The Scrolls of Skava

     The fate of the world hangs in the balance. Belthar faces imminent defeat, and if the empire falls there will be nothing left to oppose the armies of darkness. One hope remains, one last all or nothing gamble, but for it to succeed the heroes of civilization have to find a way to team up with their bitterest enemies, creatures every bit as evil as the Bone Prince but whose existence is also threatened by the undead hordes. Side by side, they must march together into the very heart of the Shadow…

 

Extract from The Scrolls of Skava

     The nome chuckled in delight and directed Thomas to turn inland, which he did, Shaun’s carpet falling in behind. Soon they were in the mountains, weaving their way between ridges and peaks and following tortuous valleys and ravines to a spot near the centre of the range where the mountains reared tall and sheer, their tips shining as sunlight reflected off snow and ice, the ridges between their faces as sharp as knife edges. This was a young range, Thomas knew, only recently pushed up as Amafryka and the Western Continent crept gradually towards one another, and in all probability they were still growing, the first of a mighty range that would one day stand where the Western Sea stood now. That was in the future, though. Way, way in the future, and in all probability it wouldn’t be humans who saw them but another race that had replaced them, as humans had replaced the G’Toff and as the G’Toff had replaced the Llanoks.

     He was broken out of his reverie when Teasel gave the command to land, and he saw a wide, level space below them. A path led to it, narrow in places and with steps carved where it climbed or descended a steep slope, so that they knew that others occasionally came here, to see whatever it was that Teasel wanted to show them. He looked around, but all he could see so far were tall mountains and narrow valleys.

     The carpets landed side by side on the level area, which was covered by closely cropped grass and dotted with sheep and rabbit droppings that they took care not to step on. “This is it,” said the nome, bubbling with excitement. “The Kingsview. It was here, right here on this very spot, that Eldos the Bardmage came following the defeat of King Tornidol’s army and saw the sight that inspired him to compose the Majestiad, the epic poem that inspired the army to return to battle and which led to their eventual victory.”

     “Saw what?” asked Dennis impatiently.

     “Can’t you see it?” said Teasel, laughing with delight. “Over there. Look. You see that big mountain there? You see that one next to it? Look between them, at the skyline way, way over there. See it?”

     They looked. At first they couldn’t see anything, just a random collection of mountains and valleys like the ones all around them. The mountains over there were lower and flatter than most of the others, and Thomas realised that he was looking through a gap between the nearer mountains to reveal more distant ones that were closer to the edge of the range. The very furthest mountains he could see, in fact, were probably the foothills of the range, with nothing beyond but the dense canopy of Fengalla Forest. One of the mountains was low and triangular, with a rounded top, steep on one side and with a much shallower slope on the other, and the wizard was struck by its resemblance to a human nose. He chuckled to himself and was about to mention it to the others when he saw that a pair of smaller peaks next to it looked a lot like a pair of lips seen in profile, and that a larger mountain next to them, low and rounded, looked just like a chin.

     All of a sudden he could see it, and he gasped in wonder. Half a dozen mountains, some nearer, some further away, which all together bore an uncanny resemblance to a human face looking up into the sky, seen from the side. Not just any face either, but a noble face, a wise face. The face of a king, or an emperor. The face of a man who could give an order and not worry about whether it would be obeyed because he knew with utter certainty that it would be. The face of a man who could command total adoration from his people, a man whom they would follow without doubt or hesitation into the very jaws of Hell itself. It was, there was simply no other word for it, a majestic face.

     “You see it?” said Teasel, beaming with delight.

     “Yes,” replied the wizard. “Yes! Who is it?”

     “King Tornidol,” replied the nome. “Eldos the Bardmage saw it first, just the way you just saw it, and took it as a sign from the Gods that the King was destined to be triumphant against the armies of Eldric the usurper, and ever since then anyone who passes this way comes here to gaze in wonder upon it. I couldn’t let you pass so close without showing it to you.”

     “I can see it too!” cried Diana in delight. “A man’s face, lying on his back and looking up at the stars! Is that really what King Tornidol looked like?”

     “According to Eldos, the resemblance was perfect. You can only see it from this one vantage point. From anywhere else, nearer mountains are in the way or the various features of his face are in the wrong place. You can only see it from here, the Kingsview.”

     One by one the others saw it as well, and as soon as they saw it they wondered how they could ever have missed it. “No wonder they call them the Majestic Mountains!” said Naomi in wonder. “They couldn’t have called them anything else!”

     They looked at it for a while longer, filled with wonder, until Shaun began to fidget with impatience. “We ought to be going,” he said. “We’ve only got today and tomorrow before we lose the carpets, so we ought to make the most of the time.”

     “He’s right,” agreed Thomas, and they made their way back to where they’d left them. “Thanks for showing it to us, Teasel. I wouldn’t have missed it for the world!”

     “I can never see enough of it,” agreed Teasel. “I could stay here all day and just stare at it for hours and hours.”

     Shaun paused, a thoughtful look on his face. “Yeah?” he said. “Tell you what, Tom, Di and me’ve got to drop the four of you off somewhere and go the rest of the way alone. Why not leave you here, if you like this spot so much? We’re already pretty close to, to our destination, just a few hours of carpet flight from here. We’d be back by sundown. What do you say?”

     He’d expected Naomi to complain again, as she had before, but to his surprise she simply shrugged. “Why not?” she said. “Sounds good to me. What do the rest of you say?”

     The others also agreed, although with rather less grace than that shown by the black girl, only Teasel being genuinely enthusiastic about it. “That’s settled then,” said Shaun with satisfaction. “We’ll be back as soon as we can. See you later.” The Claimjumpers then sat down on their carpet, Thomas gave the command and they rose slowly into the sky.

     The others watched until they were just a tiny speck in the eastern sky, and then Naomi jumped onto the other carpet. “Well, come on then!” she called impatiently.

     “Where are we going?” asked Arroc in confusion.

     “We’re going to follow them!” said the black girl, grinning with excitement. “You don’t think I’m going to just sit here while they go off and have all the fun, do you? What, sit here like good little children while the grown-ups go off alone? How dare they treat us like that? It makes me so angry I want to claw their eyes out! Well, I for one am not going to stand for it! I’m going to follow them and see this great sage for myself! So are you coming or not?”

     Dennis and Arroc laughed and jumped aboard the carpet with her. “But they told us to wait here!” protested Teasel, however.

     “Come with us or wait here all alone!” snapped Naomi impatiently. “It’s up to you.”

     The nome hesitated a moment longer, but then shrugged and jumped aboard with them. Naomi laughed in triumph, gave the command, and the second carpet also rose, following the first.