Come dance with the gypsies... Circulation: 127,331,912 Issue: 258 | 22nd day of Gathering, Y8
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The Protecter Chronicles: The Beginning of the End - Part Three

by angelfire_from_above


"Aah, I give up... that's the fourth time in a row that you've taken my gold tonight, not to mention last week... what's your secret, lad?"

     The large Skeith groaned and stretched, and despite his frustration Algerdon just grinned lazily, and stretched as well. He wore a careless, devil-may-care smile on his face and possessed an easy grace that made him appealing to any crusty old soul. Unfortunately, the charm didn't work so well on Darl. No matter how he pried, the old Skeith refused to say a word on Algerdon's rejected application. He sighed and smiled charmingly again.

     "Now, Darl, you know that even if I knew I wouldn't tell you... besides, would you really want to take away my only source of income?"

     He leaned his chair back, and motioned for the barkeep to hand him another tankard of cider. The old Skeith smiled indulgently.

     "It's on me tonight, laddie. Unfortunately it's your last chance to legally steal my gold--tomorrow morning I leave for Terror Mountain."

     Algerdon sat up quickly, his carelessness gone.

     "What? Why? When did you decide this? Are you in trouble with the king or someone?"

     Darl just smiled easily.

     "Nah, nothing like that, just needed a change of scenery. Maybe I'll send Minnie and the grandkids down too, for a visit now and then. My family allus wanted to go see the place where snow never melts, but I never had time. Mebbe I'll stay. Mebbe I won't. Well, lad, it's close to midnight, and I have an early start. Here, I actually came down to give this 'ta you. You might, eh, have some need of it..."

     He handed a small package to Algerdon, and got up. He tossed a purse to the barkeep, and then ambled out into the night, and Algerdon just stared. Finally, he reached for the package, but a heavy paw gripped his.

     "Not here, you fool, wait until people aren't watching--just finish your cider, then meet me at the oak."

     Algerdon was careful not to turn his head, and just sighed and cracked his neck, then muttered under his breath

     "Alright. I don't have that much time. I can give you the better part of an hour."

     Twenty minutes later, he was standing under a dead oak tree near Illusen's Glade, and he shivered as the breeze picked up. Though it was summer, the nights could be cold. He jumped as a heavy paw touched his shoulder.

     "Sorry there, Ger, didn't mean to startle you."

     Algerdon just nodded, and turned around. It would appear that nobody else was in the clearing, as LonesomeEcho happened to be an Invisible Eyrie. He felt a small stirring next to him, and by the looks of the impression in the leaves, it would appear that she had sat down.

     "Sit, I need to fill you in."

     Algerdon obeyed, and made himself comfortable.

     "How long have you known?" he asked quietly.

     "I have known for about a week, maybe two. Kanrik didn't want the news just being tossed around--some of those apprentices are really thickheaded, and might have blurted it out in the pub--and I just happened to over hear Chartus talking to Bran about it. So, when Darl left to let you know, then I decided to tag along. But I think he knew it, because he took the long way over, and walked through the bog... yealch."

     She shuddered, or at least Algerdon thought she did, because the branches around her rustled. He smiled.

     "Well, he does have the best sense of smell and hearing for miles around... and even I can smell the fact that you ate a garlic kebab for supper."

     Echo spluttered indignantly, then managed to choke out, "That's my new perfume, you dolt!" She started to laugh.

     "Well, are you gonna tell me what's in this or not?" Algerdon asked, slightly annoyed.

     She shook her head.

     "I don't know, I just thought it might be better to conduct one's private business away from the Peadackle," she said cheekily. "I just didn't want you opening that in front of half of Meridell's busiest gossips."

     Algerdon ripped away the paper, and barely even noticed the small dagger in the wrappings, but focused his attention on the small scroll. He read it quickly, and then grew silent. Bewildered, the Eyrie leaned forward, and then breathed in sharply.

     "So the rumors are true. This is a high honor, Ger, I hope you succeed." And with that she stood up and quietly slipped away.

     Algerdon stared at the scroll, his paws shaking. So this was why he had been rejected. He read the letter again, reassuring himself that it was all really happening:


     After careful consideration you have been selected by our council to partake in the training courses for the position of Protector. Please take care to remember that you will not be the only apprentice and that you may or may not succeed. Once you begin training you will not be able to withdraw from your studies. Baron Darlseis has offered his family's villa in the Brightvale region as a training facility, and has arranged for your tuition. Good luck, Janrun Lakitaga

     Finally, he stood up, and carefully folded the letter away. Janrun Lakitaga himself! Suddenly he leapt into the air with a whoop and ran home. Now, only to convince Fire...


     "What do you mean, a scholarship? I thought you said you never had another owner... and now you have a scholarship for two full terms? What's going on, Ger, what are you not telling me?" Fire asked, scrutinized him carefully. Algerdon gulped, and crossed his fingers.

     "Mr. Lakitaga is an old friend of my father's--I really wouldn't want to let him down, you know... he was on the ship when my father disappeared. And the Baron had business dealings with father, and he liked him... so I guess they just decided to pay off some old debts by letting me go to school... I hear it's the finest in the area, and only the elite make it... can I go, please?"

     He stopped and waited, as Fire inspected the letter again:

     Dear Sir or Madam,

     It is my delight to inform you that your son Algerdon Xendri II has received a scholarship for two terms at Icebjorn Heights in Terror Mountain. I, Janrun Lakitaga, am the headmaster of the establishment and I encourage you to send your son for a full and wholesome education. I myself was educated here, and I believe that my family could not have found any better. If you have any questions or concerns, feel free to contact me or any of the board members.

     Sincerely, Janrun Lakitaga, Headmaster of Icebjorn Heights

     She sighed, and Algerdon crossed his fingers. Money was tight, and he knew that she wanted nothing more than to give her family a good education. Finally she nodded.

     "Alright, you may go, but if I get one letter, one eensy little letter from your teachers, then you're out. Is that clear?"

     "Yes, ma'am. They leave tomorrow week, or I can head out now, on my own..." He trailed off as Fire glared at him.

     "I'm not giving you THAT much freedom. You will leave when they decide. Here is the class lists and supplies list, so you can go shopping for your school stuff."

     Fire groaned as Algerdon shot out of the doorway for the school supplies shop. Finally, some peace and quiet...


     Algerdon ran all the way to Illusen's glade, and stopped outside the door. He panted heavily, and then knocked politely.

     "Enter, but please wipe your paws or feet."

     Algerdon grinned, and wiped his paws on the carpet of leaves outside the door, then entered quietly.

     "Oh, Miss Illusen, I wasn't accepted, but instead offered a chance for the position of Protector!" He beamed excitedly.

     The earth faerie looked up, startled.

     "Are you certain? Excellent! Now, after this you know, you won't be able to come and visit--you will 'officially' be at Terror Mountain. So, as a small celebration gift before you leave... have a cookie!"

     She stood up and offered the Zafara a cookie, then ushered him out the door. As she watched him leave, a dark purple mist swirled around the small cottage, obscuring everything as a thick miasma filled the air. Then, as suddenly as it appeared, it vanished, and instead of Illusen, the good earth faerie, there stood Jhudora. She smiled suddenly, a thin, twisted smile, and with a wave of her hand and one last puff of noxious clouds she vanished.

     A week later Algerdon jogged quietly along a back road, humming quietly. He was headed for Brightvale. After saying goodbye to his family and friends, he had set off, supposedly for Happy Valley, where he would meet up with the rest of his schoolmates, but instead he turned and went South West to Brightvale. The Baron had told him that as long as he headed that way, some of their allies would pick him up and direct him to the villa. Algerdon grinned. "Allies," meaning some band of thieves, and "direct," meaning being blindfolded and lead along twisting--

     Suddenly a thin rope encircled his foot paw tightly and hoisted him in the air. Squealing, his Slorg, Rifraff, went flying and his bag swung around and smashed him in the nose.

     "Ow! What in the name of--"

     He fell silent as a hooded and cloaked figure stepped out into the clearing and motioned for quiet. He guessed by the figure's build that he was a very large male Lupe, and a strong one at that. After a moment the figure nodded, and two smaller figures crawled out of the underbrush and began to untie Algerdon's foot. After they untied him and helped him retrieve his belongings (his papers and clothing were scattered everywhere, and Rifraff had managed to get lodged in a bird's nest somehow) they blindfolded him and tied a rope around one paw. Algerdon submitted quietly, and when they tugged on the rope he obeyed and followed. They led him for a while, and then suddenly stopped. He stood very still as he heard other whispering voices suddenly stop, and then he felt the blindfold pulled off. He blinked in the suddenly bright sunshine, and looked up. And up. And up. Finally he met the gaze of the tall, iron grey Lupe before him.

     "Welcome, Algerdon; you are now a prisoner of the Meridell Thieves Council. Do not worry; this is merely the first part of your training. You shall now do as you see fit to remedy this situation. Good luck, and I hope we shall meet again under more favorable conditions." And he turned and walked off silently through the forest.

To be continued...

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Other Episodes

» The Protecter Chronicles: The Beginning of the End - Part One
» The Protecter Chronicles: The Beginning of the End - Part Two
» The Protecter Chronicles: The Beginning of the End - Part Four

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