The High-Wizard's Hunt - By Ashley Delay

Chapter 1



Thom gingerly rubbed his sore, swollen jaw as he paced back and forth in the cell. He glared angrily at the other men who occupied the space. It had been a while since they had heard any activity from the other side of the door, and he was growing anxious. Aron grumbled at him sternly to sit down, but his desire to mangle Osric for punching him and locking them in the cell was too great for him to sit idle. Thom mumbled under his breath.

“I’d love to tear that dragon lover limb from limb.” He spun quickly and charged the door with his shoulder. He hit hard, and to his surprise the door gave way, sprawling him unceremoniously on the floor of the volcano. He looked back at his companions and grinned at their slack-jawed expressions, surprised that Osric’s men had unbarred the door rather than leave them to starve in the cage. Thom scrambled to his feet as Aron began issuing orders.

“Search the area, quickly and silently, and find me a weapon! Those traitors may still be close.” The men rushed to get up and out of the cell. Although it may have been built to contain a dragon, the chamber felt very small to the men locked within.

Thom was fairly certain that Osric had found the cache of dwarven swords. Still, there was a chance the weapons sat undiscovered at the end of a hidden tunnel, so he headed straight for the tunnel’s entrance in the kitchen. As he passed through the open archway, he slowed and listened carefully, wary of encountering any guard Osric may have left behind while he was still unarmed. Thom could hear movement behind him, but he was only interested in finding a weapon, so he moved deeper into the kitchen. There was a dead lamb on the butcher block in the center of the room, the butchering abandoned when Osric and his friends had attacked. A faint scent of decay was beginning to permeate the air. Thom crept along the wall, staying close to the stone and keeping his eyes open. He reached the far corner without seeing any movement and began to relax. It seemed that Osric had not left anyone to guard the volcano after all.

Thom stopped, ripping a dingy tapestry off of the wall to reveal a wide passageway. He ran swiftly down the stone corridor and slid to a stop in an open, empty chamber. Thom spun around and growled in rage, storming back to the kitchen. He intended to scour every inch of the volcano for a weapon, and if he couldn’t find one, he would go outside and find a sharp stick. One way or another, he was determined to hunt down Osric personally and see his head on a spike.

Thom left the kitchen, all thought of stealth and suspicion gone from his head, and ran up the stairs leading to his sleeping chambers. As he raced along the ledge that clung to the side of the hollow volcano, he kicked a loose stone as hard as he could. It narrowly missed the head of an irua guard coming out of one of the chambers, ricocheted off the wall, and then clattered to the floor near the guard tower in the center of the open cavern. The guard quickly ducked inside the first room to avoid being pushed off the ledge as Thom careened past him. Thom ran into the last chamber in the row, his own quarters, and he stopped suddenly.

There was a slight odor of lavender lingering in his quarters, and it brought to mind the beautiful woman traveling with Osric. She must have been in his room while he was locked in the cage with the other guards, probably sitting on his sleeping pallet, and the thought of the intrusion sent rage coursing through Thom’s body. After Thom crushed the key to the dragon cages, Osric had punched him, resulting in his swollen, painful jaw. He had regained consciousness to the sound of that woman’s voice echoing above him, and her words still rang in his ears, “You are the most powerful wizard who ever lived.” Thom had no idea what made her think that Osric was so powerful, but he intended to prove her wrong. He glared around the chamber and kicked the small table near the bed. Wood cracked and splintered, and the noise calmed Thom down a bit. He would have preferred that the sound had been made by