Chapter 11

The Holy One drew menacingly close to Mahou's vessel. Trimer's brow creased unhappily. There was a tension that thickened the air, making it feel as hard as a diamond.

"I have a feeling," commented the Sea Lord, "that this is not going to be a friendly visit." With that, the king gathered up the members of the Woodshark clan as if they were eggs to be put in a carton and returned to the sea, placing the creatures back to their natural hibernation. He returned to Roland and Mahou soon after and said, "I have promised the Goddess that I shall not interfere in the dealings of men. This is your fight, I fear. May great luck be granted to you on your journey."

The Cardinal rearranged his red cloak as he say upon his chair, enjoying the sea air upon his face as his ship sailed toward its target, thirsty for the taste of revenge.. and blood. "Faster, Captain!" yelled the Cardinal into the wind. General Alexander, meanwhile, was busily preparing the cannons for firing.

The moment of tension had passed. Cor rested his head trustingly on John's chest as he looked at the Park of Seasons thoughtfully. Roger sat near them, deep in thought. "We should go now," he finally said, jumping up. "Come, dear," John said to his boy, picking Cor up as if he weighed no more than a kitten. Cor looked longingly into John's eyes. John responded by placing a loving kiss on Cor's hungry lips. John took COr's hand and led him into the park. Cornelius cooed happily, following John to the ends of the earth.. and into his own circle of time.

Like children on a warm summer's day, hands not separating, John and Cornelius raced to the Tree of Seasons, without a care in the world. Chuckling happily, Roger the White followed them, sharing their momentary joy. All three joined hands now, encircling the tree. Together, they joined and prepared to travel to Frivesland. They closed they eyes collectively, and soon felt the environment change.

John was the first to open his eyes. He noticed dried grass all around him, seared to a yellow-brown by the sun's strong rays. A sad resemblence of a tree was enclosed in their circle. Its former glory was apparent. But now its branches hung down dejectedly, mourning the memories of happier days. John sniffed the air. It was an unusual scent, for their wasn't the wafting odor of pollution. But the heat was stifling. Deciding to kill the uncomfortable silence, John said, "I guess you suffer from the greenhouse effect as well." Roger the White blinked his eyes and then moved his head from side to side, observing this new environment like a bird.

"This is not Frivesland," Roger said eerily, surveying the dried up land that surrounded them. The six hands released each other. Cor walked over and leaned his back to John's chest as John wrapped his arms around his anam cathram. "Something evil has happened in Frivesland. I hope we are not too late."

John put his hand up to Roger's mouth in order to silence him. "Shh," John whispered, "we are being hunted." Roger peered in the distance and noticed the tall burned grass part and rejoin in the distance. The wind seemed to pick up, blowing hot, humid wind in the party's collective faces.

Xyanth the Giant Cat licked its lips quietly as it observed its prey. They were thin, but one could not be too picky amidst the famine. No longer was the long grass sweet and green. Now it was dry and brittle, which made hunting even more difficult. The bison had since died out. Prey was hard to find. But three large meals was too good to pass up. They were just standing there, begging to be eaten.

"This," Mahou said somewhat sadly, "is something that I have never anticipated." He braved faced the Holy One as her canons were loaded. The wind blew softly in his black hair, his pudgy skin goosebumping from fear and cold.

"No one expects this, my friend," Roland replied. "I was somehow hoping that my life would have a death more grand. I never imagined that I would die unarmed and unprepared. I was hoping for more. And I was hoping, that perhaps someday, I could see my son again, and tell him how much I love him, mulis suile or not."

Observing the changing weather, Mahou raised his head and answered, "Perhaps that day will come." He smiled a bit to himself. "I wish I were a wizard of the wind. However, I am just an earth wizard. I have most power on the land. But the tides are changing." With that, Mahou looked over at the land and saw Joshua the Healer, a water wizard, speaking to the sea.

Roland observed the wizad as well. "Let's get the hell out of here!" he yelled, attempting to row The Mist Weaver with the pole he had previously used on one of the woodshark clan. The Mist Weaver began to slowly move away from shore.

The Cardinal chortled to himself, amused at Mahou and Roland's seemingly pathetic attempt at escaping him. "Trimer!" yelled Roland in agony, "For the love of God.. or the Goddess.. or whatever! Help us!"

Trimer had not left as he intended. His white locks almost covered his eyes as he observed the situation from a safe distance. I promised to not get involved. But if they are killed, this quest will be for naught! I don't know what to do. Trimer's brow creased in worry.

"He cannot help us," Mahou answered Roland. "He has promised the Goddess. She must pick another member for the Circle of Power, I guess," he continued, sadly. Roland gave Mahou a questioning glance, but looked at the Cardinal's wicked smirk, preparing to face his fate. "Oh great Earth, I shall miss you."

Trimer sighed, but made his decision. With the power of the sea, he lifted himself up, shouting, "You will not succeed, you artifical vermin!" With that, he slammed his trident into the sea, which caused the sea floor to quake. The water began to become quite rough, pushing The Mistweaver away from The Holy One. The Cardinal bellowed in anger.

"This is again the rules!" he screamed. "You cannot do thi-" The Cardinal could not finish his protest because the waters had parted, and his ship was fallen to the ocean floor. The mariners screamed in fear of this very unnatural event. The Holy One slammed onto the ocean floor with a loud crack, its very beams breaking from the sudden stress. All passengers on the ship had fallen on top of each other in a giant pile.

Trimer looked at them sadly. "You are right," he responded. "I must not do such a thing. One cannot break the Law." With that, Trimer picked up his Trident again and shouted, "Return, O Great Sea, as you were!" The Cardinal and his mariners looked up in fear as the split ocean walls broke and piled down on them. Such watery disturbances had never been seen before. "Now go, my friends. This disturbance is my own fault. I find it a fair return to the Dark One's wicked molestation of my woodshark clan. Be on your way, and may your journey be safe."

Many pieces of timber floated up that day, including one that had a soaked figure in a scarlet red cloak, filled with a fury only equalled by those of similar ignorance, hatred, lust and greed.

"Stop!" shouted John in a commanding voice. "Great Hunter, we know of your presence. We did not mean to intrude upon your land. The Wild Magic has been tampered with by an evil known as the Dark One."

Xyanth the Giant Cat cared for none of this, though. He jumped out of his hiding place, bounding at his prey. These were intuders upon his land, and he was hungry. "Stop!" John commanded again, as Xyanth made his final leap at the three travellers. The poor hungry cat was suspended in mid-air. Cornelius shuddered at the size of the cat, wrapping his arms around John and burying his face in John's heaving chest. John placed one hand on the small of Cor's back and stroked his hair with the other. "It's all right now, boy. He can't hurt us."

Xyanth roared in anger, screaming "WITCHCRAFT! FOREST BURNERS!" into the wind. Suddenly, a fast rhythmic drum beat pierced the silence of the wind.

"Well, this is rather shitty," Roger the White said dryly. John was quite inclined to agree with him. "Just wanted to travel to our circle, but no. No, we have to travel to this desolate circle that I wish had never been created by the Goddess."

"Calm down, my friend," John said in an attempt at reassurance. Bitching won't help us. We could run. But we would then ahve to leave the protection of our circle. Now, let us release this .. thing, shall we?" With that, John pressed his hands down, releasing the Xyanth Cat. The cat, pride wounded growled at the travellers menacingly and ran off. But the drums beat on. John looked down at Cornelius and rubbed his back gently. "What do you want to do, boy?"

"Can't we use the Tree of Seasons and get out of here?" Cor's idea seemed ingenious, if not completely obvious.

"No," John responded almost mysteriously, "there is something here that we have to accomplish."

"Goddess! Don't we have enough of our own problems?" John responded angrily. "We will not live the day if we stay."

"We shall," responded Roger the White. Turning their attentions from each other, the three noticed that there was a strange new herbage around them. Out of these shrubs in the middle of a dried grassy field jumped up native hunters of this circle in Time. The were dressed like aboriginees from Australia, dark in skin, with a neclaces of large predator teeth adorning their necks and grass skirts protecting their genitals. On their chests were painted, in a white chalky material, drawings of the Xynath Cat.

The tallest of most muscular of the group strode cockily forward and arrogantly spoke to the group in his native tongue. To John and Cornelius his words were indecipherable, but Roger the White heard his words translated to him in Friveslandese, or English, as those of John's circle called it.

What Roger heard was this: "You have offended our god by using your devil magic on him! His anger runs deep. We will now take you to our magicman, and he will decide how you be used to beg our Lord Xynath's forgiveness." Roger communicated the message to the other two.

"Oh yes," Cornelius audibly complained. "Staying here was a great idea. "We could have left, but no, 'We have something to do here.' Oh yes.. that's what we have to do! Get butchered by a bunch of savages. Hey, I love being roast pork! Maybe they'll put an apple in my mouth as they serve me when they sup! Or perhaps I'll be boiled alive while they push sticks into me, checking to see if their meat is ready to eat."

John looked at Cor sharply and said testily, "You're a very sweet and beautiful boy, but for once would you please shut the fuck up?!" Cor looked down docily, embarrassed at having upset John so. "It will be all right." John put down Demonsdeath and motioned for Cornelius to drop Lifeshield as well. "Let us go with them." The three followed the hunters as they led them past the barren plain and into their village. In the center of the village sat a burning fire, with a giant cauldron bubbling over it. Cor's eyes met John's, as if to say I told you so! Left of the fire was a tent made of a burgandy material. Out of it stepped a black man with a hat on, conisting of a wolf's head, deer antlers, and an eagle's beak. He look at the three and stepped back momentarily. John gasped himself, feeling the power of this man.

After everyone had regained composure, the native, in perfect English said, "Welcome to my land, travellers. My name is Mwezi Wimbo, Sorceror of Fire."