Added on October 03, 1999
Category: Fantasy/Dark Elf - Discworld crossover
Author: Lledrith RavenWolf

Sojourn - Rewritten

Prologue
Chapter 1: D'regs
Chapter 2: Sunset
Chapter 3: Spirals
Chapter 4: Discussion
Chapter 5: Door?

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Here we go again. I am very, very bad at keeping promises to myself, but this one really takes the cake. I hope I don't fail my exams through spending too much time on this, so all of you pray for me, ok? :D
This story touches back slightly on Salvatore's Sojourn, though not really as much as with Homeland in the first story.
Again, for realignment, Zak and Jormungand are in the Discworld, Drizzt and Quetzal are in Toril.

Enjoy!


Prologue

Great A'Tuin the Star turtle swims through the blessed darkness of space, its meteorite-pocked shell supporting four giant elephants, which in turn hold the Discworld on their shoulders.

The Discworld, one of those anomalous worlds which the Creator well, creates for want of a universal, colossal joke.

The flat disc, with the oceans spilling forever over the Rim Ocean into space, supporting its own variety of mountains, forests, seas, and cities. Cori Celesti, the home of the Gods, rises up from the mountains of the Hub.

The Discworld has its own lion's share of magic, and magic does strange things to reality itself. No, this is not a lecture on fabrics, dark holes and evil magic… it is a lecture on belief.

Belief, when harnessed by thousands of humans or humanoids, is a potent weapon, the food of the Gods themselves, for in belief do Gods come about.

Now picture a lush forest, deciduous trees growing densely but not so densely, the shafts of sunlight penetrating into pools on the moss'd ground. It is that sort of forest where you walk into expecting to find fairies with insect wings and unicorns staring into their reflections on shimmering pools.

The deer walk stately through the woods, harassed now and then by hunters. Hunters dream up lots of gods, especially those with large horns, a hearty laugh, and a liking for beer and young women.

These hunters, for some reason, dreamed up a goddess.

Perhaps it had something to do with their moral values, which allowed women to join the Hunt, and indeed, contribute to it.

Spiral, hawk-winged goddess of the Hunt, came into being, amber eyed and silver haired, doe-furred gloves holding a bow of carven ivory.

Her smile, the promise of the Hunt.

***

Chapter 1: D'regs

Zaknafein dismounted from the camel with a certain amount of relief, promptly dodging the bite and then the kick from the bad tempered beast.

The camp was, for one, orderly, though ragged. The D'regs were sitting around the fire. One particular one, his face an interesting network of scars, got up and walked to them.

"Offendi," he said.

"We've come this far. Now, what are you going to do?" Zak said bluntly.

"I am Libbar, the wise-man of this tribe," Libbar continued, then bowed. "My tent is your tent."

"Really?" Zak said.

"My wives are your wives…"

"No thank you," Zak said.

"My food is your food…"

Zak looked down at the mass of meat at the fire. He couldn't determine what it was made of, but guessed it was a relative of rothe. Libbar bent down and picked up a morsel, giving it to Zak.

Zak looked at it. It looked back.

"The choicest part," Libbar said, and made an appreciative sucking motion. There was the unpleasant sound of muffled laughter.

"This looks like an eyeball," Zak said. Jormungand, standing beside him, nodded.

"I don't eat eyeballs." Zak said in a firm voice, "Nor anything that looks back at me."

The laughter stopped, and Libbar gave him an appraising look.

"Well done! First time it has not worked here! Sit down and have bread and meat like mother!" he said heartily.

Bottoms shifted to make way for the both of them, and a slab of bread with meat dripping was passed to him. Zak gave it a cursory glance, then shrugged and started to eat.

"So, what are you going to do to us?" Zak asked through a mouthful.

"You are honored guests! My tent is…"

"Really. Well, keep us at your own risk…"

"We have tradition," Libbar explained, "A man who is a guest in your tent, even if he is your worst enemy, is your guest for three days."

"Three days?"

"Yes, honored guest. How do you understand Klatch?"

"It's a gift," Zak said modestly.

"Your friend does not speak?" Libbar asked, looking at the silent Jormungand. He had a crawling feeling that he was talking to an immense reptile.

"No. I was going to teach him," Zak said.

"Why, stranger, are you in the middle of the desert?" Libbar asked curiously.

"An accident with something to do with magic," Zak sighed.

"Ah. Magic. Not a trustworthy thing, is it not?" Libbar said.

"Not at all." Zak said.

"And why are the both of you dark as the deepest night?" Libbar continued.

"I… that is, we are dark elves. An accident, as I have said, landed us on this world." Zak said. "What world is this, by the way?"

"Dark elves? Truly. This is the Discworld." Libbar said.

Zak groaned, and the wise-man looked at him with concern. "Are you not well?

"No… not again!" Zak said with a certain amount of irritation. "And what is this place?"

"You are in Klatch," Libbar said.

"Is that far from 'Ankh-Morpork'?"

"Very far," Libbar said, "Are you from that place?

"No." Zak said, and looked around with a resigned expression.

***

"Look. You understand what I'm saying, so you should understand how to speak it," Zak said reasonably to Jormungand.

Jormungand shook his head.

"Very well. All you should know actually, is to take me to Quetzal. Now, preferably." Zak was in a private corner of the camp, but could feel a few D'regs looking down at him in interest.

Jormungand shook his head, and gestured frantically.

"I know. What do you mean, you can't?" Zak didn't like reptiles, or indeed any reptile without the decency to have feet. To him, a transformed reptile was the same as another.

What was the Midgard serpent looked lost.

"All right. I can't do it myself, either. So we just wait?"

Jormungand shrugged.

"Fat lot of help you are," Zak muttered.

***

"They say, when they attack you send out invisible hands and dump them off the camels," Libbar told Zak.

"Yes," Zak replied untruthfully, wondering what he was here for, "So, technically, I shouldn't be sitting in this tent now."

"You have no where to go," Libbar said, "The desert swallows those who know her not."

"True," Zak admitted, never one for 'No! It can't be!'.

"You are a powerful ally," Libbar said. "Ally is Klatch for friend."

"Wonderful," Zak said dryly, "So you judge the intelligence of people by offering them sheep eyes?"

"Yes," Libbar said offhandedly, "To see if they could see far."

"And what did you do to those who couldn't?"

"They find sharp point of curved sword after three days," Libbar said, matter-of-factly.

"Ah."

***

Drizzt looked down at his clothes, noting the thin waft of smoke that came up from his piwafwi. The shielding cloak, that had protected him in the Underdark, was slowly dissolving to the sun.

He sighed, and took it off, dumping the rags into the heap that was the cloak of his sister.

His boots too, thin and wasted from the burning sun that was the light of the surface world.

Then Quetzal was beside him, in heart-stopping silence. "The magic lasts not on this world," she said calmly.

"Your robe has survived," Drizzt said.

"It is protected," Quetzal admitted, "The flute was not made by dark elves. But that is the only protection I have against the wind."

Drizzt had to admit that. The biting cold of the wind permeated even the darkest recesses of their cave.

"What sorry creatures we have become." Drizzt commented.

Quetzal shrugged. "Guilt and regret, Drizzt? I have none. If this is what happens if we have to survive, so be it."

"Sometimes you are so practical you scare me," Drizzt said, quietly.

"To survive, Drizzt, there are many lengths you have to run."

***

"Do you know what the Death of this world looks like?" Zak asked carefully.

Libbar shrugged. "Death is supposed to wear a black cloak, and holds a scythe. After we die we go to a paradise with houris and sherbert."

"Sherbert?" Zak said, incredulously.

"With a straw," Libbar replied amicably.

"Ah. And this Death comes for everyone who dies?" Zak asked again, hopefully.

"From what the foreign dogs of Ankh-Morpork say, Death only comes for the deaths of magic-users and sometimes for common people," Libbar said. "Why do you need to know?"

"Just curious." Zak said absently, his mind racing.

"And also he comes when there is war or disease," said Libbar, "Tomorrow we go to war with a tribe of D'regs. You may see him then."

"Very well," Zak said.

Libbar smiled, revealing the most gold Zak had ever seen in one mouth. "You will find it interesting how the D'regs attack."

***

That was an understatement, Zak considered while he watched the scene from a handy sand dune, Jormungand silent by his side.

The D'regs crashed together like two white waves. The women attacked, the children attacked, even the sheep, chicken, and other livestock attacked.

"A wonderful people," he said sarcastically.

"Yes indeed, offendi," Libbar had come up beside him, and salaamed.

"Is it like this all the time?" Zak asked.

"No offendi. Sometimes the sand wind blows, and everyone takes cover." Libbar said seriously.

"Sand wind?"

"When the wind picks up sand and hurls it around like a cyclone," Libbar said, "You can sharpen your sword if you hold it up in the wind."

"Ah." Zak said. There wasn't much he could, in this case, raise.

There was a clicking sound, and Zak looked down at the gold plated watch that Libbar had on. "What is that?" he asked, for the sake of conversation.

"It is a watch, offendi. Inherited from my father," Libbar grinned a golden smile. Something about that tone caused Zak to look at him closely.

"When he died?" Zak asked.

"Very good, offendi." Libbar said.

"Prematurely?" Zak continued.

"You are very sharp," Libbar admitted. "The old man was after his time."

Zak shrugged, and watched the melee. "There's a huge dust cloud there," he said carefully, pointing in front.

"Soldiers of Klatch," Libbar shrugged. "We care not which place they come from. Watch."

Zak did so. The soldiers fought the D'regs, and the D'regs fought everybody. As he looked on the scene in the beating sun, an enraged sheep chased a Klatch soldier out over their sand dune. Libbar casually poked out his sword, and the Klatch soldier fell.

"Wonderful people," Zak said.

***

Chapter 2: Sunset

Quetzal managed to walk from where she had been studying ants to the shielding shrubs when the smell hit her.

She had been watching a miniature war, perfectly coordinated, two tides of reds surrounding then overwhelming the blacks.

It had reminded her uncomfortably of the drow tactics, and it certainly felt strange watching the war from above. Perfect soldiers, with perfect weaponry, that surrounded and killed mercilessly.

"Drizzt?" she asked, moving quickly to the flat, bare stone that led to the cave.

"Don't come close," Drizzt's voice floated out of the cave.

"Gladly," Quetzal wrinkled her nose, "What happened?"

"An animal came into the cave… we can't stay here now," Drizzt said from inside, then came out carrying a makeshift bundle. Quetzal took a few involuntary steps backwards.

Guenhwyvar emerged next, looking injured.

"Oh my," Quetzal said, then began to laugh.

"Quetzal!" Drizzt protested.

About an hour later they walked down one of the lower mountain trails in search of a new home, keeping a good distance away from each other. Drizzt could still hear muffled laughter now and again in front of him, but he made no comment.

He took in all in stride, the stench of his body making the lesson more poignant that he would have liked. The animal was small, slightly bigger than a cat, and its black and white body had certainly looked strange. It had backed itself up against the cave wall, and then…

Drizzt didn't want to think about it. He considered Guenhwyvar's reaction, and reminded himself to gauge what the panther thought of the situation first before acting, next time.

Not that he hoped there would be a next time.

"There's a brook here," he heard Quetzal call from in front. His footsteps quickened, then looked at the running, clear water with a certain amount of relief.

"I would watch our belongings while you have a wash," Quetzal said, and smiled more comfortingly. "I don't think the smell is permanent."

Drizzt had already stripped to his ragged pants, and waded into the ice-cold water of the brook. Guenhwyvar nodded once at Quetzal, then bounded upstream in search of fish.

"How's the water?" Quetzal said conversationally.

"Cold," Drizzt shuddered, "What a mess I must appear."

"True. You'd have to do something about your hair," Quetzal said, "Want a comb?"

"You carry a comb?" Drizzt said incredulously.

"An essential," Quetzal shrugged, "I feel very irritated when my hair is a mess."

"Says a lot for a female," Drizzt muttered.

"If being a male means having matted hair," Drizzt started guiltily, "And smelling very strongly, no thank you." Quetzal said calmly.

"You don't have to rub it in," Drizzt protested, but smiled at his twin.

"It's doing it itself," Quetzal admitted, "Your chain mail smells of it."

****

The gnoll chieftain paused, dark muzzle sniffing at the air. It was very… striking.

"Skunk," one of his band said nervously.

"And elf," another said in the rasping, snarling language of the Gnolls.

The gnoll chieftain shifted uncomfortably. "Ulgulu will want us to see." He said, "Only two."

The gnoll band did not look enthusiastic at all. Elves had the nasty reputation of being extremely unpredictable, loosing lightning bolts, arrows, swords etc when you least expected them to.

"Ulgulu will want us to see," the chieftain said reluctantly. The fear of the barghest overrode their fear of the elves, and with much shifting and swiping of spears and halberds, the gnolls walked forward, their large padded paws making not a sound.

"What do you think you're doing?" the robed elf at the bank whirled and glared at them, with lavender eyes. The gnoll chieftain realized that the elf was not only drow, but also wearing the robes of a high priestess, the double combination convincing him that this was the worst, and possibly the last day of his life.

Involuntarily, the gnolls took a step backwards.

Drizzt, in the water, was feeling strangely lightheaded. His sister had just demanded something from five seven-foot humanoids with polearms.

Idly, he wondered whether he had enough time to get to his scimitars.

Quetzal, on the other hand, was perfectly calm. They are naturally afraid of dark elves, she told her brother quietly in 'twin'.

Those polearms look like they'd make the difference, he replied.

I'd show you something, Quetzal's mind voice sounded infinitely smug.

The gnoll chieftain stepped forward uncertainly. He looked at Quetzal, then dipped his spear, signaling something to the other gnolls to do likewise. He then barked something at the dark elf, in its confusing voice.

Can you understand them? Drizzt asked Quetzal nervously.

No. The spell wore off a few days ago. Quetzal replied.

Seeing their obvious confusion, the gnoll then barked something in the language of the goblins.

Can you understand them now? Drizzt asked.

No… their dialect is strange, Quetzal replied irritably.

Something about friend and leader. Drizzt said hopefully.

Wonderful. Like, they're not our friends and as leader I tell you to kill them? Quetzal said sarcastically.

Cautiously Drizzt took a step to the bank. The gnolls moved backwards respectfully.

Guenhwyvar's in the bushes to the right. Quetzal said.

Good, Drizzt replied fervently. If the gnolls attacked, Guenhwyvar would be right on top of them like a ton of bricks.

"We walk together?" Quetzal asked, again emulating the imperious air of any high priestess.

The gnoll replied in a hurried shout, and the twins thought they recognized the last word, "ally."

Quetzal glanced briefly at Drizzt, then nodded slowly, hoping that they had guessed the gnoll's intentions.

"Ally!" the gnoll chieftain croaked and the others relaxed, laughing and patting each other on the backs. Quetzal gestured to Drizzt to get his equipment. Drizzt nodded briefly, quickly strapping on his scimitars, and as the gnolls were distracted, gestured for Guenhwyvar to take up a new position in the thick growth near the road. There was always room for caution.

They walked with the gnolls down the mountain trails, the dog-like humanoids keeping a fair distance from his sides.

Respect, perhaps? Drizzt mused to his sister.

Your smell? she suggested, her presence in his mind formulating a laugh.

Drizzt sulked for the next half an hour.

The gnoll leader addressed Quetzal every so often, with a certain respect people in this world give to bomb that may just blow up in their faces.

Quetzal didn't understand what they were saying, but by the eager lip smacking, Drizzt deigned to draw an opinion that it had something to do with a feast.

We are going to the farming community. Quetzal said after a while. In truth, they were going to the ring of lights the twins had observed now and then from their mountain cave.

I don't think they are friends. Drizzt said doubtfully. The gnolls had dropped into a defensive position, keeping to the shadows as much as possible.

The gnoll chieftain walked up to Quetzal respectfully. "One family," he said slowly, "Three men, two women..."

"One young woman," one of the gnolls said, but was hushed by the others.

"And three young males," the gnoll chieftain concluded, with a moderated snarl.

The surprised and questioning look on the twins' faces prompted the gnoll chieftain to confirm it further. "Enemies." He said.

They are raiders. Drizzt said.

We know nothing of what they are doing. Quetzal confirmed, Wait...

"Enemies?" Quetzal asked.

The gnoll chieftain crinkled his brow in apparent consternation, then spouted a whole line of gibberish. The twins recognized the words "human... weakling... slave."

All the gnolls recognized their uneasiness, and started to finger their weapons, glancing at each other in concern.

"Three men?" Quetzal said sharply.

"Kill the oldest, catch others." The gnoll chieftain snarled.

"And the women?" Quetzal's voice became dangerous. The chieftain looked uncertain suddenly, remembering the tales of drow female domination.

"Kill," it said. Some of his gnoll companions made a sound like a snigger, but stopped abruptly when Quetzal's gaze scythed over it.

"The children?" Drizzt asked.

"Are humans under your protection?" one of the gnolls, brighter than the others, asked uncertainly.

"Perhaps." Quetzal said enigmatically.

"Kill children," said one of them.

Quetzal glanced at Drizzt. "We think not," she said, in a low voice. Again the gnoll chieftain's brow crinkled, in confusion, but Drizzt had waded in, scimitars first.

As the others watched, the scimitars snapped over each other, killing the giant gnoll before the halberd even swung.

The first gnoll reacted, but ran full into Quetzal's sabers, that danced over his spear tip and into his chest. It died, a look of confusion on its hairy face.

Drizzt was already engaging the third, while the forth rolled in the dust, Guenhwyvar raking it with its claws.

The fifth wheeled and tried to run, then its eyes rolled in confusion as Quetzal confronted it, sabers held low.

Then it gasped as Drizzt attacked it from behind, its head smashed in by a scimitar.

***

They set up camp a ways from the farming community, in an area hidden by a thick arrangement of trees that served to keep out both the weather and prying eyes. It was mostly by Quetzal's insistence, as Drizzt seemed to be walking with a certain stunned shock.

Drizzt slept eventually, though fitfully, curled up with Guenhwyvar, who was on guard.

Quetzal woke up after a while, leaning on the other side of the great panther. "He's at it again, isn't he?" she smiled at Drizzt's tossing body.

Guenhwyvar looked at Quetzal curiously.

"He never understands," Quetzal sighed, "He thinks everyone is basically good. Well, not everyone," she amended, thinking of Malice.

"He'd be wallowing in self guilt again soon, asking what have we done? And sorts." Quetzal affectionately patted the panther, which looked back at her, unjudging as always.

"Sometimes I think..." Quetzal said quietly, "That this isn't worth it at all."

If the panther heard, it paid no attention, putting up a paw for inspection.

"All that practicality? Some of it's to reassure Drizzt. Or he'd be really depressed."

Guenhwyvar began to calmly lick its paw.

"I wonder where Zaknafein is? Now there's someone who's really down to earth. You can't get more 'real' than that. He's someone who'd carefully think his way through every single situation before jumping in, don't you think?"

The great panther glanced briefly at Quetzal, the saucer-like eyes gleaming.

"You're here," Quetzal continued, leaning on the panther, "Solid as always. Strong as always, and always shall be. Though sometimes I wish..."

Somewhere in the darkness, a wolf howled, and Quetzal began to cry, softly, Guenhwyvar nuzzling the dark elf into sleep.

Then there was nothing for it to do but to keep watch.

***

Chapter 3: Spirals

The magnificent stag bounded through the ancient wood, clearing a sparkling stream with a single, graceful bound. The tall oaks and other gnarled trunks sported moss and ferns, while the barely visible trail snaked its way through the dense forest, that was just dense enough to let sunlight through in beautiful, continuos shafts.

It was the kind of forest attributed to fairies and unicorns and whatnot. Oh, and shining deer, and elves that jump around in green suits and pointy ears singing and dancing all night long.

Above the stag, immense birds of prey spiraled lazily on the warm currents, their mottled wings blotting out portions of the sunlight, if you want to be exact. If you looked really, really closely from down here where we're standing on the forest trail, you can just about see the riders, sitting on the necks of the birds quite comfortably.

A sleek hunting dog, all fur and graceful nose leaps out from the trail and gives you barely a sniff, before bounding after the deer. It is followed by a few other hunting dogs.

As we fade away, we hear the laughter and banter of the hunters.

Then She steps out into the clearing, running with the effortless lope of a hunter stalking her prey. Her hawk wings are half raised in excitement, her ivory bow upraised, arrow notched in place. Amber eyes flash, and with her silver hair streaming, she moves after the stag, her companions behind her.

The stag bounds over shrubbery and other lowly plants, his magnificence shaming the ancient trees. Then the arrows hit it, and it twists in the air before falling to the ground, dead.

Spiral, the goddess of the Hunt, walks out daintily, and retrieves her arrow carefully. Her companions of mixed sex do the same, excitedly pointing at the beautiful, twisted horns of the stag.

"Good eating tonight, my Goddess," a man dressed in leather and suchlike measures the flanks of the fallen deer.

Spiral merely nods in assent, her amber eyes far away. She was thinking about nothing in particular and yet everything in general.

Then she smiled the promise of the Hunt.

***

Zaknafein was watching in a kind of silent fascination as some creature hopped out of one of the saddlebags that hung on Libbar's camel. The bulging bags were almost uniformly light brown, and their featureless surfaces seemed to discourage any form of inspection.

"My inheritance," Libbar had said once, and by the way the golden teeth glittered, Zaknafein already felt very suspicious.

The creature was small, smaller than a human's head. Its fur was a very pale shade of brown, and black markings appeared here and there on its back. Its limbs were sheathed in black, as was its relatively long tail. The most surprising bit was its face, which resembled that of a human child, though vaguely.

"Mik," Libbar said perfunctorily, "A 'monkey', as we call them. From another part of Klatch."

"And what does it do?" Zak asked. Mik, seated on Libbar's knee, was examining him with its wide, dark eyes, and the dark elf felt slightly disconcerted. Those eyes held the most intelligence he had ever seen in an animal, and in some elves too, if you counted Uthgental, weapon master of the second house.

"Picks parasites from hair," Libbar said.

"Lice? Here?" Zak said, looking out at the searing desert.

"Camels," Libbar replied with a grin, seeing Zak's look of horror. "The monkeys eat the parasites." Already the creature had climbed up the D'reg, and was industriously combing out his hair.

"It will finish soon," Libbar said, referring to the ugly fight, "Are you sure you will go then?"

"Yes," Zak said, glancing over the desert again.

"Ah." Libbar seemed to consider something, then picked up Mik, who had settled on the D'reg's shoulder. "For you," he said, grinning again, "I can always get another, and this is the best I can give now."

"A D'reg? Give?" Zak smiled, taking the unresisting animal, which climbed up to sit on his shoulder, prehensile tail curling.

Libbar smiled. "For a warrior. Warriors have always given gifts since the beginning of fighting."

"And charging," Zak said.

"And charging," the D'reg agreed.

Zak reached over to where Jormungand was eyeing Mik with a strange expression, and took out one of the adamantite, jewel encrusted swords. Jormungand didn't seem to notice.

"Curve it into a D'reg sword," Zak said softly. The Serpent elf glanced at his master, then the sword tip curved, and it flattened out.

"Thank you," Zak said awkwardly, then leant over and handed the sword to Libbar.

"Warriors always give," he said, "This sword will not rust, and is the hardest material in my world."

Libbar smiled. "You think like a D'reg," he said approvingly.

"I hope not," Zak muttered under his breath, looking down at the devastation. A D'reg chicken was doing something interesting to another D'reg. A D'reg boy was chasing a Klatch soldier with a stick. A D'reg woman was… well. Zak immediately averted his eyes.

There was a prickly, almost itchy sensation on his head and neck. Zak half turned his head in shock, nearly dislodging Mik, who looked back at him benevolently.

"What does it eat?" he asked, swatting the monkey's paws off his mane of white hair. There were limits to what he would stand.

"Any fruit," Libbar replied. "The fight is finishing."

"Er. How old is it?" Mik certainly looked like a baby monkey.

"It's full grown, but it will live for years." Libbar watched the crippled Klatchian regiment retreat. Or rather, run away screaming.

"Are you staying here?" Libbar asked.

Zak nodded, and the D'reg shrugged. "Do you need your camel?"

"No," Zak said in relief, dismounting and avoiding the expected bite. Jormungand did so with more ease, as his camel, nearly mad with fright and relief, bolted down the sand dune, where it promptly began to kick another D'reg.

"Fare you well then," Libbar said, wheeling his camel and riding off with the D'regs of his tribe.

Zak, Jormungand and Mik were left at the battlefield, Zak carefully watching the bodies.

Then Jormungand patted Zak's shoulder tentatively; pointing to a spot that did not seem to contain anyone at all.

Zak shrugged, half walking, half sliding down the hot sand. When he reached, more or less, the spot, he looked back at Jormungand, who silently pointed again.

Like a wave rippling over water, the image appeared. Well, not an image, exactly… Death appeared, holding his scythe.

"Thought you would come," Zak grinned.

YOU THOUGHT CORRECT, Death admitted. WHY ARE YOU HERE?

"I don't really know myself. One moment I'm jumping through a portal, the next moment I run into a bunch of D'regs." Zak said.

AND YOU'RE STILL ALIVE? Death said in astonishment.

"Yes." Zak said, letting a hint of smugness in his voice.

QUETZAL? Death asked.

"Don't know either. Elf here can't teleport," Zak said, shooting a glance at Jormungand, who shifted nervously.

CAN YOU? Death challenged.

"No," Zak admitted, then laughed, startling Mik, who was combing out his white hair diligently.

YOU HAVE A MONKEY ON YOUR SHOULDER. Death said, hoping that Zak hadn't fallen ill to the same malady as the 'Duck' man, who had a duck on his head and never knew about it.

"I know," Zak replied, "It was a gift. Now, do you have anywhere less hot that you can take us to?"

***

They landed on the outcrop over the funnel, and walked to the black cottage through the black garden on the black path.

"Eek!" Mik cried, then hid itself in Zak's long white hair.

"Black's your favorite color?" Zak asked mildly.

YES. Death said.

They entered the somber black cottage, with the irritating clock. Zak noticed that the carpets were fused to the ground, as if their creator had understood that carpets belonged in a house but had not understood their purpose.

The house was also bigger in the inside than on the outside. 'Elf' looked around nonchalantly, following Zaknafein on quiet steps.

I HAVE TO DO SOME BOOKEEPING. MAKE YOURSELF AT HOME AND I SHALL SPEAK TO YOU LATER, Death said, disappearing into a room.

Zak glanced at Jormungand. "Anyone here to talk to?" he asked.

Jormungand glanced at him, nodded, then headed through the large room, into what looked like the kitchen. Rows upon rows of stoves looked ready to make enough food for the entire Discworld.

However, only one stove seemed to be used. An old man with a long beard was enthusiastically frying something that looked extremely unhealthy. On the table near the man was a black-robed figure eating a bit of cheese.

Zak approached with Jormungand. "Hello?" he started.

The man turned, gave him a resigned glance, then turned back to the frying. "Master's brought another visitor, I see," he sighed, "Without telling me first. Ah well. Seat yourself, and I'd see what I can cook p."

"Do not bother yourself," Zak said hurriedly, "I've already eaten."

"And your friend?"

"Also has," Zak said firmly. "What is your name?"

"Albert," Albert said calmly, as if he'd gone through this before.

"I am Zaknafein," Zak said, "And this is Jormungand."

"Long name," the old man said in a disinterested manner. "I usually don't have company except for the rat."

Zaknafein looked closer at the small robed figure. It turned out to be a rat's skeleton. It was holding a scythe.

"The Death of Rats?" he asked.

SQUEAK, the robed skeleton said amiably.

"Hello, hello. You aren't dead, are you?" A raven hopped onto the table, and cocked a beady eye at Zak. Then it glanced at Jormungand.

"A walking serpent?" the bird asked, "And I thought werewolves were bad. Dark elf, eh?"

"How did you know?" Zak asked quickly.

"Sometimes I go to the Unseen University for the scraps. Them fellows don't know how to keep their mouths shut." The raven said amiably, rooting in a jar of pickles.

Mik made a graceful jump from Zak's shoulder onto the table, where it picked up what Albert would have called a raw apple slice. Apples, in Albert's opinion, ought to be emptied of their contains and filled with a greasy, sweet substance.

The Death of rats turned at the monkey. SQUEAK! It protested.

"Rat says you don't touch his apple." The raven said, managing to hook out a pickle.

SQUEAK! SQUEAK, SQUEAK! The Death of rats said indignantly.

"Rat says you don't eat his apple either, cause he took a long time to get a fresh one from that bloody idiot." The raven continued.

Mik gave the rat a glance then continued to eat the slice with every form of enjoyment. The Death of Rats gave a final, irritated squeak, noted that the small monkey was still about four times his size, and settled down grumpily with a bit of cheese.

Zaknafein started to laugh. The Death of Rats sneezed indignantly at him, then pottered over to the jam pot to sulk.

Zak and Jormungand sat down at the table as Albert walked over holding his frying pan. He dumped something vaguely like bacon and eggs on a plate then dumped the pan in the sink.

Zak looked at Albert as the old man sat down. "Do you cook for Death?" he asked.

"No," Albert said, expertly cracking bacon with his fork, "He either eats out or doesn't eat at all. He doesn't need to."

"You live by yourself?"

"There used to be Ysabell, the master's adopted daughter," Albert said mildly, "Gone down, married, had a daughter, died."

"I'm sorry," Zak said automatically.

Albert shrugged. "Everyone dies sooner or later. If I were to go back down to the Discworld I would die. Time seems to give up in this place."

"Ah." Zak said.

"You're one of them dark elves the master was talking about, right?" Albert asked, putting a crunchy brown bit of sausage into his mouth, "When he went off on that 'vacation'."

"I suppose so," Zak replied.

"His granddaughter Susan don't like it when he does that," Albert droned on, "Cause she has to take his role, see? It's in the family."

"Susan?" Zak said incredulously.

"I know what you mean," Albert said, "Her parents wanted to protect her. Gave her That type of Name ... Susan, ha!" Albert spat on the ground. "Gave her education. But she can't run away from the role, see?"

"Yes." Zak said untruthfully.

"The master said he'll see you after his books?"Albert asked.

"Yes," Zak said.

"Ah. You'll probably make yourself real at home then. He'd be taking some time... metaphorically, of course."

***

Chapter 4: Discussion

Drizzt woke up when the first stinging rays of sun hit him, then retreated under the cool, dense shade the trees offered. Quetzal was already there; her eyes fixed on the small tome on her lap, flute music floating into the air.

As Drizzt watched, what he had begun to know as a 'scrying' portal opened. The colors swirled quickly around in a 2-dimensional vortex, but showed nothing.

Then the tune of the song changed. The color shifted to a lighter shade, but still showed nothing.

Quetzal abruptly ended off the song. "I can't find him! Something's interfering… I've even tried a clerical spell, thought that didn't work," she said hurriedly at Drizzt's look of horror.

"Find who?" Drizzt asked, his mind still very foggy from sleep.

"Zaknafein! He's in a world with a high concentration of magic, I believe. It's certainly interrupting all my scrying spells." Quetzal looked incredibly irritated.

"I am sure he can take care of himself, especially with 'Jormungand'." Drizzt said, thinking of what Quetzal had told him of their adventure.

"Really," Quetzal said, unconvinced.

"Well, there is a diversion. We could go and investigate our neighbors." Drizzt said.

"What, in this light?" Quetzal asked incredulously.

"Later, when it grows dark," Drizzt replied.

"I don't think so, Drizzt. Humans do not take kindly to dark elves, especially farmer – humans, who are very suspicious and not too bright to begin with," Quetzal said.

Drizzt subsided. "The gnolls?" he asked.

Quetzal braced herself. "What about them?"

"Perhaps we should not have killed them. What have we done? They did not attack us at the pool, and we did not even … who are we to judge them?" Drizzt asked.

From the darkness of the thick branches above Quetzal, they both heard the muffled snuffling of what was the equivalent of a panther's laughter.

"I told you so," Quetzal said to Guenhwyvar, who was watching what transpired below with a languid interest.

"You told Guen what?" Drizzt asked suspiciously.

"None of your business," Quetzal replied airily to Drizzt's scowl. "Now, what did you say of the gnolls not being evil?"

"They may not have been evil," Drizzt said.

"And what makes you think that?" Quetzal inquired.

"Are you taking this seriously?"

"As seriously as you are, my twin. Now, do good creatures go around killing farmers and children?" she asked amiably.

"No… but we don't even know about the farmers! Perhaps the gnolls were seeking revenge for something…" Drizzt's voice trailed off.

"Well, I do know about children. No child is born evil. No child deserves to die, and certainly not in such a manner," Quetzal said.

Drizzt didn't say anything.

"And about the 'young' woman? What did you think the gnolls would have done, if we weren't there?" Quetzal said reasonably, "What do you think they would have said?"

Drizzt looked like he would protest, but said nothing.

"You think everyone is good?" Quetzal began thoughtfully, "Well, they're not. Face it, Drizzt. If you were human before the gnolls, they'd cut you down, not because you're a threat but because it's fun."

"I'm not saying all gnolls are evil. There are probably some good ones somewhere, but they're certainly not here. And they're certainly not those." Quetzal said.

"But the humans… they may have raided the gnolls before, and the gnolls may have been striking back because of revenge!" Drizzt protested.

"Humans? Who can say what humans think?" Quetzal asked calmly, "All of their minds are a seething mix of overriding thoughts, memories, prejudices. Probably only the most idiotic and simple of them would be totally free of evil."

"Then… what should we have done?" Drizzt asked, confused.

"Done what we should have – killed the gnolls." Quetzal said calmly, "If it's all right for you, you can go and observe the humans. I'm going to stay here and try and locate Zaknafein."

In the face of the calm acceptance of both his sister and his panther friend, Drizzt nodded, and set off squinting through the sunlight. Guenhwyvar jumped down from the branches and considered Quetzal.

"Follow him," Quetzal smiled, "I'd be all right."

The panther gave vent to a derisive sniff, then padded off after Drizzt.

Quetzal sighed, and got back down to sifting through the tome.

***

Drizzt returned after a while to find his sister still using her flute with a determined expression on her face.

When she saw him, she ended the spell, and put the flute on her back, leaning against the tree.

"Any luck?" he asked.

"No," she admitted. "I only have the sense that he's in somewhere with a lot of black."

"That isn't good, is it?" Drizzt said in concern.

"I don't know," Quetzal said in irritation. "Neither spell nor flute can find that elf… and I can't even find Jormungand."

"The Serpent elf should be with him," Drizzt reasoned.

"I know that. I've even tried summoning the creature, but nothing happened." Quetzal said.

"Have you tried looking at the place where he was last? Perhaps he is just being shielded." Drizzt said.

"Yes. Although the magic is weaker when he's gone, it's just as strong. The magic appears to permeate whatever place he is in, and it feeds off magical creatures. Makes them harder to detect, I mean." Quetzal added.

"Could you get anything from there, then?" Drizzt asked.

"Except it is very hot and has lots of sand, no." Quetzal said sourly.

"A desert?" Drizzt mused.

"Could be. But that does not explain the black," Quetzal replied. "What did you find?"

"I cannot as yet draw any conclusions, but the humans appear to have a common spirit not unlike that of Blingdenstone. There is a mixture of work and play present," Drizzt said.

"Ah. It is a farm, after all," Quetzal said, "See how their behavior will change if you suddenly dropped out in front of them."

"Drow are rightfully feared," Drizzt said quietly, "For their evil."

"As we are not?" Quetzal said bluntly. Drizzt looked at her, startled.

"All of us have a side of evil as well as one of good," Quetzal continued, "I was made aware of that when I was possessed by Lloth. There is no right for you to push everyone in the world into Good and Evil, for all of us possess both qualities."

"Quetzal, are you well?" Drizzt asked tentatively.

"Yes," Quetzal said curtly. She was feeling ashamed for having shouted at Drizzt like that, but she did not hold well under irritation.

Drizzt nodded, feeling injured, and sat down under the shade.

***

The children from the village skipped out, ready to go and gather berries. The girl carried a basket, the eldest boy a crude sword.

"There's a smell," the youngest boy squeaked after a while, and the others turned around, sniffing.

"Something died," another said, and as one, the group walked more closely together.

The eldest boy walked forward nervously, hand on the hilt of his sword, and the children gasped at the scene before them.

Five gnolls, savagely and precisely killed. There was the sound of the youngest few of the group retching in the bushes.

"We have to tell Them," the eldest boy said nervously, still referring to the adults with a capital letter. The others nodded, and the group half-stumbled, half ran back down to the village.

The adults, of course, were none too pleased when they were led back to the bodies.

"Gnolls," one of the men identified.

"Another capturing party," one of them spat. "Didn't get far, apparently."

"Wonder who killed them?"

"Probably some adventurer big shot. Lots of them in the mountains. Most of them call themselves rangers or such and go around molesting monsters. Life span of a few years, I think."

"Well, bless the one who did this."

"There's sign of a big cat."

"Ranger then. They've got this ability to make animals into their slaves. Remember gran once had a badger inside the barn, and we had to call a passing ranger to help."

The group of men nodded wisely at this. Badgers were famed for an amazingly bad temper, which did not fit their rather benign look.

"Did you know? The other village west had a few more people gorn missing. Don't know what happened, but they think is monsters."

"Better fortify our village tonight then. And then send to one of them big cities for help. They allwus have those big shot adventurers who'd just jump at opportunities to kill monsters."

Talking animatedly to themselves, the farmers led their children down from the scene after burying the bodies of the gnolls to prevent any chance of epidemic or bad luck.

***

Ulgulu roared in rage. "What?"

"Ulgulu!" the goblin Nathak fell face down on the ground, not daring to look.

"What happened to the gnolls?" the giant, purple skinned goblin-like creature demanded.

"Dead," Nathak quavered, "Killded."

Ulgulu seethed, stalking in a wide circle. The gnolls had been the primary capturing force for the barghest, with most of the goblins dead from either his temper or from the humans of the village or monsters.

Kempfana glanced at Ulgulu irritably, again wishing that the larger barghest whelp, with whom he had traveled with out of the Material Plane, would hurry up and grow, going back to Gehenna where they had come from, so that he would rule.

"I will go tonight and kill the village," Ulgulu growled. "Have they found the gnoll bodies?"

"Yes," the goblin said nervously, "They also going to call city for help Ulgulu."

"We have to strike soon," Kempfana said.

"Tonight I will go!" Ulgulu roared at the other whelp.

***

The next day began with Drizzt setting out on his patrol around the farm, which had been self-imposed by himself. Quetzal merely sighed and set again to the pressing problem about her father.

There was the sound of running footsteps a while later, and Drizzt ran into the shelter, eyes wide with shock. "They're dead… all of them!"

"Who?" Quetzal asked.

"The farmer, the children," Drizzt said, his voice becoming softer in horror. "Killed by some monster."

Quetzal nodded, shifting position, then the flute played.

"What are you doing?" Drizzt asked, sitting down beside her, his thoughts still churning.

The familiar scrying portal appeared, this time clearing to show the ravaged farm.

A very strong monster, Quetzal told Drizzt. The door had been smashed open with force.

Then the portal shifted, to show a cave. There were goblins outside, and the constant sound of 'Ulgulu'.

***

Chapter 5: Door?

"That's a Great Onion!" Albert said in astonishment, looking at Jormungand's cards. The transformed serpent smiled shyly.

"And what do we do?" Zak inquired.

"We've lost," Albert shrugged, pushing the stack of wooden coins towards 'Elf'.

They were, for lack of anything at all to do, playing Cripple Mr. Onion, the Discworld's most popular and confusing card game. Jormungand was several 'coins' ahead. Again, there was also the lack of money.

Zak ventured another 'dollar' and got a card. This game, though wholly irritating and very confusing, was strangely fascinating in its way. Not that he had anything better to do, and Albert thought chess was a type of wooden box.

Currently, the players were Jormungand, himself, Albert and the Death of Rats. The raven was placing 'the rat's' bids. Zak had pulled Mik out of the apple slices before the Death of Rats got an apoplectic fit, and the monkey sat on the dark elf's shoulder, grooming its pale brown fur.

AH, ZAKNAFEIN, the leaden voice of Death called from the doorway of the kitchen. Zak almost sighed in relief, and got up from his chair.

"Nice meeting you," Albert said, clearing the cards and coins.

SQUEAK! The Death of Rats complained at the slices of eaten apples. SQUEAK EEK! SQUEAK!

"The rat says don't mess with his apple slices again," the raven said, hopping towards the pickle jar. Mik didn't seem to notice, combing out its black tail with an air of intense concentration.

Zak and 'Elf' followed Death through the depressing black of the living room into the large study. There was a table in the middle, piled high with books.

"Do you know a way we can teleport out of here?" Zak inquired, looking at a scroll with strange inscriptions.

NORMALLY, I WOULD SAY NO. Death said, BUT NOW IT IS YES. THE SPIRAL VILLAGE-CITY IS CENTERED ON A DOOR.

"A door?" Zak asked, "Not a gateway, or a portal?"

A DOOR, Death repeated. IT WAS BUILT TO GET INTO OTHER WORLDS TO PROCURE ANIMALS FOR THE HUNT, WHICH IS THE MAIN SPORT OF THE VILLAGE-CITY.

"Why is it called a village-city?" Zak inquired.

BECAUSE THE VILLAGE-CITY-GERS THINK THAT SPIRAL IS A CITY, BUT TECHNICALLY IT IS TOO SMALL TO BE A CITY. AS COMPROMISE EVERYONE CALLS IT A VILLAGE-CITY. Death shrugged.

"Ah," Zak commented. "So, I go there and borrow their door?"

THEY MAY LEND YOU, IF YOU ARE A RAPTOR-RIDER. Death said. He seemed to have a habit of waiting for people to ask him to explain.

"Raptor-rider?"

ALL OF THE VILLAGE-CITY-GERS RIDE AN IMMENSE RAPTOR. AS YOU KNOW, A RAPTOR IS A BIRD OF PREY. THERE IS NO PREJUDICE IN THAT MANNER - ALL THE RAPTORS ARE JUDGED BY DIFFERENT CATEGORIES. Death said.

"Won't they notice that I am a dark elf?" Zak asked.

NO. APPEARANCE IS BASED ON THE RAPTOR. Death said.

"Strange." Zak mused.

AS FOR THE RAPTOR... Death glanced at Jormungand at the same time as Zak did.

***

In Death's garden stood the transformed Jormungand, an enlarged version of a male kestrel, with the soft orange, black barred wings, and the 'masked' eyes.

"Fly," Zak commanded, his hand firmly holding Mik, who had the unfortunate tendency to squeal and pull Zak's hair when frightened.

Jormungand looked confused then levitated a few feet.

I FORESEE A LOT OF WORK ON THIS SUBJECT. Death said gravely. Zak sighed.

***

Death had taken them down a few kilometers away from the village-city, where Jormungand transformed again into the kestrel.

AH YES. YOU WILL HAVE TO GIVE HIM A NAME WITH AN APROSTROPHE AFTER THE FIRST LETTER. Death said.

"What?" Zak asked, climbing up the giant kestrel with some difficulty.

A CURIOSITY OF THE NATIVES IS THAT THEY CARE NOT ABOUT YOUR NAME. THEY DO CARE ABOUT HIS NAME. Death gestured to the kestrel-serpent-elf.

"Er. What about K'seeran?" Zak said distractedly, climbing up to Jormungand's neck, Mik hopping down to sit in front of him.

A GOOD NAME, Death approved. DID YOU ALWAYS HAVE THIS GIFT?

"Compared to finding my twins, thinking up a name is an easy affair," Zak said. "Farewell."

FAREWELL, Death said, and mounted Binky. The white horse leaped, leaving two flaming hoofprints that, after a moment, faded.

"Now, do you understand how to fly?" Zak asked. The great kestrel nodded, then leaped into the air, nearly dislodging one dark elf passenger.

The wings flapped, and the bird rose gracefully into the sky, buoyed by his magic. Even in the Discworld, you cannot go against the laws of physics. Scaling from small to big would not work.

Zak, after a few moments of trying not to look down, shrugged and did so. Ancient forest stretched out beneath him, and now and again there was the teasing sparkle of a river winding through the forest. There were the hints of other birds far away, but Jormungand seemed to be enjoying himself, and gave them no notice.

After about the fifth hair raising swoop, Zak decided he had enough. "Would you stop that and fly straight?" he complained.

The kestrel obediently gained height and flew more sedately. Zaknafein heaved a sigh of relief, and Mik loosed its death hold on one giant feather.

The kestrel gained more height, until they came out...

Into what looked like heaven. Beneath them were clouds of pure white, forming a flat 'ground'. The sun shone, lighting the place with its gold rays. Now and again a high-floating cloud was limned in silver.

Zak looked around in wonder, then felt more than heard the rush of air. On top, idly flying downwards, were two 'Raptor-riders'. They descended until they were level with Jormungand, and Zak noticed that the riders were wearing chain mail.

One was abundantly female, riding another kestrel. She had midnight black hair and tanned skin from riding. The other kestrel kept glancing at Jormungand, and Zak saw that both Raptors were held with large bridles.

"Are you going to Spiral?" the man asked politely. He had light hair, though his skin was just as tanned. His blue eyes sparkled with life.

"Yes," Zak said.

"The Door, is it?" the woman winked conspiratorially, "To the place where you want to go?"

"Er, yes," Zak said.

"Mind you, it's malfunctioning now. It will place you in the general area where you want to go," the woman said.

"Which means, say if you want to end up in a certain room somewhere, you'd end up in the same continent, at least." The man said.

"How long with the Door be fixed?" Zak asked.

"A few hundred years," the woman said offhandedly, "That's a nice kestrel you have there."

Zak nodded, quickly deciding that the less he said, the less he should get into trouble. The slightly predatory gleam in the woman's eyes was very familiar.

"My kestrel's name is M'kayne. Mine is L'yanne." L'yanne was staring very directly at him, so he moved his gaze casually to the man.

The man grinned at him. "My eagle's name is P'yarran. Mine is R'ikar."

They were looking at him expectantly. Zaknafein realized that Death had forgotten to tell him to change his name, and sighed inwardly. Thinking quickly, he said, "My kestrel's name is K'seeran, and mine is Z'fein."

"A good name," L'yanne said, her green eyes dancing. Zak didn't know whether she was referring to him or Jormungand. Mik chose that moment to move from the furry ball he had curled up into. L'yanne took a sharp intake of breath.

"And that is Mik," Zak said, unruffled. There was a sound that sounded like a snicker from R'ikar.

"Are you spoken for, Z'fein?" L'yanne rallied magnificently.

"No," Zak said, rather distractedly, as they flew down from the cloudbank at some silent communication of the raptors. The clouds felt... damp. Strange that he had not thought of this before.

"Bad choice," he heard R'ikar whisper.

L'yanne glared at R'ikar, then smiled at Zak. "Is this your first time to Spiral?"

"Yes," Zak said.

"Ah. One of the adventurers of the Goddess?" L'yanne asked.

Death had prepared him for this, at least. Zak took out the heavy silver medallion that Jormungand had created at Death's direction. "Yes," he said, simply.

"How exciting," L'yanne simpered. R'ikar rolled his eyes.

"You're in for it, stranger," he said softly, earning him another glare from L'yanne. He merely grinned impishly back.

The village-city was a giant building. Perches stood out from its sides, some with raptors sitting on them. A massive temple sat at the highest part of the building.

As they neared, Zak noted that at each perch was a huge hole, and sometimes raptors and their riders emerged to fly away.

As they got closer yet, Zak noted that every single design appeared to be basically a spiral. Come to think of it, the entire village-city was in the design of a spiral, and it centered on what looked like a giant, perfectly round, blue pool.

The Door.

***

They landed on the flattest, widest top of the building. Zak noted the ground was rough stone, for the birds to get an easy grip.

Following L'yanne and R'ikar, Zaknafein dismounted as gracefully as he could, and Mik landed on his shoulder.

"An adventurer?" an old man, his desk sheltered by a shading roof, glanced up at them.

"Yes." Zak said. "I am here for the Door."

"Straightforward," the old man said, approvingly. "The Door cannot be used without the Goddess' blessing, and then only at your own risk. Dare you take the chance?"

"Yes," Zak said, ignoring L'yanne's look of admiration that may or may not have been faked.

"Right. Here's your lodging until the Goddess gives you audience." The old man handed Zak a bit of paper.

"And when might that be?" Zak inquired.

"In this week." The old man shrugged, then got back to what looked like a report. Zak glanced at the paper, which read 'Number 25b'.

"I'd take you there," R'ikar rumbled, before L'yanne could say anything. She pouted, mounting M'kayne, and flew off.

The two mounted their own raptors. "L'yanne is very determined," R'ikar grinned, "Be sure you lock your door tonight, and station K'seeran on the perch."

"You've been through this?" Zak asked.

"Very good. Yes, I had, for a while." R'ikar shrugged. "L'yanne is a priestess of the Goddess Spiral, and it was fun for a while until we both lost interest."

"Isn't your bird an eagle?" Zak inquired.

"Yep. Doesn't mean we can't have fun," R'ikar said as delicately as he could. "Now yours, is one of the best marked kestrel's I've seen. She'd hang on to you longer than me,"

Zak began to feel very uncomfortable, but shrugged. "Would the Goddess grant my request?"

"Yes. If she's feeling cranky, she'd devise a test. Whether you win or lose she still let you. Our Goddess is merciful and just." R'ikar said proudly.

Zaknafein nodded as Jormungand and P'yarran swooped off the building. "That's yours," R'ikar said after a while, pointing to a perch.

"Thank you," Zak said, "And thank you for taking me here."

R'ikar grinned. "No trouble at all. If she really bothers you, go down to my place. It's three perches left of yours."

Zak nodded, and Jormungand landed gracefully on the perch. Zak hopped off, hoping that he would not slip and end up as a big mess a hundred meters down, and safely got into the room. Mik immediately hopped off onto the bed, where the small monkey twisted the sheets into a nest and fell asleep.

Zak let his eyes wander around the room. It was sparsely yet comfortably furnished. A table and chair sat at the other end with a magical light, and his bed took up the opposite end to the door. The door had a spiral carved in it, with a small hole to look through. There was a carpet on the ground, with spirals and raptors as the main design.

Guiltily, Zak stepped off it. There was a small collection of engravings on a plank that seemed to have been affixed in some way on the wall above the table. Zak's closer inspection revealed titles like "The Care and Behavior of Raptors" and "Diseases and Anatomy of Raptors" and "Hunting Dogs of the Discworld". There was a magazine that looked new on it, which read "Bows and Ammo".

Zak sighed, and took up the engraved magazine. Carefully, he sat on the bed so as not to disturb the sleeping Mik, and started to read. After sifting through the catalogue for a while, he fell asleep, lulled by the strange 'heartbeat' of Spiral – that suggested the horn, the dogs, and the prey… the heartbeat of the Hunt.

[next page]

Lledrith RavenWolf



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