The story so far: Tollon and his companions find they are heading into a war zone. So they make some unusual preparations. Now read on . . .
The watchmaker’s shop is empty. There is no sign of Evana.
Gehulia is no longer a city neighborhood. A wall has been magically built around it. No one gets in, no one gets out. It’s thought most of the inhabitants have starved.
Sput is still around, as is the “mutual aid society” he and the watchmaker belong to. He’s briefing Inacha on palace politics, insofar as his secret society knows about them. And he got us a safe space, an empty warehouse that was used to smuggle goods in and out of Gehulia.
Chypa and I are going to try a little magical experiment. Chypa explained what she wanted done with the dragon’s teeth. I suggested one modification, which may or may not work. Hence, this experiment.
We have drawn a Great Circle on the floor. Chypa and I face each other just within the circle’s perimeter. A dragon’s tooth is at the center. Oh, and a sword. Gods are not noted for their attentiveness; we want the one we want, and her alone: Frawkza, “She Who Birthed Terror and Strife.”
To summon Frawkza, one needs blood, preferably that of a live enemy, killed within the circle. We cut ourselves, and use our own. It’s second-best, but it will do. Frawkza appreciates dedication.
“By my own blood I shed, I call upon She Who Slaughters and Maims . . .” We alternate each line of the chant, which yields sixteen different names for Frawkza. Why “She Who Causes Headaches” is among them is a mystery to me.
A form materializes near the sword and tooth. We do not look at its head; people who do so reputedly lose their sanity, sometimes their life. She speaks, and I can feel my ears bleeding from listening to her. Maybe “She Who Causes Headaches” is appropriate.
“What do you want, weak creatures?”
Chypa speaks loudly. “A warrior.”
Laughter, inhuman laughter. “It would be a shame to put a true warrior at the command of a creature such as you.”
My turn. “I have struggled with dragons and gods, and am worthy to command. And I have a request to make about the warrior you will produce for us.”
The form bends down toward me. To my consternation, it seizes me in one enormous hand and picks me up. “Look at me, creature.”
I don’t have to, but I dare not show cowardice before Frawkza. So I look her in the face, hoping that because she ordered me to, I will survive the experience.
So I can tell you what Frawkza’s face looks like. It’s not human. It’s the rage of battle incarnate. It fills me with itself. I envision myself fighting on the battlefield, slaughtering my enemies, taking their women, burning cities to the ground. This goes on and on. It feels like I’m raging for centuries.
And then I’m standing back where I was, as I was. I feel strangely diminished, as if killing is what I normally do, and my body is not well-suited for it.
“Your request intrigues me, Tollon of Velgard. It suits my nature, and it suits yours. So it is granted.” And then the form disappears.
The dragon’s tooth and sword are still there in the center of the circle. The tooth begins to change. It had one sharp edge. Now it is all sharp edges. It grows. It acquires the scales of a dragon’s body. It develops legs and a body. Then arms and a head. It reaches down to take the sword, and lifts it like an expert measuring its balance.
It is a warrior. It is a dragon warrior, a creature that is shaped like a man, but with an armored body and the temperament of a dragon.
But is it the warrior we want?
(To be continued . . .)