Adam and Sword, Part 2

By T. F. Cooper (Based on a story by Donald F. Glut)

Dawn painted the ancient Teela River a violently bright gold, as young Lord Adam and his giant, armored tiger raced toward the north shores of the Harmonic Coast, from which he would make his way to the Berserker Islands, where the fortress of Val-Kun awaited. Cutting a swift, but treacherous path through the Lower Evergreens, Adam tightened his grip on the beast's reins, and the sounds of the surrounding woodlands were lost in the thunderous pounding of four, powerful legs.

"What do you know of this girl, good cat?" Adam asked the great beast, as they approached the pond. The youth had been far too busy sulking to ask Simyran much of anything. "What is her name?"

"Glimevere, say your brothers," answered the tiger with caution that was most uncharacteristic of him. "She was betrothed, at birth, to the son of King Randor, ..but the boy befell a tragic fate. It's said she is as courageous as her mother, the Lady Angella. What else do want to know?"

"Tell me everything!" Adam demanded, "and quit bouncing me so much! My bum's on fire!"

"Lord Simyran thrashed you pretty good, eh?" Battle Cat snickered, slowing his pace along a rocky hillside.

"You know?!" Adam grumbled, rubbing his backside. "Wh-who else ..?"

"A few neighboring villages," the giant tiger added. "Nothing uttered or whimpered in the Temple of Ishteuray stays in the Temple of Ishteuray. You'd do well to remember that."

"Why has Lord Simyran never thrashed you?" Adam asked. "You track mud into temples ..and steal fish. You hump in the open, where all can see!"

"Aye, boy," the giant tiger chuckled, "but I am a beast! It is my place to do such things! Too often, you forget yours, Adam, ..and so your way is hard. Do you know why Heuay the Green and Mighty Teela share the Dunamyr Crown?"

Adam did not answer quickly. He had learned, while watching the men of his tribe argue this matter or that, that those, who spoke too quickly, were often made to look foolish by others. "The Dunamyr Crown is heavy ..with wisdom, of course. Even such as the gods must share the weight of such a thing, ..methinks."

"The war between Vulnar's brothers and the dragons was long and bloody," the giant tiger began. "Mighty Teela cast her spear before the dragons and drove them back into the sky! To honor her service to our nation, the brothers adorned her in the copper-scaled hide and skulls of the many-headed desert dragon, Dunamyr, who was slain in the fight. Upon Mighty Teela's head, two skulls were set one atop the other."

"The Dunamyr Crown!" Adam guessed. "In her hand was another head and neck, which makes her Rod of Order."

"Aye, stripling," Simyran's cat nodded, "but that one maiden could bear the divine weight of Dunamyr's skulls so freely as Teela did, insulted the Lord of Dragons! Dragons give much to the world of man, Granamyr told the sisters, and man should not think their deaths so easy to bear! Understanding that dragons had a respected place in the world, Fierce Heuay offered to bear one of the skulls upon her own head show all that the loss of one dragon was too great even for a goddess to endure. The honored dragons left mankind in peace."

"Ha! But for how long?" Adam scowled. "I don't trust dragons. Neither do most of my brothers, ..and Granamyr is sneakiest of them all!"

"It is Granamyr's place to be sneaky ..and terrible," the tiger said, "just as it is your place to think on when next he will strike. Even Heuay and the rest must respect that. If you would be so respected, Adam, you must learn yours."

"Alright, cat! Alright!" Adam squealed, as he was bounced up from the saddle and back down onto his punished loins. "How can I think on all you've said, if you keep bouncing me so hard, eh? Must you run so fast?!"

"You'll thank me later," snickered Battle Cat, "when we reach that pond fulla' fish up ahead! I'll eat, ..and a cool swim might take the shine off your bottom!"

"Let's ride!" grunted Adam.

And ride, they did.

The outside world was no mystery to the Vulnarians, and even the youngest boys amongst them had heard the fantastic tales about the mysteries beyond their Vine Jungle nation. Legend says the immortal warriors of Vulnar's Valley were the first to trudge these craggy cliffs and quake-torn valleys. Now, King Simyran's adopted son forded these same hills and streams alone.

Young Adam's homeland was already in the distant mists, when he heard a cry for help. As they neared the pond, a woman's shrill screams were heard through the brush along the hillside. Battle Cat roared and ripped forward down the dusty trail, while Adam ignored the smarting in his own haunches. A familiar scent inflamed Adam's senses and those of his tiger, as well. He'd smelled it many times before in the Vine Jungles surrounding Vulnar's Valley ..and danger had always followed. His homeland was already in the distant mists, when he heard the cry for help. "Devilbeaver! Faster, friend! Faster!"

Before Simyran's great cat came to stop, Adam, dagger in hand, sprung from his mount and onto his shaggy foe. Pale green from head to toe, the dazed and naked, young woman it had backed against a tree collapsed to her knees, covered her face and sobbed.

The boy was lucky - more from surprise than overwhelming force or skill, the devilbeaver was tumbled from his prospective prey and into the pond. He'd first hunted the largest and fiercest of them, the purple-backs native to the Vine Jungle, when he was barely seven summers old. The devilbeaver's forest cousin was much smaller, and the young Vulnarian made short work of it. The water around them was quickly made red with the beast's blood.

A lifeless, sodden hulk, the dead devilbeaver sank into the murk of the pond.

"I am called Boa'Na," the trembling beauty answered, as she dressed. Even when her priestly costume was entirely affixed, there was little covering her - a brown, boarhide and bone collar, hung just below bare breasts, and a heavy belt of thin, leaf-shaped gold plates draped about her naked hips. "I am a priestess to Fierce Heuay ..and was fresh from my bath, when the creature attacked me. I-I don't understand -- even my most potent magic hardly fazed it! You have my thanks, stranger, ..and whatever favor lying within my power to grant thee."

In his travels with Lord Simyran, Adam had learned that those few priestesses of Heuay, who dwelled in the Evergreens, ate of a rare tree there, the sweet fruit of which turned their skin pale green over a time. Never before, had the youth encountered one of them so young and lovely as Boa'Na, ..and he felt the breath as though ripped from his chest. "I-I am Adam of the Vulnarians, ..son of King Simyran! Fierce Heuay sends me on this mission, in my king's stead, to the Furnace of Val-Kun, ..but his map was lost in battle with - it's a long story."

"Come, then," Boa'Na commanded, brushing past Adam toward her house. "The only maps that show the way to this place are back in your valley, but I have in my keeping scrolls, which tell of it, ..and I know divinations that might force such secrets from the lips of the gods. I also have a salve for disobedient backsides."

Adam nervously pulled his devilbeaver pelt tightly over his punished bottom, as if to shield it from Boa'Na's powers, ..then, very sheepishly raised his eyes to hers. He marveled that not a scratch or bruise from the devilbeaver's claws and teeth marred her jade flesh. "How did you know?"

Without breaking her stride, the green woman cast a smiling glance over her shoulder, as she returned to her hut. "I am a sorceress, my young friend! Come!"

"Wait!" Adam squealed, following Boa'Na inside. A congress of dead candles there flickered to life, and Adam flinched. Beyond the meager mud and rock opening of the sorceress's hut, he saw that a great hall, carved out of solid grayish green rock, lay within! And from that grand atrium, impossibly long staircases snaked in every imaginable direction, ..surely to other halls Adam imagined to be even grander and stranger than this one! He struggled to mask the amazement on his young face, but could not. "If truly you are a sorceress, good lady, you know why Fierce Heuay has chosen me to take King Simyran's place on this mission?"

"It is your time, Adam," answered the sorceress cryptically, guiding Adam to a small nest of pillows in the darkness. "Your strength! Your courage! These mark you as the legendary hero, who is to inherit the treasure I have guarded all my life, a weapon forged centuries before the Great Wars by Eternia's ancients, ..and though you enter this place a boy, you shall leave a man!"

Much time passed, while Battle Cat waited.

The boy did not emerge from the sorceress's hut for many hours. When finally he did, he carried a large, silvery sword at his side, and the smug conceit of a conqueror shone from his young face. "We go south, good cat, the Bay of Rage! We'll steal a ship there and sail to Mount Esivisu in the Berserk Islands! When we've recovered the Lady Glimevere and reunited her with Mighty Simyran and his queen, we will return here! Oh gods, yes! We must honor this gentle lady for her timely aid!"

"Showed you the way, did she?" The giant tiger huffed knowingly, as young Adam climbed upon his back. Something sounding very much like amusement purred under the beast's words, but his young master did not seem to care or notice.

"Aye, friend -- many wonderful ways!" the lanky youth sighed ecstatically, gathering the reins in his hands.

"S'bout damn time!" Battle Cat laughed, carrying his young master back onto the stony path. "What of that weapon she gave you - the sword?"

Adam held the silvery broadsword out from his chest, as he had seen his tribesmen do, and swung it through the air. "It's very, very old -- more than that, she wouldn't say. It'll do, least, until I get my hands on a proper battleaxe."

"Aye," Battle Cat grunted, wondering if more was afoot on the road to Mount Esivisu than the foul-tempered goddess had let on ..and what perils still lay ahead. "Lead on, then, Lord Adam!"

"That won't be necessary, good cat," a large, gray man replied, sitting in a tree. "The Bay of Rage is a backward and savage place. Stealing a boat there will only get you killed, leaving the Lady Glimevere without a champion! The noble houses fearing for her safety would never forgive you. From here on, you will take your lead from me, ..General Stratos of Avion!"

"I've heard of you," Adam mused, recalling the history of Eternia's sky-dwelling races. That the Lady Glimevere's plight was so widely known surprised him, but he knew Stratos of Avion to be famous - a hero even to his youthful companions at home. "When the Enemy of Man called you to join his priesthood, you refused! Many of the aerial states feared Skeletor's reprisals and attacked Avion, but a few came to Avion's defense. A war between the aerial states raged for seven years, afterwards!"

"And was finally ended by-yyy ..?" the goggled bird-man quizzed Adam, carelessly plucking a fruit from overhead and biting into it. "Swiftly boy! The Maid Glimevere is waiting be barbecued!"

In the mirrored lenses of Stratos's eye-gear, Adam saw twin phantoms of the skinny, naked boy still smarting from Simyran's discipline. Where the man Boa'Na made of him had gone, he did not know. His reply echoed with the shameful stench of awkwardness. "Uh-hh -- your marriage to Princess Delora of Daedalos, ..of course! For this reason, the skies of Eternia remain free, and the power over them divided equally between the aerial states! I know the history of the classical aerial civilizations much better than the modern ones!"

"Well," Stratos interrupted, leaping from the tree branch to the ground, "if Val-Kun can be bored to death, Heuay the Green has chosen her champion well! Do you think you are ready, ..boy?"

"Boy?!" growled King Simyran's tiger, indignantly. "Master Adam's surely seen more in his fourteen years than many civilized men of your Avion have in the entire of their adult lives! He is Fierce Heuay's champion, and the Sorceress Boa'Na is his lover!"

"She is?" wide-eyed Adam exclaimed in surprise. Then, he straightened his back and affected as much "Of-of course, she is, ..and I've known her every which way! I think."

"Don't get cocky," muttered Battle Cat to the boy on his back, before returning his attention to the bird-man. "At Simyran's side, young Adam's slain monsters from the bowels of the world! Turned back the Priest-kings of Infinitias from enslaving poor and defenseless tribes in the deserts and forests ..and seen wonders that defied reason! If such experience isn't sufficient to impress Stratos of Avion -- if truly, you're him -- so be it!"

"I am a Vulnarian, sir!" Adam proudly huffed, folding his arms over his narrow, hairless chest. Good Simyran seemed fifty feet tall, when he did this, but he would settle for a fifth of that. "I'm not afraid of Val-Kun ..or you!"

"Well met, Lord Adam!" Battle Cat growled, staring down the winged warrior. "This stuffed man-pheasant insults you too freely! I wonder what he tastes like raw."

The gray-skinned man laughed heartily and extended his hand. "Perhaps, you are ready, boy! Now, then -- off we go!"

A dozen or more whooping cries shook the trees, and the boy turned to find a host of Stratos's gray-skinned comrades springing from the treetops in every direction! How so many had concealed themselves from his and his tiger's detection, he could not fathom. Lifted into the air under one of the Avenger of Avion's thickly muscled arms, he saw that Stratos's men followed closely behind him, carrying Simyran's giant tiger in a net! "What makes you think I need your help, bird-man?"

"Look down, pup," Stratos laughed imperiously.

When Adam looked down, his eyes stretched wide in terror. The land below passed beneath them at a maddening speed, and nothing below, but the trees, could be readily identified. Startled, he drew in a sharp breath that he prayed did not sound too much like the half-cry that it was and fastened his small arms over his winged ally's. "By the gods!"

So tightly that Stratos wriggled slightly away to slacken the boy's grip. "Which god might that be? Nanoc, Jondar or Adam the Hunter -- you Vulnarians have so many! It was Heuay's own sister, Mighty Teela, who sent me to your aid."

Mighty Teela was regarded by all of Eternia as the friend and champion of man. A proud, if slightly surprised grin, spoiled Adam's face. To his relief, Stratos could not see it. "Of course, Mighty Teela sent you! If she favors me, as she does Lord Simyran, I must be a great warrior indeed! Is that not proof that I am ready, Stratos -- that the gods are with me?!"

Stratos did not answer, and silently, they approached a nest of large rocks jutting up from the sea like daggers' tips.

At their center was a massive rock, remarkable only for its ugliness, set slightly apart from the ones nearby. As if some horror had driven the others to push themselves as far away from the mythical mountain there as the sea they shared would permit.

The sword, the gift from Boa'Na tethered to the leather cord around his waist, brought Adam none of the peace Queen Angella of Myzargard had wished him. "Faster, Stratos! I am ready!"

Stratos felt Adam's arms tighten, once more, around his own.

He'd studied the boy enough to know it had been an involuntary gesture. He could feel the young Vulnarian's heart pounding ..and smelled the terror in him - a young warrior's fear. This time, the winged man did not wriggle free, and the awkward courage of Simyran's wayward son brought him nearly to tears. "Your gods are with you, Lord Adam. You are ready."

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