Digitally transcribed for the Gardner Francis Fox Adventure Library
A great oaken door, set with iron hasps and hinges, was placed within the stone walls of the tower. It brooded at them as they approached, and when Kyrik set hands to its latch, it refused to move.
The Tantagolian grunted and looked about him. Off to one side was a great flat stone. The wizard had used it for a seat, no doubt, on which to sit of evenings and stare out across the Sunless Sea, or perhaps to turn about and stare toward the fiery sunsets that touched this land of Ocar upon occasion.
Kyrik moved to the stone, bent and put his fingers about its edge. He heaved, and the muscles of his back and arms stood out like massive ropes. The stone came up into his hands and he carried it that way toward the door.
High did Kyrik lift that rock, and drove it downward at the iron latch. Metal could not withstand that blow. It cracked, the hard oak wood of the door splintered. The stone fell at his feet as Kyrik put a hand to the wooden door plankings and pushed.
The door opened easily. There was darkness in the interior, but Kyrik saw a great floor-candle and moved toward it, lifting out his tinder box and striking steel to flint until the tinder burst into flame. With the flame he lighted that candle and peered around him.
He grunted. Rich, massy furniture was here in the shape of a great couch and several chairs where the wizard could take his ease. An empty hearth showed remnants of a log that had burned away to ashes. Thick rugs covered the stone floor, and from the wall, by brackets, oil lamps and pots hung that held vines and flowers.
“He lived well, this Upanokol,” he muttered. “Men say he was very wealthy,” Olvia agreed. “Then there should be a kitchen somewhere, where he would have cooked his food.”
Olvia nodded and moved away, lifting a section of a splendid tapestry which depicted the zodiacal signs. “In here,” she called.
Kyrik followed her, stepping into a chamber the far wall of which was curved with the stones of the tower. Above them, cheeses hung in their cords, with fruits of varying description, and vegetables. Olvia moved about, her eyes on the floor.
“A trapdoor into a spring-house, probably,” she said, and bent to try and lift the metal ring set inside it.
Kyrik came to help her, and when the trapdoor was up, they saw narrow stone steps leading into a cellar. And when they went down those steps they found portions of meat carefully wrapped and placed inside a flowing stream, the waters of which were as cold as the Arctic seas.
Olvia selected a haunch of lamb, and sprigs of watercress and lettuce. Some onions also she chose, and radishes. They moved up out of the cellar and Olvia went to start a fire in the small . hearth set into the outer wall of the tower.
She busied herself with the cooking while Kyrik cut down a cheese from its hanging and pared off a big edge. He chewed this as he watched her.
“Where are you from, girl?” he asked. She turned and smiled at him. “I have a little hut outside the fishing village of Ixnus. Or had. The village folk burned it when they came to take me as a sacrifice.”
“You can’t go back there, then?” She shivered. “Not unless I want them to bind me to that stake again.” Her eyes glowed as they looked up at him. “I think I will go with you.”
“I have no destination. I just wander the world, enjoying life.”
She showed fine teeth as she laughed. “I would like to enjoy life with you.”
He shrugged. Myrnis was gone from him, for a little while at least. And as he stared at the curve of Olvia’s thighs and buttocks, he told himself she would be a good substitute in a warm bed.
They ate at the plain wooden table, sitting on the only two chairs in the kitchen. Kyrik used his long dagger to slice the steaming lamb, some of which he placed on a wooden platter for her, and cut off some of the cheese.
They feasted for an hour. Olvia was done long before him, but took occasional sips of the red wine she had discovered in a cabinet. Her eyes were always fixed on the giant as he ate, and from time to time she smiled faintly.
“You have the appetite of an elephant,” she said once.
He laughed, nodded, and reached for a wine-cup. “I was a long time in that statue. It made me hunger for everything that man or woman has to offer. Not just food.”
Her black eyebrows raised. “You would need money for all that.”
“I make money when I have to. Or even steal it.”
He told her how he had been king in Tantagol, and how he had given up the crown to go a—roving. Olvia listened with her elbows on the table, her chin propped on the backs of her hands.
She sighed, “I would like the fine things life has to offer, too. But I’ll never get them. Like you, I need money, and I don’t know where to get it.”
Kyrik pointed with his knife upward, at the kitchen ceiling. “When I’m done we’ll have a look around upstairs. If a magician lived here, he lived well. He’ll have money put away, or a few jewels.”
Olvia made a face. “Enough to see us through a few weeks of good living. No more.”
He stared at her. “What do you want, girl?”
“A lot of money so I can buy a fine house in a city like Sokarjus and hire servants to wait on me.
He shrugged. “Maybe this magician will have a lot of gold stored away. Or jewels.”
She waited patiently for him to be done with the meat—there was little left but the bone when he was through—and then she rose to her feet.
“I’m going up the stairs,” she announced. “If the mage had any money, it will be in the upper rooms.”
“What about the demon? You were worried about him a little while ago.”
She shrugged. “If he was here, he would have attacked by now. Since he isn’t, it’s safe enough.”
“Wait. I need a sword. Maybe the wizard had one.”
Olvia went first up the stone steps that were built into the walls itself, circular like those walls, banistered in stone. On the second floor they found a massive bedroom with a huge wooden bedstead covered over by a canopy supported on the four tall bedposts. It was neatly made, and obviously had not been slept in recently. A carved oak chest stood against the stone wall, with a smaller chest bound in iron to one side of it. There were chairs here and there, and on the far side of the room a table covered over with writing materials, some books, an ink-pot and several pens.
There was another floor above. They could smell the dead body of the wizard, even down here. Kyrik snorted, looked around him to find a washbasin containing a few drops of water. He moistened a towel and handed it to the girl.
Olvia smiled, held the towel to her nostrils. She ran lightly up the stone steps with Kyrik at her heels.
They saw the pentagram first, and the dead body sprawled inside its bloody borders. There was a prie-dieu to one side of that corpse and on it, an open book. Olvia went to stare at the grimoire, shook her head and turned away to glance at the shelves containing vials and alembics.
A bull bellow from the Tantagolian swung her around.
Kyrik was racing toward a great sword that hung in chains from the wall. A scabbard of oak and silver held the blade, the hilt that rose upward from curving quillions was set with a magnificent red ruby in its pommel.
He snatched it down, shook it at the girl who stared at him. “By Illis, what a sword! Look at it, girl. It rivals Bluefang, and I lost Bluefang when those robber barons attacked the caravan.”
He attached the scabbard chains to the metal loops in the sword-belt he still wore, tossing aside his old scabbard. He drew the blade and stared at its blued length of glittering steel. His hand moved it lightly, this way and that.
“It has balance, this blade. It must have been made by a master craftsman, but what that old wizard wanted with it, I don’t know.”
“It was part of a treasure, probably, that he found with the help of some demon or other.”
Olvia came closer, put out a hand to touch the ruby. “The stone alone is worth a fortune.”
“The stone? Who cares about that? It’s the blade I’m interested in.”
“You men and your swords. I’m more interested in gold and jewels.”
Kyrik sheathed the sword, nodded. “There’ll be gold somewhere about. We’ll look for it.”
They began their search, Kyrik moving here and there, but Olvia remaining always near the shelves which she emptied and felt about for some secret latch that might reveal a hidden cupboard.
Finally she turned and stared at the grimoire. “What about that book?” she wondered. Kyrik turned from the chip-carved chest he was examining to glance at the grimoire. His vast shoulders shrugged. He had no use for magicians’ books. Still, if the girl wanted it . . .
He brought it to her where she stood beside the shelves, putting it into her hands. She carried it toward a little window where there was still some light. For long moments her eyes scanned its pages.
Then she said, “Kyrik, Upanokol was seeking to find the lost treasure of Nath.”
“Who was Nath?”
“A great wizard who lived long ago. He’s said to have amassed a great fortune, and hid it away with him in his tomb, which he sealed himself, before he died, with rare and potent spells.”
“It means nothing to me.”
“It might. Suppose we went after that treasure, Kyrik? If we found it, we could live like a king and a queen anywhere we wanted.”
“It means so much to you, this treasure?” Her black eyes studied him. “You wander the world, you said, looking for new experiences. You were a statue for a thousand years. What difference does it make to you where your war-boots carry you?”
He grinned. “No difference.” She put down the grimoire, stepped toward him until he could feel her breasts and soft belly pressing into his body. Her bare arms came up about his neck.
“Then come with me. Help me find this treasure. We shall be partners, you and I—I.”
As if it were a seal, she put her open red mouth over his. He felt the pleasant bite of lust in his loins and knew that as he put his arms about her soft body, he would do what she asked. Why not? He had no other goal, and Myrnis would be away from him for a long time.
His hands cradled her buttocks as he urged her even more tightly against him. His veins were on fire; his senses swam with the delight of her kiss and the caress of her thigh that she moved against him.
“Not here. In the bed, below,” she breathed. He swung her up in his arms and carried her down the stone steps. When he let her go, she put her hands to the tunic she wore and drew it off slowly. Kyrik stood and watched the unveiling of that white body. By Illis! She was even more desirable than he had suspected. His hands went to his sword-belt, loosed it. In seconds he was as naked as she and moving toward her.
His hands went over her gently as she writhed, eyes closed and lips smiling. Tiny beads of sweat stood out on her forehead below the edge of her glossy black hair. There was a fire in this witch-woman that he needed badly to taste.
Kyrik caught her up, his hands under her armpits, and carried her toward the bed . . .
He slept after a long time, and his dreams were full of the white fire of this woman’s body. She was almost like a virgin at first, hesitant and unsure of herself. But when she sensed his need, when she felt her own desires, she was like a well trained courtesan, of the sort that makes up the court of Thakispan.
Kyrik woke to the touch of light across his eyelids. Sunlight streamed in the narrow window in the stone wall close to the bed, brushed across his eyelids. He came up on an elbow, stared down at the sleeping Olvia. From her his gaze turned toward the sword that lay upon the floor where he had dropped it when he had stripped off his clothes.
He grinned. With a sword like that in his hand, he could defy the world. Aye! He could even have hopes of finding the lost treasure which Olvia set so much store by.
He left the bed, dressed, moved down the stairs to the kitchen. Here he cooked some eggs he found, together with a few strips of ham. He ate voraciously, and not until the witch-woman came to join him, did he look up from the platter before him.
She carried the grimoire in her hands, set it down on the table. Her soft palm patted it. “This will tell us the way, what has to be done.”
Kyrik shrugged. To him, one part of the world was as good as another. All he asked was a sword to his hand, a woman to love, and food to eat. Well, and a little ale or wine to keep his throat moist.
“Three wizards.” He gaped at her. “Three wizards? What for? That’s three more people to share that treasure with.”
She jerked her head at the big tome lying within hand’s reach of him. “You can read it in there. Nath’s tomb is sealed with magic. To undo that seal, we need three wizards who can chant an invocation to remove the magic.”
Kyrik muttered, “You can pick up a wizard anywhere, maybe even in the marketplace at Obarium.”
“Not for this task. We need three special wizards, conversant in the ages-old language with which the seal was set in place.”
He cocked his head. “How do you know so much about it?”
“I’m a witch-woman; for one thing, given to strange dreams. For another, I’ve been browsing through the grimoire. It told me a lot.”
“Even where the treasure is?”
“In a vague way, yes.” Her eyebrows quirked. “Do you want to know where it is?”
He reached for more ham. “Not particularly. I’ll go anywhere you say.”
“Even when there may be danger?” He hooted. “Danger has been a friend of mine, all my life. I wouldn’t know how to live without it.”
“Good. Because the first wizard we need is Ammalauth-Vul, and Ammalauth-Vul has been cast into a deep sleep by the spells of a rival warlock. We have to risk the incantation—and more—to set him free.”
“He might mot want to come with us.” She brought a wooden platter to the table, began to eat. After a time, she murmured, “You must convince him that it’s to his best interests to do as we say. Can you do this?”
He snorted and finished the ale in his leathern jack.
“We’ll need supplies,” he told her after a time. “It is a long sail across the Sunless Sea.”
She nodded. “I’ll put meat and cheese, bread and ale in a sack. If worst comes to worst, you can always fish for food.”
He waited until she was done filling the canvas sack which she had found in the cellar. Then he lifted it to a broad shoulder and walked ahead of her out into a sunlit day. He turned to the side of the black tower and toward a flight of stone steps running down the cliff-side to the sea-waters that surged in driving waves.
To one side of the little beach, a stone quay extended out into the sea. Moored to the quay was a large shallop with a high mast stepped into its boards. Kyrik stood on the staircase, eyeing it. Finally he nodded. It was a seaworthy vessel, large enough for the two of them. Its sides were high against the pitch and roll of the sea; its lines were trim. She should prove to be a good sailor, Kyrik thought.
He ran down the stone steps, heaved the canvas sack into the prow. Olvia was at his heels, her hand caught his as he helped her into the boat. Then his big hands were loosing the mooring ropes that he tossed into the stern. He leaped lightly, caught his balance when the shallop rolled under his weight, then moved forward.
Olvia watched as he found the canvas sails neatly stowed in the boat’s locker. He shook his head when she offered to help and ran the sail up the mast himself.
The shallop had floated free of the quay by this time, and Kyrik moved to take the tiller. A breeze had swung up. The sail flapped loosely, but tautened as the wind filled it. The boat began to run before the gusts that tinted the waves with white-сарs.
Ahead of them lay the heaving gray immensity of the Sunless Sea. Behind them the rock-cliffed shore and the black tower of Upanokol receded. Kyrik showed his teeth, feeling the salt spray on his face.
“By Illis I haven’t sailed a boat in a long time, but I haven’t forgotten.”
Her black eyes brooded at him through her wind-tossed hair. “You sailed a lot in Tantagol?”
“Tantagol is by the sea, like Pithask. No man who lives there cannot sail a ship unless it be an over-fat merchant who doesn’t stray far from his moneybags.”
“A good thing,” she nodded. “Look!” Turning where she pointed, Kyrik saw dark storm clouds roiling in the sky to the west. He made a face.
“We could still make it back to shore. Do you want to go back, or are you willing to risk your life in this cockleshell?”
Olvia said simple, “I’ll risk it. If we don’t hurry, Ammalauth-Vul may die from the spell that has been put on him.” She shrugged. “Without him and the other two wizards, our quest is hopeless.”