Cormorant raced on towards Coromand. The winds were behind it and the weather was fair.
Through the Eldmark into Weirdwood, then through a deep ravine gouged in the Long
Mountains into Dawnwood, the Imilvir carried the swift ship at last to the Bay of Eregoth.
For Luxor's small party, it was the first time they had set eyes upon open sea and they
gazed upon it with wonder at such an endless expanse.
For many leagues, they hugged
the coast of the Fallows until, passing the shores of Roreon, they headed due south into
the Grey Sea. League upon league, there was naught but empty ocean all around them. Then,
at last, they sighted land again, coming to the easterly headlands of the Delve. Once more
they hugged the coast, rounding the Isle of Storms without mishap. Then the wind changed,
blustering in from the east, and on the far horizon dark clouds began to gather. Rather
than head due south again directly for Coromand, the captain, fearing a storm, kept to the
coast and they sailed westwards along the southern coast of the Delve through the Sea of
Here, the storm from the east caught them. The waves grew tall and terrible, the wind tore
at the sail. The captain did not dare to turn the ship lest it be overturned and the
Cormorant flew along on the wings of the storm, deeper and deeper into the west. Then, in
the Bay of Ulmor, the wind turned again, dragging them northwards towards the rocky coast.
The sky darkened, thunder
exploded all around them, lightning crackled into the tumultuous sea and rain lashed down
upon them. As the rocky shore loomed closer and closer, the captain, in desperation, tried
to turn the ship. Its timbers creaking hideously, the Cormorant strained westwards again,
heaving to starboard as it came around. Suddenly a fiery bolt of lightning struck the
mainmast, snapping it in two like a twig and the mast crashed down onto the foredeck,
crushing two of the ship's crew.
The raging storm drove the
Cormorant relentlessly towards the shore, dashing the crippled ship against the rocks. As
the Cormorant broke like a child's toy, crew and passengers alike leapt into the roiling
sea. Some were sucked under by the fierce currents, some were smashed against the rocks
but a few managed to struggle ashore.
A sorry party gathered on the
shoreline. Luxor lay unconscious, having dashed his head against the rocks as he tried to
clamber ashore. Corleth and Arin had plucked him from the waves just before he would have
been dragged under.
Lord Blood had gained the shore
too, together with three of the Moonprince's houseguard and four of the crew.
"We must find some
shelter, else we will all freeze to death. What is this place?" said Lord Blood,
addressing no one in particular.
"This is the Marish,
sir," said one of the crew.
exclaimed Lord Blood, "It has borne us to the Wolfheart's domain!"
One of the houseguard shouted,
"Look, my lord!"
All eyes turned to where the
man was pointing. There, in the west against the reddening sky, they saw the silhouettes
of dark warriors coming swiftly towards them over the brow of the hill, swords drawn.
"Hell's teeth!" cried
Lord Blood, "And we are near disarmed, our coats of mail cast aside, our shields
lost. In sword alone must we put our trust. Gather round me. We will die afore our prince
Though sorely outnumbered and
already weary from battle with the sea, the ten fought bravely, slaying near twice their
number, but one by one they fell wounded or dying. Arin was struck on the head by a shield
and fell to the ground, unconscious. Corleth was disarmed as the back of his hand was
sliced by a sword and then felled by a heavy blow from behind. Lord Blood was the last to
fall, a Dark Fey warrior plunging his sword through the old man's chest, piercing him
through the heart.
Two of the crew who were
wounded were swiftly decapitated by the Dark Fey commander, who perceived they would be
valueless, but Luxor, Corleth and Arin, who were clad in richer garments, he spared,
guessing that these might bring a pretty ransom.
So it was that Luxor the
Moonprince, his grandson Corleth and Arin, now Lord Blood were brought to the Dark Citadel
of Maranor and thrown into a cell. Presently, Boroth himself came to the cell to assay his
new possessions. Luxor was dragged to his feet by the guards.
"Well, what have we here, then?" said the Wolfheart, "An old man and two
boys! Still, by their dress I would venture they have some small nobility, at least."
Luxor, enraged, shook himself
free of the two guards who held him.
"I am Luxor the Moonprince, Prince of Midnight! Whomsoever you may be, you will set
us free forthwith - if you value your life!" cried Luxor.
The Dark Fey guards moved to
strike Luxor down but Boroth, smiling now, raised a hand to stay them.
"Charmed, I am sure!"
said Boroth, bowing his head, "How pleased I am to meet thee, Luxor, Prince of
Midnight! Of thee, many tales have I heard. I prithee, allow me to introduce myself. I am
Boroth, High King of the Marish! I fancy thou wilt fetch a handsome price."
"And I fancy that you will
find a mighty army hammering at your gates if you dare to hold me to ransom!" said
"I doubt that. There is
little point in rescuing a corpse. And who, pray, might these two pretty boys be?"
said Boroth, still smiling with considerable charm.
"They are two servants of
mine. Release them, at least. They will fetch you no ransom," said Luxor.
"And if I do, what do I
gain?" asked Boroth.
"I will give you my mark
whereby my son will know that I still live, but first I will see them set free and their
swords returned," said Luxor.
"Very well," said
Boroth, "So be it. Thou art wise, Moonprince, to ease my path. Come, let us to the
gates of Maranor and thou shalt see thy servants set free."
It was midnight when Corleth
and Arin were released at the great gate. As they disappeared into the darkness, Luxor's
eyes were filled with tears. He know that they were in great peril, that Boroth could, at
a whim, send warriors after them and have them slaughtered but he knew in his heart that
this was their best chance. Boroth had nothing to gain by their deaths and, even if they
were to be hunted, Corleth and Arin were young and strong and could well escape.
Corleth, however, was not about
to abandon his grandfather and Arin was with him in this. Once they were safely out of
sight, the boys turned back towards the Dark Citadel, circling round it looking for a way
back in. Thus it was that the warriors Boroth sent after them along the road to the river
could find no sign of them. After hours of stumbling through the darkness, Arin suddenly
disappeared from sight. By chance, he had fallen into a stairway hidden by undergrowth
that led to an underground passage. He called up to Corleth and Corleth followed him.
Feeling their way blindly along the dark passageway, they finally emerged in what must
have been an old well, deep in the bowels of the Dark Citadel.
As they climbed out of the well
into a stone flagged room, Corleth whispered, "Fear not, Grandfather, we will set you
"And any other ill-fated
hostage that we might find!" added Arin.
A swift-winged raven bore
Boroth's ransom note to Corelay. It was a simple message: five chestfuls of gold to be
sent to Maranor and Luxor would be returned unharmed. If the gold did not reach Maranor
within twelve moons, Luxor's head alone would be returned. To leave no doubt, Luxor's mark
was set upon the parchment.
Prince Morkin gazed at his
father's signature. There was no doubt it was his, but at the end there was an extra
flourish, an extra branch on the last stroke. For a while, it puzzled him and then he
realized what it was meant to be. The last stroke was a snake's tongue. Luxor had added a
message to his mark, Place no trust in what this letter says. How the tables had turned
since the Icemark! Now it was he who must free his father!
Although he could muster the
mightiest of armies, he dared not rouse Midnight lest this Wolfheart hear of it and slay
Luxor. Some stealth must be used and what help they could gather within the Blood March
itself. If an army were to rescue Luxor, it could not be seen to come from Midnight. With
a handful of warriors, Prince Morkin and Araleth the White, Lord of Dreams set forth for
the Castle of Corelay and thence to the Blood March.
When the prince drew within
sight of the last Mountains, at last he placed the Moonring upon his finger, lifted his
fist to the sky and cried out, "For the Moonprince, for Midnight and the Free!
Boroth the Wolfheart, you shall
pay for this with your life!" and the air trembled. Far, far, away, already deep
within the Blood March on his way to the Crimson Mountains, Rorthron heard the faint
whisper thrown forth by the Moonring. Suddenly, all grew clear to him as he bent his mind
towards Luxor's plight. Anderlane of the Arakai, the unexpected gift, of course! Already,
away in the Last Northing, there could be help at hand from the Moonprince's unsuspected
kin. In his wildest dreams, Boroth would never link the two. Now he knew why he had
hurried here. Rorthorn looked into the east towards the long Mountains and beyond them
Rilleon and the Last Northing, then hurried on. The War of the Blood March was about to