TOMB OF SHADOSS

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Tomb of Shadoss
Van Turner, 1990


Out from Lizha, not far from Telor, four people walked the Telor road. These people, being quite common, save for one, passed from town to town as a group unnoticed. It was strange that they should stay as a group for they had not known each other before.

The first of the group (actually the group had started as two - a man and a woman - friends who wished to travel to Lizha) was a tall stocky fellow of obvious Scetza descent. Obvious not because of his short hair and short ears but because of the yellow, orange, and white stripes in his body hair. His name was Croath.

His female friend, it being strange that she was his friend at all because of racial differences - she was Dorani - was a tall slender woman named Zholan. She bore the typical Dorani marks: black back side and half her face and white front side and other half her face.
They, Croath and Zholan, began the journey from Eldon some many leagues and weeks ago. They encountered the first of the other two - the third of their party - in Lynthak. He was a small rather young man of the Naltis race.

These strange people were feared far and wide by royalty. Naltis were known to be the best thieves in the kingdom. Vronda was a quiet lad though and not much was known about him by the other three. Vronda kept his distance. He bore the marks of a Naltis: black, yellow, and orange patches.

Not long after meeting Vronda they encountered another woman, a Scetza. Taiba's marks were similar to those of Croath but unlike Croath she was short, an oddity in a Scetza. She joined the group in Telor.

Taiba was the uncommon one of the four. Taiba, not Vronda. Taiba had a secret she did not wish to share with anyone east of the Ronar Mountains.

Zholan had openly shared her secret the first night they were three, before Taiba joined the journey. Zholan was a sorceress. When they had run out of tender to start a fire, she had used her ability.

It was morning in the immense red valley with the blue sky above, the golden sun shining brightly over all. Small sky sprites flittered and flew from flower to flower, the multicolored flowers pleased by their attention, the enormous trees with their multicolored leaves waiting for the same attention from the larger sprites.

The four travelers set upon the final leg of their journey to Lizha.

"What will you do in Lizha?" asked the green-eyed Croath of Vronda, the Naltis. Croath did not expect an answer from the little man.

"Not what would be expected," answered Vronda quietly, meaning he would not steal anything. Vronda had established that he was not a thief when he joined Croath and Zholan.

They had discussed many things before but not this, not what they would do in Lizha. Croath and Zholan had discussed this before they left Eldon but not once had anyone asked for what purpose they traveled.

“Where are you going?” had been the only question; that and “May I join you?”

Across the red landscape they walked toward Lizha and three hours later they arrived, four strangers in common dress. All of them wore leather boots, heavy pants and a light shirt and some variety of hat to keep the bright silver sun out of their eyes.

All of them carried on their backs a large heavy pack containing only clothes and eating utensils. All of them carried a weapon of some variety, as did everyone in this day and age.

Zholan had her sorcery but she also carried a large dagger. Vronda carried a large dagger and a short sword. Taiba carried two daggers and an odd number of darts. Croath carried a large dagger, a large sword, a crossbow and bolts.

Croath’s crossbow had been how they had eaten on the long journey. That and Zholan’s sorcery. And Vronda’s culinary skills. The one thing Vronda would talk about was his time as a cook in the palace of Yadrii some time ago.

“Have you considered trying your hand as a cook again?” asked the black-eyed Taiba, Taiba with a secret. Taiba who knew a great deal about the ways of royalty, who looked uncomfortable in her clothes.

“The thought had crossed my mind,” said Vronda, his emerald eyes distant, thoughtful.

The four stopped at an inn, a large trapezoid figure in the center of the city. The woven door closed quietly behind them as they approached the desk. Behind the desk stood an elderly Dorani, his black fur greying in patches, his whiskers shortened by age.

“Welcome travelers,” he said. “Do you want a room?” The despise for the two Scetzas was not well concealed.

“We are together,” said Zholan, indicating herself and Croath.

“And we are separate,” said Taiba, her despise for Vronda evident.

“Three rooms?” asked the innkeeper, he too despised Vronda; a Naltis, a thief. He was surprised that Zholan had said she was with the Scetza, Croath.

“Yes,” said Zholan. She signed the register. “For one week.”

“There is an advance for extended stay,” said the innkeeper.

“How much?” asked Taiba. She obviously did not like the inn or the innkeeper. The way he looked at her, as if trying to place her, disturbed her greatly.

“Five silver,” said the innkeeper thinking he knew the Scetza. She was familiar for some reason.

“Very well,” said Taiba, reaching into her purse.

Croath paid the man for himself and Zholan.

“I will only be staying three nights,” said Vronda. “Is there an advance for that length?”

“No,” said the innkeeper. “You may pay by the day or at the end of your stay. Which ever is better for you.” To think, a Naltis in his inn; unbearable. Still he was a paying guest.

After they had signed in and were given their room keys, they went to their rooms. Once settled, after a bath, Croath lay back on the large bed observing the small well-kept room with its separate bath room.

“So now that we are here, what is it you want to do?” asked Zholan, dressing in clean clothes.

“Eat,” said Croath, “I’m ravenous,” He got up to leave the room in hopes of finding the cheapest food in the city.

“So do I, but don’t you want to explore the city?”

“Perhaps tomorrow.”

“What do you think of Vronda staying just three days?”

“It’s none of my business,” said Croath opening the door to leave. “Maybe he is short of funds.”

“Something Taiba isn’t.”

“You noticed?”

“Five silver pieces easy,” said Zholan, face clouded. “Mere change it would seem. Something isn’t right about her.”

“None of my business, “ said Croath, leaving. Zholan followed and locked the door behind her.

They met Taiba and Vronda in the lobby. They, too, were in search of food.

“I hear this inn is good,” said Vronda, “if you can afford it.”

Taiba simply smiled. She could afford it.

“Let’s try somewhere else,” said Croath, feeling a slight strain on his purse.

They ventured out into the city’s main street. A crowd of people, all races, had gathered in the street. There would be a dance tonight, it seemed and it was already getting dark, the silver sun set low on the red horizon.

The four travelers stopped into a cafe and sat. The waiter came and they ordered. Zholan ordered a fowl called ichnips; croath ordered a water dweller called landau; Vronda had landau as well and Taiba had an expensive plate of land beast called sicher.

After they had eaten and paid they went into the dust bowl street to join in the festivities. Zholan and Croath danced together while Taiba changed partners every three dances and Vronda didn’t take part. Soon the four travelers became known to some in the crowd and made a few friends.

It was very late in the night, the green night, when the last of the people finally went home. The four travelers, strangers to most in the city, were among the last to leave. Upon entering the inn, the were approached by an elderly gentleman of the Dorani race, much like the innkeeper.

“Welcome to our fair city,” he said. “Where are you from?”

“Eldon,” said Croath.

“Eldon,” said Zholan.

“Conctoa,” said Vronda, who had joined them in Lynthak.

“Dubor,” said Taiba, who had joined them in Telor.

“My, you are a long way from home. Allow me in introduce myself. I am Furalle. I own a large market not far from here.”

The four travelers introduced themselves in turn and gave their purposes, except for Taiba.

“Perhaps I can interest you in some adventure,” said Furalle.

“Does it pay?” asked Vronda, getting to the bottom line.

“Let us go inside and discuss it.”

And so to Croath and Zholan’s room they went. They entered and settled into whatever furniture was nearest. All were tired.

“So, what is this adventure?” asked Croath.

“Does the Tomb of Shadoss mean anything to you?”

“No, I can’t say it does.”

“Nor I,” said Vronda.

“I’ve heard various things,” said Zholan.

But to Taiba, it must have meant something because at the mention of the tomb, she sat up abruptly, eyes wide.

“Milady?” said Furalle to Taiba, seeing her reaction.

“That’s why I am here,” she said finally, after a pause.

“What is the Tomb of Shadoss?” asked Vronda.

“It is the tomb of a great man, believed alive by many,” said Taiba. “But that isn’t so. My grandfather saw him buried.”

“He must have been very young,” said Furalle, “for that was some time ago.”

“Indeed.”

“Did you say you were from Dubor?” asked Furalle.

“Yes, I am from Dubor.”

“I think I know you,” said Furalle.

“I am surprised Croath doesn’t recognize me.”

“Why should I? What’s this about the tomb?” asked Croath, not really interested in Taiba.

“I am M’Ched-Roan Taiba Xil, princess of Dubor.”

Everyone was quiet.

“My purpose is to find the Tomb of Shadoss and find the Chronicles of Vengaru.”

“Why you?” asked Zholan. “Why not an archaeologist or someone like that?”

“You honestly believe that myth?” asked Croath, impressed in Taiba’s title.

“It’s no myth,” said Furalle.

“They, meaning my father, the king, would not send anyone,” said Taiba to Zholan and Croath, “so I came.”

“Where in Lizha is the tomb?” asked Croath. “I know Shadoss was a real man, but I have a hard time accepting the Chronicles as anything but myth.”

“Come with me and I shall prove them true,” said Taiba. “I do not know where the tomb is either but I will get the Chronicles.”

“What is so important about these Chronicles?” asked Vronda. “And what is your interest?” he asked Furalle.

This was something none of them had considered but, after all, Furalle had brought it up.

“You, Naltis, probably do not know it, your people keeping to themselves, but the Scetzas and the Dorani nations are on the verge of war,” answered Furalle.

Croath and Zholan were perfectly aware of this, but did not let it bother them as they traveled together. They thought it made a statement.

“The Chronicles tell the old laws written by Shadoss himself. They may save your people,” said Furalle.

“Then what say we set tomorrow for the Tomb of Shadoss,” said Croath.

“So be it,” said Taiba.

They adjourned to their rooms except for Furalle who, after agreeing to meet them on the edge of the city, went home.

The next morning the four travelers met at the edge of town and they set forth to find the Tomb of Shadoss.

“Naltis,” said Furalle, a Dorani, “I am surprised to see you.”

“My name is Vronda. And as to my being here, call it curiosity.”

“Very well. Let us go.”

They walked for quite some time before coming upon a basin in was the ruin of an old city.

“What?” asked Zholan, astonished by the very well preserved columns and occasional building.

“El’Zin,” said Furalle. “Destroyed some untold years ago before Shadoss’ time. He requested to be buried here.”

“That is privileged information,” said Taiba. “How is it. . .”

“I studied his life,” interrupted Furalle quickly, wishing to change the subject. “Has anyone heard the legend of El’Zin?”

“No, and personally I could care less,” said Croath, hand going to his sword, “I heard something.”

“Probably valley dwellers come to sleep in the ruins,” said Furalle. “It may rain tonight.”

“Some valley dwellers aren’t friendly,” said Vronda, dagger ready.

They continued to walk unchallenged although some raggedly dressed men were now coming out from several buildings.

“Circle,” said Croath, stepping up, drawing his sword. Vronda fell back, putting the two women and Furalle in the middle.

“Close enough,” said Croath realizing there weren’t enough people to make a defensive circle. Now Zholan drew her dagger and Taiba had her darts ready. Furalle was weaponless.

“There,” said Furalle, pointing ahead of them, “the Tomb of Shadoss.”

It was a massive stone entrance; a stanchion and lintel structure (two upright columns supporting a slab) set into a hillside. Set further back into the hillside was the massive stone door.

“I’m not impressed,” said Zholan, “Let’s go home.”

As they approached the tomb, the valley dwellers closed in, yet no challenge was made. They simply moved in closer.

“How do we open it?” asked Croath examining the double door, keeping one eye slanted on the thirty or so men in ragged clothes.

“You must have the key,” said Furalle.

“It was buried with him,” said Taiba

“That, too, is privileged information,” said Furalle. “I could question you.”

“But you won’t,” said Zholan. “Just open the door.”

“I’m afraid we must break it down,” said Furalle, producing a small sphere, “or at least, blow it down.”

“A bomb?” said Taiba. “You could bring the whole tomb down.”

“She’s right,” said Vronda.

“Let me try,” said Zholan. “Stand back.”

They made a semicircle around her, protecting her from the ever closer valley dwellers. Zholan brought her hands in front of her together but not joined, three fingers of each hand spread. She concentrated on the door. A brilliant amber beam sprang from her hands and struck the doors. The doors disintegrated in a shower of stone chips.

The valley dwellers scattered like ants from the mound, running back to hide in the ruins. Zholan fell to her knees, Croath at her side in a second.

“Are you all right?”

“Drained.”

“Let’s get you inside before they come back.”

“I doubt they’ll be back,” said Vronda, smiling, “I wouldn’t.”

Zholan laughed weakly as Croath and Vronda helped her up and into the tomb. The sight was overwhelming. The tomb was as enormous cavern, well lit but with no sign of a window or torch. The rough walls and ceiling were painted many colors but not the point of gaudy.

On the floor was a mosaic that went wall to wall. In the middle of the floor was a huge sarcophagus. Along the walls were stacks of bound journals.

Taiba picked up one of the journals.

“Old language,” she said, frowning.

“Not Vengaru,” said Furalle.

“I know,” said Taiba, “There aren’t but five volumes of Vengaru.”

“Where are the Chronicles?” asked Croath.

They each chose a place to look and began digging through the piles of journals.

“This it?” asked Vronda, holding up a thick volume.

“Does it say so?” asked Furalle.

“Yes, but not in modern language.”

“Let me see.”

Furalle and Taiba poured over the five books Vronda had found for a while before reaching a decision.

“It’s them,” said Furalle. “Let’s go. I must be in Sagit in three days. There is much to be done.” And so he left.

No one challenged them as they exited the ruins of El’Zin, the dwellers hiding like scared children.

Some time later the four travelers settled in for the night at the inn where news of their discovery traveled fast and some made them heroes as the threat of war settled.

And the four travelers slept as, outside, it rained.

 

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