower. Once again, he had barely survived a visit to Mordack's fortress, and this time, it was truly empty when he left it.
"My, my, my," came an amused voice from the spiral staircase. "You certainly know how to make an entrance, don't you, Your Majesty?"