Chapter 6



"An entire herd of Orks was on my heels and I did not have enough strength left by then to deal with them all. Besides, I was approaching the edge of the cliff, so I prepared myself to pronounce my last Bavadire."

"Couldn't you just jump into the river at the bottom of the canyon?"
We had eaten a good meal, which in itself had been a remarkable experience. While Skrupsak made some preparations for the next day‘s work, the Knulpit and I were supposed to clean up. We had now finally gotten started with the chore, but then Tiny asked some questions and so I was occupied with explaining and the Knulpit with listening. He heard my tales with rapt attention to my colorful descriptions and was an appreciative audience. I actually had no need to exaggerate very much in order to keep him enthralled. I was filled with a new and great contentment that strengthened my desire to continue.

"Close your mouth, Tiny, or a Fylvor will hop inside."

He snapped it shut and I continued.

"That was a good suggestion that you made, for there was indeed a riverbed at the bottom of the canyon, but unfortunately the river only flows during the rainy season. However, a large Askylon on the opposite side spread its branches over the ravine while on my side stood a tall, thin Smirgyt. That tree is tough and flexible, and can be quickly felled. If I could manage to cut it down with my sword, so that it landed precisely in the crown of the Askylon before the Orks caught up with me, I would have a chance of climbing to safety. The Smirgyt would never be able to carry the weight of even the smallest of the Orks if they had the idea of following me."

"So it was okay after all. Then you must have made it..."

Tiny was visibly relieved. He was clearly living my story right along with me and now I was sitting right here at one end of the table and could assure him that I had successfully made my escape.

"No, Tiny. The Orks got me and finished me off. I died."

Now the poor Knulpit's jaw dropped again.

"You died? Oh, come on! You're pulling my leg!"

Tiny was greatly amused. It was of course completely unbelievable that I had died, when I was actually sitting here among the remains of dinner and telling him the whole story.
He probably also got the feeling that I was exaggerating my performance. At least now, anyway, which of course was only natural.

"Very well, let's put it that way. One never dies completely on our campaigns. You would do that only if you had been inactive for a long time and wasted away. I mean only that I lost almost all of my life after the encounter with the numerically superior horde of Orks. Not much life was left in me when my companions found me and with great effort took me to the druid Golgamak. He brewed a potion that restored me. Fortunately I had the soothsayer Orgeuil's formula for the brew even though it had been costly. But when you have gained a great deal of experience as a result of innumerable missions, you learn to be prepared, and I always have the formula with me in case I might chance to need it. Anything else would be foolish when you venture deep into dangerous regions like Durgamor."

"Does that mean you have the formula with you right now?"
"It has been a long time since I was in Durgamor."

Tiny was very clever. He would probably manage very well for himself where I came from. Perhaps not as a warrior, but as some sort of squire, page, or acolyte. He surely would not take long to be successful.

"Ha! I’d really like to believe you, Aciel, since you told the story so well, but you go way too far! When I think up stories, I always make sure that I don't get tripped up by some little detail!"

There was no way around it. I reached under my jerkin where I also kept Holbor's Incantations Against Galmor's Transformation Spells and Skardyk's Instructions for a Cure for Gordal's Paralysis and Sagomel's Convulsions. I pulled the formula out and carefully unfolded it. It was made of tanned Ygdra hide from Solvenia, where the biggest Ygdras live.

"Be careful, for it was a beautiful copy and very expensive. Now, of course, it is a little worn. That cannot be helped when you go around with it all the time."

The eyes of the little Ynkryg who sat at the end of the table were about ready to pop out. In order to completely unfold it, I had to sweep the remains of the flat, bone-dry bread crusts, which they apparently called "Pittsa," to the side.

"I cannot understand all of it myself — you would need an expert potions master or brewer of medicines for that. Especially as far as the simmering times and temperatures of the individual ingredients are concerned. But in any case there is Fumgur in it as well as Salvak. Finally we have Bromkyl and Samulena. Those are the most important ingredients."

"What… what kind of stuff is all that?"

I reveled once more in having the Knulpit's full attention. I could clearly sense his feeling of shame for having allowed himself to doubt my honesty. If I wished, I could now make him believe whatever I wanted. That was not at all necessary, however. Almost everything I recounted completely enthralled him without my having to embellish it any further.

"You see, Fumgur is a kind of moss that grows everywhere. It must be gathered at only a very specific time of the year, but it is something that all druids and salve mixers always have on hand. Salvak is also well known, especially when you are underway in the northeastern regions. It is a kind of reed that can be found along small lakes with standing water. Bromkyl is the ash from the small volcanoes that can be found in Nyrgakim and which you can collect without any great risk in autumn when the streams can still be crossed. But Samulena is expensive. It is pollen from the Mistabel plant, which only blooms every seventh year in a remote region of Kantibar, and even then the summer must have been sufficiently warm. And that is rare in Kantibar."

Tiny was completely caught up in my story once again. There was no doubt about it. Enthusiasm shone in his eyes. To think that one needed something that made the arduous collection of rare pollen from an inhospitable region of Kantibar necessary.

"How expensive was the formula?"
"Well, when we came back from the Castle of the Kryopters in Laramir with half of the Treasure of Burnos and in addition received the reward for rescuing the princess Marguerite…"
"Yes, have you heard of her? You look a little skeptical. She was extremely beautiful — and still is, as a matter of fact — and her father was overjoyed to see her again in good health. She was definitely worth one or two missions."
"Oh, I see. Go on."
"So I of course used a large portion of the treasure for repair and replacement of my gear and weapons. Also, since I knew how badly it had gone for others who did not know of Orgeuil's healing formula, I wanted to protect myself against such things in the future. And then there was the means to spend a month with the sage in Bamlor."
"What was his name?"
"His name? Uh… Rastaban…"
"Rastaban? To be honest, that doesn't sound like a sage… That’s a name for a… a… highwayman…"
"Really? Say, do you happen to know more about these things than I do?"
"No, no, no offence… What did you want with him?"
"He taught me how to resist curses and the Evil Eye. It is a kind of Salmir meditation, but with special physical exercises."
"Can you float in the air?"
"Can I float in the air? Tell me, little Knulpit, do I look like somebody who can float in the air?"
"No, I just thought... but some sages can do it … float, I mean… if they concentrate really hard… so I thought… maybe you'd learned how to do it… too…"
"Now listen here, my little friend! I am a warrior first and foremost! I have had to learn certain other skills to get by, yes, and I am one of the best, if I may say so myself. If nothing else, my deeds show that I know how to hold my own almost anywhere, even where danger threatens. But float, that I cannot. And if wanted to learn how, it would take a large part of my life and then I would not be a knight anymore. And that is what I prefer. For me there is nothing like a perilous campaign and a dangerous encounter with Orks or Growlers, at least when I am well-prepared for it."

Now I had gotten a little too worked up. That unfortunately happens sometimes and I lose my self-control. I have had to pay dearly for it, but in other situations it has also been useful. It would not take much before the Knulpit was sitting there with tears in his eyes. He did not want to show me disrespect or insult me, far from it. Since I was apparently capable of doing so much, it was the most natural thing in the world for him to inquire as to whether I could also float in the air. If I had said yes, he would have of course wanted to see it. That is how Knulpits are. And if I had claimed that I could I spit fire or walk on water, he would have considered it to be something perfectly natural as well. I had to make an effort to control myself. I had never before spent time with a lad of his age, so I had to come to terms with these new things. But he was worth it.

"What the heck — are you still sitting here and picking your teeth? I thought you would've cleared the table by now. Can you see about hurrying it up? It's already late and you should've been in bed a long time ago, especially after a day like today, when you must be tired to the bone the way you were running around in the valley."
"I'm not a bit tired and anyway I don't have to get up early tomorrow."
"You don't? No, wait — that's right! The teachers are having that walkout tomorrow to protest the new budget. I completely forgot about that. This is bad! What are we going to do? I can't leave you at home by yourself."
"I won't be alone in the house. Aciel is here, after all…"
"Aciel? Oh yes, that he is. But that‘s no good. A guy who's lost his memory. The authorities won’t exactly like that if they find out."
"He doesn't need a memory to watch over me. I know the town and he has the muscles to protect me. We're a perfect team."

The Knulpit was not without talent. He would be likely be able to talk his way out of any situation if you took a little care of him. Without a doubt he was already getting his own way much of the time. However, it was hard for a well-respected knight like me to accept that I was considered a muscle-bound oaf necessary only to ensure his sharp-witted existence. But never mind. I was not at home. Much went against my grain. The way things stood, that was something I would have to come to terms with.

"Take a look around. This is the sister's room. It'll be perfectly all right if you stay here for a while. We haven't seen her these past few months and if she happens to turn up suddenly, she'll just have to get used to the idea that somebody's been using her room in the meantime."

I had come into a small room with a comfortable-looking bed. By the window was a small table with a fragile chair and in the corner was a cupboard. There was also a cabinet of shelves holding various small objects. Everything had been crafted with meticulous precision and, like other furniture I had seen, without any carving or decoration. I looked at a small picture on the uppermost shelf. It was not a painting, but it unmistakably portrayed a young and beautiful Jarmir.

"So your daughter is away?"
"Away and gone. I've found out that she joined some religious group or other. As part of its initiation, the group demands that new members limit contact with their families if they aren't in the sect as well. And that we are definitely not."
"And you agree with this? If this portrait does her justice, she does not look as though she is fully grown."
"No, but in our society it isn't always easy for parents to decide everything for their children. Anyway, she'll have the right to decide for herself in a year. She will then be a legal adult. That's how it is here. I'm not happy about it, either, but I'm afraid of making a bad situation even worse if I come down hard against it. Girls of her age can be damned headstrong."

Skrupsak sighed. It was clear to me that what his daughter was doing on her own, deeply disturbed him. In my homeland, such behavior was unthinkable. It would be completely impossible for a Jarmir to live without protection far from home. But perhaps the religious order took care of that. There were many new things to learn.

The first day had gone surprisingly well. It was with great peace of mind that I fell asleep in the quite indescribably comfortable bed. As strange as it may sound, it had been a long time since I had slept so well.