“It’s not Wi …”
“Yes,” the prince interrupted. “It’s Windracer. The wizard Tobin sent him here. My father brought him back from the wizard’s castle last time he visited
Tobin a few weeks ago. We knew you would be passing through here some time, so we kept the horse ready for your return.”
When Yohan drew near to the stall, the chestnut-coloured stallion nickered. He recognised the smell of the man who had adopted him.
“He’s a fine horse,” said Tycho. “I’ve never seen a horse so graceful, yet fast and with so much stamina.”
“Yes,” said Yohan, patting the glossy, velvet-smooth flank of the stallion. “He’s in a league of his own. He’s loyal and true. I treat him like he’s one of my
Tycho grinned. “You’re extended family,” he said.
A few minutes later, they entered the king’s chambers. Jovanius looked drawn. He seems to have aged several years since we last met, Yohan thought.
Yohan bowed and greeted the king. “Your Majesty,” he said.
“Welcome, my friend – Your Royal Highness,” he corrected. The king motioned for Yohan to take a seat to his right. Prince Tycho sat on the king’s left.
“What news from Atmos and Manchor?”
“The Queen, my wife, is well. She is with child.”
The king beamed. “Congratulations,” he said. “When will be the happy event?”
“In a little over seven moons from now.”
“Did you meet with Litimas or Dernis at Tarmouth?”
“Yes I spent two days with Prince Dernis. The building of new ships continues. He now has an armada of more than forty ships at his disposal. He
prepares for the invasion of East Thorland. I also inspected the weapons factory near Winterton. Tycho and Professor Trumper showed me around. I
saw some of the weapons in action.”
“That’s grand,” said the king. “Soon you will see more action. We have already transported some weapons to Patumann’s Tunnel, others to Dunton.
Ben Lei should be in possession of these by now. Are you planning to join him?”
“Yes, I’ll depart on Windracer tomorrow.”
“I’ll write a message for you to deliver to the chief,” said the king.
* * * * *
Helge and the twins reached the Oasis Inn and rushed up the stairs. Sim hammered on the door of Perkin’s room and Helge rapped on Squire’s door.
Squire opened the door. “What’s up?” he asked.
Helge gasped for breath. “Have you seen Vinny?”
“I thought he was with you.”
“He was, but we lost him. He left the meeting in a hurry and got lost in the crowd. We’ve searched all over for him, but we can’t find him.”
A few minutes later, Sawkin arrived. “I’ve got some news,” he said, “and it’s not good.”
Helge’s eye lit on an object Sawkin grasped. “What is it?” she asked. “Has something happened to Vinny?”
“I met a Luchorpan who told me she saw a human fitting Vinny’s description being dragged lifeless into a carriage. She gave me these.” In his hand,
Sawkin held Vinny’s bow and quiver.
“Is he dead?”
“I don’t think so. The Luchorpan who witnessed this said it looked like Vinny was being abducted.”
“Who did this, and where are they taking him?”
“There were three or four Cluricauns and one man. They set off on the road leading towards the south. One of them was probably Millikane. He bears a
grudge towards Vinny after the way he aimed his bow at Millikane’s heart. Cluricauns don’t forget such things.”
“We must follow at once,” said Helge.
“No,” said Squire. “We have a quest to follow. When the Kobalos captured Alvin at Trow only two of us went to rescue him. We must do the same this
Helge sighed. “You’re right,” she conceded.
“I’ll go,” said Sawkin. “I know the country well, and the people. I’ll be more valuable looking for Vinny than staying with the rest of you in pursuit of the
“I’ll go with you,” said Wim. “You may need the help of some magic.”
“We’ll set off at once,” said Sawkin, “but we’ll need horses. I know where to buy them. Just give me the money.”
An hour later, Sawkin and Wim passed through the south gate of Cluritown.
* * * * *
The next day Helge, Squire, Sim, Perkin and Vylin once again visited the town square. This time they found no crowds of people, and workers had
already dismantled the temporary stage. The only reminders of Tigermas’ visit were posters dotted on walls around the square and a good deal of litter
on the cobbled surface.
“Has the prophet departed?” Perkin asked a Luchorpan who sat smoking in an alleyway.
“He left last night for Kerri. Many people followed him.”
“Thank you,” said Perkin, tossing the Luchorpan a stick of tobacco. The Luchorpan smiled and ran off down the alley.
When he had moved out of earshot, Helge whispered, “Let’s try to find the tooth.”
“Well, there’s the statue of Queen Lorane,” said Squire pointing towards the centre of the square. What exactly did the instructions say?” he asked.
Helge removed the paper from her pocket and read, “The tooth is in her sight.”
By this time, they had walked to the middle of the square and stood at the foot of the statue.
“It must be somewhere inside one of the eyes,” said Vylin. She looked up. “But the statue is very tall and the eyes are too high for any of us to reach,
even you Helge.”
Helge looked up and grimaced. “You’re right,” she said. “How are we going to get at those eyes, especially in a public place like this? We can’t climb.”
“Don’t worry, I have an idea,” said Sim.
“You’re going to transform into a hawk,” said Perkin.
“Yes, but first of all we must find a secluded place where I can transform without anyone seeing me.”
The others waited by the statue while Sim returned to the alleyway where they had seen the Luchorpan smoking a few minutes earlier. He looked He
waited a few moments before flying to the statue where he alighted on the head of Queen Lorane. He looked around again with his pinpoint hawk eyes
to make sure no one watched, and then ducked his head, aiming his beak towards the left eyeball. His beak hit something hard. Not this one, he
The hawk repeated the process, this time aiming his heavy curved beak at the right eyeball. It encountered a soft substance. His beak drilled into the
hole several times before it emerged clamping the tooth. The hawk looked down at his companions, opened his beak and let the tooth drop. Helge
stooped to pick the prize from the ground and handed it to Squire.
The hawk lowered his head once more and thrust his beak back into the right eyeball. When he withdrew the beak after a few seconds, it held the next
set of instructions. With the paper still in his beak, the hawk launched himself from the statue’s head and glided down to the alleyway, where he
transformed back into the shape of the wizard.
The others soon joined him and they all set off back to the inn to prepare for the next part of their quest.
* * * * *
Vinny spent a restless night lying on the floor of the moving carriage. The sounds and vibrations told him that they had travelled far from the town along
roads that at times seemed soft and spongy, and sometimes hard and rutted. Each time the carriage passed over a pothole, every bone in his body
ached. The Cluricaun was his only companion inside the carriage, but the occasional sound of muffled voices told him that others outside sat with the
driver. There was a reek of alcohol inside the carriage and several empty bottles rolled around on the floor. Millikane’s supposed to be guarding me, he
thought, but I don’t think he’s capable of doing so in his present state. However, the bonds on Vinny’s arms and legs prevented him from taking
advantage of his negligent guard.
They travelled all through the night until Vinny saw a few beams of light peep through cracks around the drawn curtains. The track over which they door
flew open. The light blinded Vinny, but he recognised the man who had abducted him the day before. The man grabbed hold of Millikane’s legs and
dragged him out of the carriage, dumping him like a sack of potatoes onto the ground.
“Useless Cluricaun,” he hissed, kicking Millikane.
Then he grabbed hold of Vinny’s arms and pulled him out with such force that Vinny was glad to land in a heap on top of the Cluricaun.
Vinny felt a violent kick to his ribs. “Please,” he rasped. He looked up at his tormentor.
“Get up, now!” The man stooped and slashed the bonds around Vinny’s ankles.
Vinny feared another kick, so eased himself into a kneeling position and, after a great deal of effort, managed to scramble to his feet. Yet a throbbing
pain to his chest and an unclear head made it difficult for him to stand erect. His bound arms hung useless behind his back. He noticed that he stood on
Vinny stumbled forwards in the direction his assailant prodded him. He saw a small wooden hut a few metres away, and beyond in the distance he could
see waves crashing onto the seashore. His nostrils filled with the tangy salty aroma of the ocean. He reached the open door of the hut. He felt a boot
strike his back and his head swam again. Then he sprawled on the hard timber floor inside the hut. He felt a weight on the base of his calves while the
man once again placed a rope around his ankles and pulled it tight, cutting into his flesh. The next moment a door slammed behind him and he heard a
bolt sliding on its outside.
When Vinny woke from his slumber, he felt a thumping in his temples. I must have slept, he thought. No, I’ve been out cold. I wonder how long I’ve been
here. His wrists and ankles remained tied, but he managed to ease himself into a sitting position and looked around his prison. Apart from a single
wooden chair and a small cracked wooden table, the hut appeared empty. Light streamed in through a single window. The window had no glass, but
closely spaced metal bars made any idea of escape seem futile.
Vinny felt pangs of hunger. More importantly, he needed water. He looked around, but could see no food or drink of any kind. Outside the waves
thundered onto the seashore. Water, he thought, I need water. He collapsed back down to lie on the hard floor, and waited.
A few minutes later, he heard the sound of the bolt on the outside of the door. The door opened and a tiny figure appeared. The light dazzled Vinny, but
he could see that the new arrival was not the man who had treated him so roughly earlier. His mind raced and a glimmer of hope passed through his
mind. Can it be Perkin or Sawkin?
“Get up,” said Millikane.
“What do you want of me?”
“You insulted me. You drew your bow against me. This is a very serious thing to do to a Cluricaun. You must pay for your foolishness.”
“What are you going to do to me?”
“Follow me,” said the Cluricaun.
Vinny hesitated. “My ankles?”
Millikane drew a knife from a sheath at his waist. He cut first through the bonds around Vinny’s wrists. Then, standing on the archer’s red hair to prevent
him from moving, he retied Vinny’s hands at the front. Then he stooped and slashed the bonds around Vinny’s ankles.
“Now, follow me,” he commanded.
“I need water,” Vinny rasped.
“Water!” The Cluricaun stepped outside and returned with a haversack. He rummaged around inside and pulled out a bottle. He removed the cork and
sniffed. “Wine,” he said. He raised the bottle to his lips and took a deep draft. “I’m sure there’s some water here somewhere. Ah, yes, here it is.” He
removed the cork from a second bottle, sniffed and, satisfied that this one did not contain wine, handed the bottle to Vinny. With his hands still tied, the
archer lifted the bottle to his lips and drank voraciously, emptying the bottle.
“Now are you satisfied? Let’s get going.” The little man shoved Vinny through the door. Once outside, Millikane bent to pick up two baskets, one large
and one much smaller.
He pushed Vinny towards the beach. Despite the prodding and pushing, Vinny managed to glance around. Behind, to the east, he saw high cliffs of
sandstone with different layers of browns and oranges, and green. To the north and south, he saw a sandy beach stretching far into the distance. I
can’t see any break in the cliffs, he thought. The carriage that brought me here must have travelled for some distance along the beach. The beach
looked deserted except for himself and Millikane. The only sounds were the crashing of the waves and the screeches of seabirds.
Then Vinny saw a bright object lying in the sand. A pebble, he thought. No, it’s not a pebble. It reflects the light.
“It’s amber,” said Millikane, “and your job is to collect pieces of amber for me from the beach. It will make me a good price when I sell it at the market in
Cluritown. I want you to collect as many pieces as you can, but there are two types I especially want you to find. The most valuable are the blue ones,
and the most interesting are the ones containing fossilised insects. Here, start filling this.” He handed Vinny the large basket.
“My wrists are still tied. How can I collect the amber like this?”
“Alright come here.” Millikane drew his knife from its sheath and cut through the bonds. “Don’t try to run away. It’ll be the worse for you if you do.”
“Where did the amber come from?”
“It’s washed ashore by the sea. You’ll find some pieces enwrapped in seaweed. Now, no further questions. Get on with the job.”
Vinny bent and started picking up the pieces of amber from the beach. He noticed that there were pieces of many different colours and textures – some
yellow, others orange, red, white, brown, green, blue, and some almost black. A few even showed shades of more than one colour. He examined each
piece before putting it into the basket. He noticed that some looked cloudy, but most of them appeared transparent, and a few enclosed insects,
trapped in the fossilised resin for millions of years.
Vinny continued collecting amber throughout the day. Millikane didn’t let his prisoner out of his sight, and only allowed him short breaks for water and a
longer break for a lunch of dry bread. Whenever Vinny found a particularly interesting piece of amber, Millikane would take it and examine it before
deciding where to put it. He kept the ones of real value and interest separate from the others and stored them inside the second smaller basket.
By the end of the day, Vinny had collected more than a hundred pieces of amber, ranging in size from small pebbles up to larger pieces, one almost as
large as a man’s head. Millikane had separated three blue pieces and eight others embedded with fossils of different kinds of insect. His eyes lit up
when Vinny handed him a piece containing a dragonfly.
Vinny remained Millikane’s prisoner, searching for pieces of amber, for a further two days. Each night Millikane provided him with a spare meal and
bound his wrists and ankles before locking him in the small hut. Vinny didn’t know where Millikane slept, but each morning the Cluricaun returned and
forced him to collect more amber.
During the third day, Vinny had already collected several pieces of amber and tossed them into the large basket, when he noticed a small piece of rock
lying in the sand. The rock had one edge that looked very sharp. Vinny stayed close to the rock whilst searching for more amber. Then he spotted a
rare piece of blue amber a short distance away.
“Look, a blue piece” he called out to Millikane and pointed towards the blue amber. While Millikane was distracted, Vinny quickly crouched and picked
up the piece of sharp rock, slipping it into his trousers pocket.
Millikane smiled with a smug look of greed. “Go and pick up that blue piece,” he said.
After pocketing the piece of sharp rock, with a fluidity of motion, Vinny had already moved towards the blue amber. He picked this up also and gave it to
the Cluricaun. Millikane examined it and smiled before placing it in his own basket.
That night, after Millikane had bound him and locked him in once more, Vinny tried to extract the rock from his pocket. With his wrists tied, it proved to
be a difficult task. Nevertheless, he finally managed to squeeze one hand into the pocket and scrabbled for the rock with his
fingertips. Several minutes passed before he succeeded in gripping the rock with two fingers. After a struggle, the rock rolled out and fell to the floor.
Vinny licked his right index finger and tasted the saltiness of blood.
He bent to search for the rock, using his sense of touch in the blackness of the night. When he had retrieved the rock, he set about the task of cutting
through the bonds on his wrists. This also proved difficult since he couldn’t find a way to hold the rock firmly whilst sawing through the rope. Then he
remembered the crack in the wooden table.
He felt his way across the floor of the hut until he reached the table. He raised himself up onto his knees and searched for the crack. Will the crack be
wide enough for me to wedge the rock in it? he thought. Yes, it is!
With the rock held firmly, it took him just a few minutes to saw through the rope, and soon afterwards he had also cut through the ropes holding his
ankles. He sat rubbing his sore wrists and ankles, contemplating his next move. The door is bolted on the outside, and there are bars on the windows.
How am I going to get out of the hut?
He threw all his weight against the door, but it was locked. He moved across to the barred window and tugged on each of the bars, but they would not
I’ll have to wait for Millikane to arrive in the morning, he decided.
Millikane came shortly before sunrise. When Vinny heard the bolts thrown back, he moved to hide on one side of the door. He waited for the Cluricaun
to place his lamp on the table. When Millikane looked around the hut for his prisoner, Vinny raised both hands above his head and brought them down
with force onto Millikane’s neck. He crumbled to the floor. Vinny reached for the rope the Cluricaun had abandoned in one corner of the hut and tied
Millikane’s wrists and ankles. He stepped out into the twilight and bolted the door shut. Now our roles are reversed, he thought.
He looked around, wondering what to do next. He had no idea where he was and didn’t know which way to walk in the hope of finding someone to help
him. His thoughts turned to the man and the others who had brought him there. What if they’re still around? I might be recaptured in no time at
He decided to set off along the beach and walked towards the north. It was still twilight, but he could see enough to walk quickly and without fear of
encountering any unexpected obstacle.
He had walked for about twenty minutes and daylight had crept in when he saw a piece of blue amber! He bent and picked it up, slipping it into his
The sand gave way to a shingle beach. Turning a bend of the seashore, he found himself in a narrow sheltered bay. A small stream flowed down
through a gully in the cliff-face.
He clambered over a ridge of rock to reach the stream. He collapsed onto his knees, and with his hands scooped up the pure, fresh water and drank
voraciously. He lay down for a few minutes on a section of green turf adjacent to the stream to regain his strength. While he lay there, he heard a noise.
He listened intently to the sound of a melancholic song. There are two of them, he thought, and both voices are female. I wonder who they are. Then
the song stopped and he heard them talking. They’re coming closer. He rose to his feet and took shelter behind a rock.
The next moment, two beautiful young girls shot out from behind the ridge, one chasing the other. They were both naked, one dark-haired, the other
blonde. Vinny skirted around the rocks above the stream, keeping well hidden from the strangers. He watched the second girl catch up with her friend
and the pair of them collapsed in a heap on the sand, giggling. His curiosity aroused, he moved closer. Then he noticed what appeared to be two
sealskins lying on the shingle at his feet.
He bent to pick up one of the skins to examine it. Just as he did so, the girls caught sight of him, screamed out, and ran to get possession of the skins.
One girl, the blonde, seized the skin that remained on the ground, quickly donned it, and ran towards the sea. She stopped to pick up a small red cap
made from feathers, then plunged into the water. She glided off like a seal and soon disappeared from sight.
The other girl wrung her hands and cried, “Please, give me my skin back.”
Although she was naked, her face drew his attention. It had an unearthly beauty, a face of pasty waxiness, set off by the deep colour of her dark hair
and eyes. Then he noticed her hands and feet had webs between the fingers and toes.
“Who are you?” he asked.
“My name is Muiroigh. I am a Silkie.”
“That’s a beautiful name. What does it mean? Where do you come from?”
“It means ‘Sea maiden’ and I come from Tir fo Thoinn, the Land beneath the Waves. I am a seal by day, but at night I become a woman. My friend,
Selchie, and I were just about to change back to seals when you disturbed us.”
Vinny looked out to sea and saw Selchie swimming close to the shore watching them.
He spoke again to Muiroigh. “You are a very beautiful woman.”
“What do you want of me?”
“I’m sorry if I frightened you. I wish you no harm, and don’t need anything from you, unless you can help me to find my way back to my friends.”
“Who are your friends and where are they?”
He explained to her how he had become separated from the others at Cluritown, and his imprisonment by Millikane.
“You’re a stranger to these parts. What are you and your friends doing here in Luchor?”
Vinny didn’t want to tell Muiroigh too much about the quest, so he said guardedly, “We’re on our way to meet the High Lord at Trevin’s Keep. He wishes
to have counsel with one of our company, a man by the name of Squire.”
“Squire? Our legends tell of a man called Squire and his daughter, Sohan. Many years ago, my people rescued Sohan. She was visiting the Silkie on
Merrow Island when an enormous subterranean volcano erupted nearby causing the island to sink below sea level. That’s how it became ‘The Land
beneath the Waves’.”
“My friend is not the same Squire that you knew, though he bears a close resemblance. The ancient prophecy tells of his coming to the Land and of the
important part he is to play in our quest.”
“I can help you, but first I must ask you to return my cloak As long as you hold it, I remain under your power and must do whatever you tell me.”
Vinny reached down for the cloak and passed it to her. It felt oily to the touch.
“Here,” he said. “I release you of any service. Now, can you help me?”
She started to put on the cloak. “Do you want to be my husband? I am wealthy. I have gold. I got it from ships wrecked on the rocks surrounding my
He looked at her sympathetically. “No, Muiroigh, I cannot be your husband. You and I are of a different race, and I must rejoin my friends on the quest.”
Muiroigh looked relieved. “I am glad,” she said. “If you took me as your wife, then I would have to stay here as a woman, and wouldn’t be able to return
to Tir fo Thoinn. Walk north from here, along the beach, until you reach the port of Luchafen. The walk will take you most of the day. From there you
can take the road north to Trevin’s Keep.”
“I’m afraid of the man and Cluricauns that brought me here. They might be following me and try to recapture me.”
“Don’t worry. Selchie and I will swim close to the shore and keep watch over you. If you meet any trouble, then we will call upon Kelpie to help you.”
“Who is Kelpie?”
“He’s Selchie’s brother. He’s sitting out there on the rocks.”
Vinny looked in the direction that Muiroigh pointed. He hadn’t noticed the third Silkie before. Kelpie sat on a rock silently watching events on shore. His
eyes also scanned the sea, as if looking for any contraband lost from wrecked ships. He had a green body, with a red nose, green hair and teeth and
wore only a red hat. He had eyes like a pig, and scaly legs and arms resembling fins.
“He’s a bringer of good luck,” said Muiroigh.