Chapter 18 - The Temple Of The Jaguar

With the map marking the Temple of the Jaguar, Viselys and Lefty made their way through the jungle. Neither man spoke, which was just as well. Viselys' mind ran through the encounter with Rowyn causing him to mentally lash himself over and over for not seeing her foul trap sooner, and for what it had almost cost Zan. That wretched hag of a thing would pay for all the havoc she had caused.

As they neared the location marked by the phanatons as being the temple's location Viselys' thoughts began to shift towards what they might find. He'd been having dreams, well, the same dream really, though some of the details had varied; the point had been the same. Go to the temple, and go alone. He slanted a glance at Lefty, who seemed to be humming a soft tune to himself, then gave a soft snort of his own. If the cache of weapons was at the temple as the phanatons had suggested, he'd need the help carrying them, plus it was best if Lefty stuck with Viselys as not enough time had passed for Lefty to prove himself in the eyes of the others.

"Oi!" Lefty exclaimed, snapping Viselys out of his revery.

Before them crouched a squat ziggurat, embraced in the green of the jungle. Tall niches along its walls held moss-covered statues of men with jaguar heads. As they examined the perimeter of the ziggurat strange bones of catlike humanoids were strewn about.

"Take a look at that, Capt'n. Them statues took some hittin' to make those gouges, no natural weathering that. And all these bones…looks like a right slaughter," Lefty said as he prodded at a feline-esk skull atop a skeleton. "Odd thing, don't you think?"

"Just like the statues in the underground passage," Viselys noted.

"What's that?" Lefty frowned in confusion.

"When the others and I were on our way to Farshore our path took us through an underground Olman passage. The statues there had been savaged as well, and there were other signs of violence," Viselys explained as they circled back around to the southern wall where a natural curtain of thick vines and creepers hung over a wide opening at the base.

Lefty was taking a step towards the opening when suddenly Viselys jerked him back. "Hey! What gives?" Lefty exclaimed, but the giant anaconda quickly slithering from its resting place above the entrance was answer enough.

"It's too big for the two of us," Viselys said even as he held his sword at the ready.

"Right," Lefty nodded quickly. "Well, I don't think waiting it out is gonna work, not with it eying at us so intently."

"Agreed. I'll draw it off while you get inside," Viselys began.

"No offense, Capt'n," Lefty interrupted, "But you ain't spent a lifetime outrunning what's at your back. Leave it to me. Ol' Lefty 'll play a good game of follow the leader then give that snake the slip."

"Are you sure?" Viselys spared Lefty a dubious glance.

"Got no problem running from the likes of that," Lefty said indicating the anaconda. "As for the slippin', I got me ring of invisibility." Lefty shot Viselys a mischievous grin before darting towards the snake. Once the anaconda's attention was fully on Lefty, true to his word, he led the giant snake into the jungle, giving Viselys a snake-free entryway into the temple.

Inside the temple, shafts of light from broken portions of wall and ceiling thirty feet above illuminated the large open chamber within the crumbling pyramid. Viselys, paranoid of traps, took a long time carefully examining the perimeter of the chamber. The walls were covered with faded murals and bas-relief carvings, while the center of the room was filled with a variety of antique totemic statues facing a central platform supporting a large jade figurine of a jaguar. It was while he was still on his inspection circuit that Lefty caught up with him.

"Are you alright?" Viselys inquired giving Lefty a look-over.

"Oh, yeah," he shrugged dismissively as he began to look around. The statues surrounding the central platform caught his attention. They were depictions of gorillas, snakes, crocodiles, bats, tigers, and other wild animals in positions of rage and territorial defense, and were curiously untouched by the passage of time, retaining the finest lines of detail, as if the unknown sculptor had finished the job only yesterday. As he moved closer to do a little examining of his own of the large jade figurine, Lefty almost fell into the pit the illusion the whole central array disguised.

"Careful, Lefty," Viselys warned.

"Yeah, that wouldn't've done me any good," Lefty gulped looking down into the now visible pit. It was fifteen-foot-wide, fifty foot-deep with the bottom five feet of the pit filled with brackish water. "You see that?"

"Yes, I do," Viselys confirmed. "I also see that there is nothing else up here. Come on. Let's try that tunnel," Viselys said pointing down into the pit at a dark spot in the wall with a narrow ledge protruding beneath it. With that Viselys led the way down and into a gently sloping tunnel winding further downward into darkness.

The walls of the tunnel were riddled with niches filled with ancient statues of jaguars looking down from their perches. Their eyes glittered with red, blue, and green gemstones.

"Hey, Capt'n? You suppose we might…" Lefty began eying the statues hopefully.

"No," Viselys advised. "I think it best if we leave them be, at least for the time being."

The tunnel opened up into a tall chamber lit by four flickering torches in bamboo sconces. The walls were adorned with murals of armored men and women with the heads of cats fighting against troglodytes, dinosaurs, and other, less-identifiable demonic monsters. In some scenes the cat-folk rode large saber-toothed tigers, while in others they worshiped at large pyramids. Ancient pillars carved in leafy patterns supported the twenty-foot-high ceiling, and surrounded a bamboo platform covered in reed mats.

A groan alerted Viselys and Lefty that the chamber was not deserted. Following the sound they saw an old man trapped beneath a large stone that must have fallen from the ceiling.

"Come on, Lefty. We have to help him," Viselys said as he quickened his step.

"Stay back," the old man called feebly. "The ceiling is unstable. You could end up no better than me."

"He's got a point, Capt'n," Lefty said glancing up nervously.

"Never mind that. He needs help!" Viselys insisted without breaking stride. Upon reaching the old man Viselys leaned down to grasp the rock only to have it vanish. "What?"

"Very good," the old man said with a smile as he stood whole and unharmed before Viselys. "Compassion is the basis of all morality."

"Come again?" Lefty said cocking his head quizzically at the old man.

"It was a test," Viselys answered.

The old man merely nodded.

"A test of what?" Lefty asked.

The old man turned to Viselys as if he expected him to again answer his friend's question. Viselys stood there for a moment unsure what to say. Finally the old man spoke, but did not answer Lefty's question. "I am Tonatiuh, guardian of this sacred place."

"Greetings, Tonatiuh. I am Viselys Mortaum, and this is my associate Lefty. We were told that the occupants of the temple and nearby village were no more. We were not expecting to find anyone," Viselys explained.

"Regrettably, that is not entirely inaccurate," Tonatiuh said with deep sadness. "This temple and the village once belonged to the rakasta."

"Them odd looking cat people?" Lefty asked pointing at the murals.

"They were not always so, but yes," Tonatiuh said as he led them towards the wall to the left of the entry way. Then he began to speak of the origins of the rakasta as he slowly walked the room leaving Viselys and Lefty no choice but to follow. "At the height of Thanaclan's power, some folk abandoned the comforts of urban living for a more traditional lifestyle in the wild. The most prolific of these groups were several cults of shamanistic shapeshifters who embraced the ancient ways and became lycanthropes. Few of these groups were as successful as the Cult of the Jaguar.

"When Thanaclan fell to the savage tide, these cults were sheltered from the apocalypse and managed to live on for several generations. In time, most of them died out as well, victims of savage new predators. Alone among them, the Cult of the Jaguar survived. Over the generations, these werejaguars developed and changed, becoming an entirely new race of creatures known as rakastas.

"Unfortunately, the Isle of Dread is an unforgiving place. One sect of the Cult of the Jaguar had not escaped the initial savage tide, and over the last 1,000 years, had developed into a much more destructive race of fiendish catfolk called skinwalkers. They were normally confined to the central plateau, but would periodically venture into the lowlands to war against their distant cousins. It was the skinwalkers who ultimately caused the destruction of rakastas here. It was a most horrific battle, and one in which even I proved ineffectual," Tonatiuh ended, bowing his head remorsefully.

"Aw, don't be so hard on yerself. I'm sure no one could expect more of you than you gave, what, with your age and all," Lefty offered in an odd display of sympathy for the wizened figure before them. "How long ago was that?"

Viselys took a deep breath before offering his sympathy, "I'm sure you did all you could, Tonatiuh."

Tonatiuh lifted his head to look at the men. "I am not the old man you see before you, young one. I am a couatl. We were once numerous, the wilds of the region providing for us, and the Olmans regarding us as sacred. When the savage tide struck this isle my kind were spared entirely due to our natures as outsiders and thus immune to its effects. We became bastions of good in the savage new realm that rose up in the wake of the savage tide. Our numbers have dwindled dramatically. Some couatl fled to other planes, most have been slain by demons. Only a few others and I remain. It is our duty to the history of what once was."

"If you ain't an old man, then what's a couatl look like?" Lefty asked frowning.

Tonatiuh's visage seemed to blossom into that of a multi-colored, feathered serpent, both beautiful and terrifying. The serpent undulated gracefully before seemingly twisting in on itself, and again becoming the figure of the old man.

"I thought it best to take on a less intimidating form so as not to upset you," Tonatiuh explained.

Viselys composed himself quickly before responding. "And we thank you for your consideration. So, you have been here all alone these past years?"

"No," Tonatiuh smiled. "I have had the company of one who I did not fail when our village fell."

"Did you…he's a…" Lefty was still muttering wide-eyed at the old man when a figure came up behind him causing Lefty to scream in a most unmanly fashion, the sound echoed deafeningly in the chamber.

"Allow me to introduce Ken-ji, the last of the rakastas of this village," Tonatiuh said as if Lefty's reaction had no effect. "You did not come alone as instructed, but no matter," he said to Viselys. "Ken-ji will keep your associate occupied while you are in training."

"Training? What kind of training?" Viselys asks incredulously. "We came in search of weapons for the coming attack on Farshore. We have little time, and we've wasted much already!"

"Patience; you must learn patience," Tonatiuh said unruffled by Viselys' tone. "You have a destiny to fulfill as Sword Saint of prophesy who will stop the savage tide."

These words struck an uncomfortable chord within Viselys. He was torn by his sense of duty to Lavinia and the inhabitants of Farshore, but he could not ignore the feeling of rightness for what Tonatiuh had said. "How long?"

"It will take as long as it takes," Tonatiuh responded cryptically.

Viselys wavered for only a moment more before taking a leap of faith, "Very well. I will stay and train with you."

"Uh, capt'n?" Lefty called nervously as Ken-ji began advancing on the man in such a way as to be escorting him out of the chamber.

"It'll be alright, Lefty. Go with Ken-ji," Viselys assured.

"Aye, aye," Lefty agreed nervously as he left with the catman.

"Now, let us begin," Tonatiuh said.

"So to become this Sword Saint, I suppose this training will be about bettering my sword techniques. Shall I demonstrate what skills I already possess?" Viselys asked suddenly in a hurry to begin the training.

"The key to everything is patience. You get the chicken by hatching the egg, not by smashing it," Tonatiuh said as he walked to the bamboo platform. "Come, let us begin at the beginning."

Viselys frowned, but followed the old man Tonatiuh onto the platform where a tripod stood suspending a tea kettle over a carefully constructed fire that had not been there a moment ago. A small wooden tray held two cups, a creamer, and a small container with a lid, which Viselys assumed was a sugar bowl.

Tonatiuh made a show of checking the fire and the tea kettle. "Ah, there is time. The water has not yet boiled. Sit, Viselys, and tell me of your goals and values."

"My…" Viselys began in an impatient voice then stopped himself. He blew out an exasperated breath as he plopped down upon the platform where Tonatiuh had indicated before speaking again, this time in a more respectful tone. "My goals are many, the most pressing of which is to aid in the defense of Farshore against the coming Crimson Fleet."

"I see, and what of your other goals?" Tonatiuh inquired further.

"My father one day expects me to follow in his footsteps to become the captain of the Taskerhill personal guard," Viselys stated.

"And is this your goal as well?"

"Of course," Viselys responded defensively. "Honoring my father and the Taskerhill would be my proudest achievement."

"Ah, so honor is of great value to you."

"Yes, honor and duty are of great value to me, which is why I feel that I am wasting time sitting here talking and having tea!" Viselys blew in a huff.

Tonatiuh nodded his head in acknowledgment of the young guardsman's frustration, then checked the kettle as it began to whistle faintly. "A moment more. Do you hear how the whistle begins softly then builds to a piercing wail?" He asked as the sound increased to a near deafening ring as it echoed in the chamber before Tonatiuh removed it from the tripod. "For you that is the sound of your pride. It screams so loudly in your head that you do not stop to silence it and consider more closely the situation you are in," He explained as he poured the steaming water into the cups, then removing the top of the sugar bowl he began scooping out a very dark brown paste into each. "If you take a moment you will see that this is not tea, but an ancient Olman favorite of mine."

Viselys frowned as the water turned almost black. "What is that?" He asked in near disgust.

"Xocoatl. Many serve it with spices, but I prefer to add sweet cream," Tonatiuh smiled as he poured cream into each cup, stirring them until the color became a medium brown. Then he handed a cup to Viselys who looked at the contents doubtfully. "Would you refuse the hospitality of an old man?" Tonatiuh asked innocently.

Viselys, feeling his pride prick at the idea of offending his host, took a tentative sip. It had a rich, bittersweet flavor, though the cream had cut the bitterness much and somehow enriched the flavor. Surprisingly, it was quite good, and he said as much as he thanked Tonatiuh.

Tonatiuh smiled and nodded once more. They sat in silence enjoying the smooth rich flavor of the xocoatl, and Viselys allowed his mind to quiet. This would be the last moment of quiet enjoyment over the long exhaustive days of training to come.

***

"Again," Tonatiuh instructed.

Viselys repositioned himself in a defensive stance, one foot firmly planted each upon a slender pillar. Several pillars surrounded him, approximately 20 in all, equidistant with just enough surface area atop for one of his feet. For hours he had been deflecting objects flying at him from the darkness. The coconuts were easy. Slice them in half and he merely got splashed with coconut milk. It was the other strange coconut like fruit with its thumb sized nuts inside that were harder. Hit one and it exploded, pelting him so hard he suspected that Tonatiuh must have put some kind of additional spell on them. The coconut milk had also attracted bugs that buzzed around him, flying into his eyes, ears, and most annoyingly, up his nose.

As he readied himself for another attack of flying fruit, an unnaturally large beetle flew up from the darkness below, between the pillars. It was black with three giant horns set in a triangular fashion about its head, and flew straight at him. Without hesitation Viselys began to charge the beastly insect only to have the pillars vanish along with everything else, leaving him running flat out at the wall with too much momentum to stop himself.

"There is a fine line between courage and recklessness," Tonatiuh said sagely as Viselys got to his feet shaking his head as if that would clear it.

"What is the point of having me face an enemy if you're just going to poof it away?" Viselys spat vehemently.

"There are three classes of people: those who see. Those who see when they are shown. Those who do not see," Tonatiuh responded in his endlessly patient, yet cryptic way.

"I don't understand your babble, old man!"

"Clearly, you do not see, and this has caused you much self-inflicted harm."

"If you mean the wall I just hit, I wouldn't have done that if you hadn't pulled the rug out from under me, and let me face that monstrous bug!" Viselys yelled pointing out into the chamber.

"The one that does not exist?" Tonatiuh asked in earnest, which brought Viselys up short. "This is only the most recent example of your brashness. There have been others. Can you not think of these? Times when you have not acted with wisdom?"

This conjured up memories of various decisions he had made. Viselys saw his determined face as he marched defiantly across an Olman bridge with Diamondback following closely as Ornrik warned against it, and realized that this must have been when they had been in the underground passage. Sure enough, he watched in horror once more as the giant centipede crawled down the wall to grab Diamondback. He watched as the creature finally fell, crushing him beneath, seeing Diamondback vainly attempting to move the hulking thing off. He watched as his allies hacked their way to him, then watched as Ornrik tended his wounds. He remembered Ornrik's comment about the old wounds he hadn't allowed Ornrik to heal.

As these memories replayed, Tonatiuh's voice filtered in, "Pride has blinded you to the wisdom of others and cost you the time you sought to gain. It has weakened you in times when strength was required, and it cripples you even now."

"I see how it was stupid of me to ignore Ornrik's warning, and not to let him heal me as he had done with the others," Viselys admitted. "I see that now."

"Is that all you see?"

Tonatiuh's question brought on another memory, Viselys again marching with determination as his companions trudged behind, their faces showing frustration and weariness. On through the night he pushed until the dawn. Finally his companions forced the issue of rest. Again Ornrik with the addition of Urol voicing wisdom by pointing out the potential dangers of pushing on relentlessly.

"But Lavinia needed our help!" Viselys shouted defensively, but the memories continued.

The group was breaking camp after the rest Viselys would have had them forsake to get to Lavinia more quickly. He mocked them as he sat stubbornly on the ground watching them walk by with their packs. He heard again Avner's parting shot about him being a "whiny, immature child" and felt it burn deep within.

"I am not a whiny, immature child," Viselys said petulantly, but again the memories did not stop.

Viselys saw his hand quickly dart out to remove an object from the chest wound of a woman bound up-side down to a wooden frame. He remembered the finger with the signet ring upon it, and Ornrik's commenting that it belonged to his brother, followed by his near whine of denial that he didn't have a brother.

"But I don't have a brother!" Viselys declared loudly. "My father said he had no other son."

"Is that what he said?" Tonatiuh asked as another memory came forth.

Viselys stood with his father in the latter's room within the Taskerhill manor. Viselys was speaking of the assassination list that had placed his name and Idae's together with the last name of Moretaum. He listened closely as the memory of his father began, "You know, son…" then paused before continuing on without actually confirming or denying the possibility.

"What we believe is not always true, and what is true is not always believed. If you refuse to see when you are shown, then you will not see and remain in the darkness a fool," Tonatiuh said as the memories came to an end.

Viselys stood silently before the visage of the old man. The memories weighed heavily upon him, and all they had revealed. Neither spoke for an uncomfortably long time. Finally, Tonatiuh waved his hand out across the chamber. This time the entire floor seemed to melt leaving more slender pillars than Viselys could count in the ambient light.

"Again," Tonatiuh instructed.

***

Viselys stood upon a circular dais surrounded by water, sword at the ready, facing his opponent. Over the past weeks of training, in addition to Tonatiuh's unwaivering patience and irritating cryptic way of speaking, Viselys had come to see that Tonatiuh had on odd sense of humor. His latest opponent was a perfect example.

Tonatiuh had introduced the being as Err, and he was in essence Viselys, or at least a physical manifestation of his failings. For all that he had learned, Viselys had still bristled at this latest test, though he had done a much better job at controlling himself. He merely bowed his head in acknowledgement and prepared for the training dual.

As Err stepped right, Viselys did the same. As Viselys stepped left, so too did Err. It was a dance of equals, and each seemed to be waiting for the other to strike first. The dance continued for some time both moving this way and that, but neither moving to strike.

"Why isn't he doing anything?" Viselys finally asked without disengaging from the circling standoff with Err.

"That is a question only you can answer. What keeps you from doing anything?" Tonatiuh spoke from the outer edge of the pool that surrounded the dais.

"I'm waiting for him to make the first move," Viselys said, and saw the corner of Err's mouth lift in a smug grin. "I will not strike a man without cause."

"More of that honor drivel?" Err taunted as he morphed into Avner. "I seem to recall you dying at the hand of a nobleman, after being humiliated twice before in an attempt to defend your honor."

Viselys' jaw tightened at the reminder of his failed honor duals with Avner. "You have no honor. You are a boorish, imbecile of a noble with nothing other than name to make you so."

"Still, I believe it was I who drew first blood, and last come to it," Err-Avner goaded. "Do not look for more honor than your learning merits."

"You won't be so lucky this time," Viselys spat.

"Why? You think you have the skills to actually land a hit? I believe missing is more than just an occasional thing for you," Err-Avner said as he morphed into a hideous abomination that Viselys had wished never to see again, the four-armed, two-headed figure of the Rowport twins. The sight was no less stomach turning than it had been the first time he'd laid eyes upon the golem, and with the full light of the sun upon it, the grotesque fate of the ten year olds was somehow made worse.

"My hit was the one that finished you off," Viselys said firmly.

"We do not think your companions saw that as an accomplishment worthy of praise," the golem said in an eerie voice that it had not possessed in Fogmire before morphing back into the form of Viselys himself. "It is not enough to aim; you must hit."

"I think you talk too much," Viselys responded.

"Then come on over here and do something about it," Err-Viselys taunted.

Viselys made a quick movement towards Err, which was enough to get the being to bring down its sword at Viselys, but he quickly whirled out of the sword's path. As he spun he repositioned himself into a defensive stance for the attack that did not come.

"best armor is to keep out of range," Err said as if he were agreeing before taunting, "I can keep this up all day without tiring.

Just then Viselys peripherally caught sight of a coconut sailing straight at his head. He turned to slash at it instinctively, and that's when Err moved in. Swords clashed in a frenzy of movement. As Viselys fought with Err coconuts and those irritating coconut like fruit with their pelting nuts continued to fly at him randomly.

Finally Viselys bested Err, and the being vanished, leaving Viselys panting in the hot sun covered in coconut milk and a smattering of red spots threatening bruises.

"You gain strength, courage, and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You must do the thing which you think you cannot do," Tonatiuh said as he appeared before Viselys. "You did well."

"You know, I'm beginning to understand your babble, but I still don't get why you choose to say it when you do," Viselys said as he wiped the sweat from his brow.

"Clean yourself, rest, and when you are ready join me in the sacred chamber," Tonatiuh said before turning to walk across a wooden bridge that now connected the dais to the mainland surrounding the pool. As he turned Viselys thought he saw a twinkling of laughter in the eyes of the old man.

After he had cleaned himself and rested, Viselys headed to the sacred chamber deep within the Temple of the Jaguar. It had become almost instinctive to navigate in the scant light in the three weeks he had been there. Had it been so long? Had the others given him up for dead? Surely the Fire Troll would no longer be waiting for him. How would he explain his extended absence?

Tonatiuh was standing upon the central platform when Viselys entered the sacred chamber. As Viselys approached he felt a sense of importance. Something had changed in his time training with the old man, something more than an improvement of his skills. He couldn't put it into words, but he felt it.

"Your sword," Tonatiuh requested, holding out his hand.

Viselys slowly removed his family sword from its sheath. He was never without it, so the handing it over felt awkward. It was a well crafted weapon, though it had been damage in a previous battle. Viselys viewed the damage as any warrior viewed scars, as proof of experience. The blue glow from Ornrik's spell still rubbed him wrong, and he lamented the perceived defacement of his prized possession.

Tonatiuh took the sword and studied it before looking back at Viselys. "This is not the sword you have been using most recently. I will require that one as well."

Viselys frowned as he withdrew the Vicious Greatsword. Though he had been calling upon it of late, it was not to his liking. The cost of its use was always a concern. He handed the sword to Tonatiuh who took it in his other hand.

Tonatiuh held the swords parallel to each other pointing up. “There are only two forces in the world, the sword and the spirit. In the long run the sword will always be conquered by the spirit,” Tonatiuh intoned, and as he did each sword began to glow with a strange white light becoming brighter as he brought them closer together until they shown as a single blindly star. When the light dimmed, Tonatiuh held a single sword, which he handed to Viselys saying, "With courage you will dare to take risks, have the strength to be compassionate, and the wisdom to be humble. Courage is the foundation of integrity, and a man of integrity is a man of honor."

"Thank you," Viselys breathed as he took the sword. It appeared to be his family sword, though undamaged and gleaming, as if it were fresh from the forge. He began to smile until he noticed the blue glow slowly becoming more noticeable.

"I thought the blue glow to be pretty, and I believe it suites you," Tonatiuh said with a twinkle in his eye that Viselys was sure of this time. "However, as it is not always wise for a warrior to advertise his whereabouts on the field of battle you now have the ability to suppress its glow at will. The sword has also the advantage of being a holy weapon doing damage as a greatsword."

"Thank you," Viselys said sincerely greatful as he sheathed it feeling once again whole with the weapon at this side.

Tonatiuh indicated for Viselys to follow him as he stepped off the platform to meet Ken-ji who was escorting a smiling Lefty. The two men and rakasta stood back as Tonatiuh faced the platform to hold his hands aloft. As he did the platform rose to reveal a giant pillar with a hollowed center housing racks of masterwork weapons.

"I cannot be at your side to help you in the battle to come," Tonatiuh said regretfully as he turned to Viselys, "But take these weapon as they were always meant to be used as a means of protection." Then he turned to Ken-ji. "You have been a most faithful companion through these otherwise lonely years. Take these," he said as he extracted three brightly colored feathers from his cloak. "They are from my tail, and should you use one as an additional material component in calling me to your aid, it will cost you nothing. Now that I have completed my last act of duty to this place, relinquishing these weapons to a noble cause, I must return to the outer planes to seek atonement for my failure to prevent the destruction of the people we loved. Go now, with them."

Ken-ji accepted the feathers with sadness, and watched as the old man once again blossomed into the beautifully feathered serpent. The couatl rose up on great wings, circled the chamber once before flying through the tunnel and out of the temple.

Quetzalcoatl_web900.jpg

Ken-ji stepped into the weapons cache first while the other two watched respectfully. He reached out to one of two low plinths in the center of the vault and removed a war claw, which he explained to be a potent magic weapon called a wounding war claw. The other item he explained was also a magical weapon, a evil outsider bane longbow. "My people were masters of weaponcraft, and these represent the pinnacle of their art," he said as he looked around the cache. "I will help you carry them to a new home."

"Well, ain't that somethin'," Lefty whistled as he looked around.

"Come on. We mustn't take any more time than we have," Viselys instructed as they began gathering the weapons.

The journey back to the shore was made easier by the cart that Ken-ji and Lefty had constructed while Viselys had been training. Ken-ji had kept Lefty working the entire time on one task or another. "He wouldn't talk to me much, I tell you. Don't think he thinks much of me," Lefty stage whispered to Viselys, but Ken-ji didn't react.

The rational of returning to the shore was Viselys' hope that the crew of the Fire Troll would have left them a dingy, so when he saw the ship still anchored and waiting he was greatly shocked. After everything was loaded and they were all on board Viselys thanked the crew for their steadfastness in waiting, and apologized for the three week delay.

"What are you talking about?" Miranda asked in confusion. "It's only been little more than a few days. You had us thinking we might be waiting a week, but here you are."

It was then that Ken-ji spoke up. "Illusionary dream to give you the time to learn what you need, and still have the time do what you must."

Viselys nodded in understanding, and with that they headed back to Farshore.

Continue to Chapter 19…

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