“I think they wanted to know about how you wound up with the Rod,” Abassi said finally. “They shared all that information to gain your trust. I doubt the intended to let us live.”
“Why is that? If Belladonna takes over the entire surface, that includes the Yeonans too.”
“Because of what they were doing here,” Miles rumbled. All eyes turned to him. He pointed behind them. “The mountains where Bornin would have created the dragonforged army are only about twenty leagues that way.”
“You think they were here looking for the Primary Control Rod?” Gray asked. Miles shrugged.
“Makes as much sense as anything else. If Belladonna helped create the dragonforged, then she would have put in something that would give them loyalty to her above all else. My guess is the Yeonans have bitten off more than they could chew with the army of dragonforged and are looking for a way to rectify the situation.”
“But now Belladonna has the Primary Control Rod,” Asha murmured.
Adalai cleared her throat. “Actually, she doesn’t.” She reached deep into her robes and pulled out the wand of prestidigitation and held it out to Asha. Asha stared at it, not understanding. “I switched them while I was studying the Rod,” Adalai admitted. “Sorry. I just wanted more time to figure it out! I altered the aura of the Primary Control Rod to register as my prestidigitation wand, and did the opposite to my wand. Belladonna is waving around a wand loaded with a simple cantrip.”
She shrank a little as the group stared at her. “I’m sorry,” she said in a small voice. Then Miles began to laugh. Followed by Gray, then Asha (who more sobbed than laughed, but it was out of relief and joy), and at last Abassi. Soon, Adalai couldn’t help but join in, though she didn’t really understand what everyone was laughing about. Miles clapped Adalai on the shoulder.
“You did good, kid.”
“I am not a kid!” she protested, which just sent them into another bought of laughter.
“The question is, now that we have it and we know what it does, what do we do with it?” Abassi asked. It was the next morning, and they were all gathered around a cold breakfast of berries and water.
“It won’t take long for Belladonna to figure out what happened,” Adalai said helpfully. “Maybe not exactly what happened, but near enough that she’ll probably be after us.”
“We take it to the Corvinian capitol and give it to the king,” Miles said. “Turn those dragonforged against the Yeonans and finish what they started twelve hundred years ago.”
“Technically it was the Corvinians that rebelled against the aristocracy,” Gray said matter-of-factly.
Miles eyes flashed. “You defending the Yeonans?” Gray shook her head.
“No, just credit where credit is due. We started it.” She gave a toothy grin and Miles relaxed. “We could destroy it,” Gray continued. “Give the dragonforged the right to choose whose side they fight for.”
“Yeah, that will go over well,” Abassi said snidely. “If Miles is right and they have an inherent loyalty to Belladonna, then she won’t need the rod, it’ll just be a formality.”
“It should go back to my people,” Asha said quietly. “The elders. They will know what to do.”
“We are very literally carrying the fate of both Corvan and Yeona in our hands… I am reluctant to leave that in the hands of a bunch of nature-loving tree-huggers,” Abassi grumbled.
“I’m not opposed to the idea,” Gray replied. “But the druid sects are far from here, and as Adalai mentioned, we will soon have Belladonna after us. With her and the dragonforged, that is an army and a devil against our little group of five.”
Contemplative silence fell over them. Then, Mils straightened.
“What about Bornin’s forge?” They all stared at him.
“What about it?” asked Abassi.
“As I said, it’s only about twenty leagues form here, and there is bound to be loads of things still left in there. Every craftsman knows about Bornin, he was the greatest dwarven craftsman that ever lived. And legend has it that there were vast stores of items both magical and mundane buried beneath his mountain.” Miles grew more and more excited.
“But the Yeonan army has been there,” Gray said softly. “They would have taken everything worth having.”
“They were concerned with the dragonforged army, and they would have had their hands full. I doubt they would have had time or manpower to search the place AND transport the dragonforged AND fight the war,” Miles reasoned back. “There has got to be something that can… what’s the word… it’s like transport but it means going from one place to another that’s very far away very quickly.”
“Teleport,” said Abassi and Adalai at the same time.
“That one!” Miels pointed excitedly at the empty air between the two of them. “No matter what we decide to do or where we decide to go, that will be our best bet for getting there quickly.”
They all glanced around at the others. Finally, Gray shrugged.
“What the hell. Maybe there are some weapons we could use while we’re at it.”
Miles’ grin was huge.
The journey to the mountain range was actually less than Miles had estimated and only 17 leagues away. They had journeyed through the day and into the night, making camp in the foothills of the mountain range several hours before dawn. Every so often on their trek, they heard movement or spotted a light in the distant forest, but nothing confronted them directly and Abassi was convinced they were not followed. At dawn, they rose again, weary and trail sore, but bound and determined to reach Bornin’s forge before nightfall.
It was rough going as they traveled into the mountains. More than once did Adalai have to be carried over the rough terrain. Asha, in spite of her small stature, was still a druid and traversed the rough landscape with minimal difficulty. It was well passed noon by the time they arrived at the huge mountain that Miles declared had been Bornin’s home.
“Look at the top,” he said, gesturing. “See how it just suddenly stops instead of rising to a peak? That was from when Bornin caved it in.”
Asha looked up the side of the mountain. “Miles, this thing is huge, it will take days to climb.”
Miles shook his head. “Rumor has it that Bornin had thousands of secret ways in and out of his forge all around the mountain. All we have to do is find one of those, and we’re all set.”
“So find a hidden passageway on the side of a vast mountain with no real idea where one might be or what it might look like in a timely manner. That about the shape of it?” Abassi asked, his voice dripping with sarcasm.
Miles shot him a dark look, but his tone was even. “Yup.”
“Great. Just making sure we’re on the same page,” Abassi muttered as Adalai softly muttered to herself. “You could have explained this to us BEFORE we made the trip here!” Abassi continued. “There is no way in Abdar’s wrinkly old rear end are we going to find-”
“Found one!” called Adalai.
“See,” Miles said with one of his patented huge grins. “Have faith in Abdar’s wrinkly old rear end.”
To be continued…