The two companions finally drank themselves asleep shortly after sundown. At dawn, they packed their gear and saddled their horses. Bruth rode the fearless Ogden Moore, a well-trained stallion who never shys from battle, while the Wizard held the reins of his ponied wagon. The road to Lumbass followed the Blue River, passing through the Market Towns all the way to the Forgotten Lands, where no man dwells. Lumbass was a small village of brewers and sourdoughs which lay just beyond the border, a cesspool of vagabonds and misfits who at some point in their life acquired a desire to avoid the authorities. Despite the questionable character of the natives, the local brothels were sure to house a few sellswords hoping to lent their services to gullible travellers with a need to cross the danger zone. And these same sellswords kept watch on all passerbys. If the boy and his lady passed through these parts, the Wizard surmised, one of them would have seen them and taken note of the peculiar travellors.
“Or they could have kidnapped them for ransom,” Bruth countered. Always the pessimist, Bruth was quick to assume the worse. “And listen… please, for both of our sakes, keep a cork on the shenanigans. Word gets out about you and the entire army will be down our necks before sundown.”
The Wizard grunted and returned his thoughts to the quest. There was some reason for the young man’s sudden flight from his apprenticeship, a crime punishable by death in these parts. There had been no word of the townsfolk’s request for aid, but there was always the chance some travellor got wind of the chance for a reward and passed on the information. Finding the young lad before anybody else privy to this knowledge was of utmost importance. While the Wizard always attempted stealth and guile before force, he was prepared to summon any weapon necessary to ensure the safety of the unrecognized Heir of Alar. What the only son of the ancient Anukian line was doing in this strange dimension was a mystery yet to be solved.
“You know what ‘Lumbass’ means, don’t you,” said the Wizard. ‘No Pass’ — It is an idiom carried over from the time of the Elven King’s alliance with the Anuks, when they first learned the existence of other worlds. There is an ancient monument in the center of the village, the purpose of which is unknown to most who dwell in these parts. It is an ancient portal. When the war started, the elves left this world to join with the Anuks in battle. They closed the portal to ensure no trace of their passage, leaving only an ancient stone in its place. The locals who witnessed the event enscribed the runes on the stone which gave the village it’s name.”
“You think the boy is after something there?”
“I’m certain of it. He is coming of age. No doubt his instincts are drawing him to his origins.”
The companions carried on in silence for some time, until, finally, the black smoke from the chimneys of Lumbass could be seen on the horizon. The suns were preparing for their nightly rest, lingering just above the village, casting beams of orange, violet, and blue through the smoke clouds in the evening sky.
As they drew near the village, the smoke and the light began to take the shape of a large Anukian skull, peering down at them from the infinite horizon with fiery eyes.