“This isn’t going to be easy. You know that,
don’t you?” Quirin said to Claring. They walked a few steps ahead of the
others. “I’m sure Darmantha and his side-kicks have set up traps of some
sort for us.”
“That’s a certainty. We’ll have to watch every
step and be on guard the entire journey,” Claring agreed.
“I think it would be wise if we went to Sparma
“Sparma Springs? You mean to the Spring of
“Exactly. I brought some ground taradak horns with me. I think if I fill
my wand with the water from the spring and mix it with the taradak, my
powers will be at maximum. I’ve not forgotten Darmantha’s strength, or his
ability to do evil. Actually, I’m quite surprised he’s been so mellow.
Maybe he’s gotten cocky in his years. That might be his downfall. He must
feel certain he can destroy us and the dragons, or he’d have done more
damage, especially to the captive dragons and Gretel.”
“I agree. I’ve never been to Sparma Springs. I guess I’ve never had a need
to go there. There’s not much need for magical powers on this island, at
least there hasn’t been up until now. Let’s tell the others.”
Quirin gathered the groups and told them of his plan. They agreed to make
the detour to the springs. “Do you think Darmantha will have figured out
we might go there? It’s not likely to have slipped his mind,” Sindri said.
“How does Darmantha know about the springs?” Gretel, confused about
Darmantha’s role in the history of the island, asked.
“Darmantha’s not a stranger to the island. It’s been a long time, but he’s
been here before and knows his way around. It’s a long story. Remind me to
tell you about it later My guess is that he probably will have a trap or
two set for us. All of you need to use the utmost caution from now on.”
Quirin pulled his staff out of his cloak and held it before him, using it
to lean on.
* * *
None of them noticed Jorna and Provan, who’d been following them at a
distance since they’d left Luba. “Fools. They’re doing exactly what
Darmantha said they’d do.”
”I hate the fact that he was right,” Jorna
“We’d better get back and report to him or
he’ll have our heads,” Provan said. He and Jorna disappeared in the trees.
* * *
After they’d walked for several hours, Claring said, “Aren’t we near the
old city of Utheria? I remember coming here long ago with Gordinth. He
needed to find some sort of map from the ancient library. He didn’t find
it, but we had an interesting time there.”
“Quite right, Claring. We are close to it,” said Quirin.
“An old city? Can we go there? I’ve never been to an old city before. Why
don’t people live there any more?” Gretel, full of questions, talked their
“Gretel, I feel like I’m with Crispin with all these questions. Stop now!
I think we need a rest. Let’s stop here for a short while and I’ll tell
Gretel about Utheria.” The others agreed, pulled their packs off their
backs and dropped them next to an old wipper tree. Quirin sat down in a
patch of long grass in its shade.
Claring and Sindri took Marti down to the Pimbo River.
“Come and sit with me for a while, Gretel.”
She opened her pack, pulled out a yamita and sat down near Quirin.
“Many centuries ago a great civilization lived on this island. The people
were great warriors with a massive navy. At one time they nearly wiped out
the Greeks and Romans, but because of a bad judgment call by their leader,
Kumtur, the entire civilization was decimated. That means it was
destroyed, in case you didn’t know.”
“I know that word, Quirin, but thanks for
explaining it to me anyway.” Gretel smiled.
“Now, where was I? Oh yes, I remember. Their magnificent city was razed to
the ground. That’s another way of saying it was destroyed, or did you know
that too?” Gretel nodded yes. “All that is left are the ruins. Utheria was
full of libraries, museums and music halls. The buildings were made from
rare marbles brought here from the quarries of northwest Italy. They say
the air was full of the sweet scent of honeysuckle and enpilli blossoms
and that the birds were the color of sapphires and emeralds. Hanging
gardens decorated the city. Some of the columns and statues were so tall
they nearly reached the clouds. It was a marvelous place, or so they say.
I never saw Utheria in all her glory, though I have seen the ruins and
even they are splendid and beautiful.
“One day, early in the morning, well before sunrise, the city was
attacked. The women were taken captive and sold into slavery in places
like Constantinople, Egypt, and Carthage. All the priceless art was
removed and taken to Rome, along with most of the statues.”
“How did that happen, if they were such great
warriors?” Gretel wanted to know the answers.
“Kumtur, their king, was advised by his naval and army leaders to prepare
for battle. They’d heard rumors about a planned attack on the city. Kumtur,
in all his arrogance, never believed for one moment that any opposing
armies would dare attack him. He was the mightiest ruler and therefore
untouchable. Sadly, it wasn’t so. During the night the enemy came from the
sea in small rowboats, leaving their big ships anchored far away and out
of sight. Several teams of divers swam down under Kumtur’s warships and
drilled holes in the bottoms. The ships filled slowly with water and sank.
By the time the sailors on board noticed, it was too late. The enemy moved
in with their bigger naval ships and attacked the Utherians. Coming upon
them in the wee hours of the morning, all but the youngest of boys were
slaughtered in their beds and, as I mentioned before, the woman and girls
taken into slavery, only to be used in harems and such things. Kumtur was
captured, tortured, and hung from the gates of the city. The attacking
armies shot him with arrows as the captured women and children walked
past. They say the attacker’s armies and navies were a combination of
Romans, Greeks, Carthaginians, and Persians. That’s only part of the
story, Gretel. Darmantha is a direct descendant of King Kumtur.”
“But you said all the boys were killed,” Gretel said.
“They were, all except Kumtur’s wife, Zelinda, and their young son, Caffi.
The night the armies invaded, Caffi had woken up earlier with a nightmare,
as he often did. Zelinda knew the best way to calm the troubled boy down
was to take him for a long walk in the night air. The two of them left the
palace. When they saw the attackers, they ran, but not before an arrow
found its way into Zelinda’s side. Helping his mother, Caffi led her to
Sparma Springs. They stayed there in hiding for several days. Caffi used
the springs to help heal her wound, at least enough that she could get
around. When they were sure the enemy had left, they went back to Utheria,
only to find the city in ruins and the king’s decaying body full of
arrows. Devastated, the two made their way to the docks and found a small
boat that the enemy had overlooked.
“Her son did most of the rowing, heading for one of the nearby islands,
which took about three days travel, with no food or water. Nearly dead,
the two of them were found by passing fishermen. When he asked her name,
she told them another, Deborah, and also gave a false name to Caffi. She
called him Andor. They lived among the fisher-people in a village called
Tritem, too afraid to tell who they really were. Caffi remembered and
never forgot; never forgot anything, especially his father.
“When he was about thirty years old, his mother, Zelinda died. Caffi
married soon after that and brought his wife, Anna, and children, three
sons Kumtur, Alain, and Rufert, and one daughter, Melena, along with a few
other adventurous villagers, back here, to Utheria to live. Though it was
still in ruins, they were able to build a small village, and live in
harmony for several centuries. Eventually Caffi’s descendants moved back
to Tritem, leaving Utheria deserted, as we found it.
“Before deserting Utheria for good, one of Caffi’s descendants, a man
named Rannar, went to Sparma Springs. I suppose he came upon it
accidentally. He found it an unusual place with a feeling of life and
energy to it. While there, he had a vision. He saw Zelinda lying on the
ground next to the springs and her son washing the blood off with the
water, which ran back into the spring. When Rannar woke up, he found the
water bubbling. The clear spring turned red, churning with blood,
Zelinda’s blood. Three eggs, the size of his fist, appeared in the boiling
water. Each was the size of a loaf of bread. The shells were shiny and
glass-like, yet strong and unbreakable. One was blue, one red, and one
black. With great care, Rannar gathered them and hid all three in his boat
before heading with his kin to Tritem.”
“Were they dragon eggs? How did they get there?” Gretel’s imagination ran
wild with possibilities.
“They were indeed dragon eggs. They say Zelinda’s thirst for revenge on
her husband’s death made the eggs. We’ll never know for sure, only that
they did come from the springs and that Zelinda had something to do with
their appearance. I think Kumtur and his wizard had something to do with
it too though. It doesn’t really matter, I suppose. Rannar took the eggs
and hid them in his home until he was an old man. Just before he died, the
eggs hatched. There were two females and one male. He named them, Arbon,
Diphini and Elyssia. He called his granddaughter, Alwycka, to his hut and
showed her the tiny dragons. She promised to help take care of them.
Several years after Rannar died, she could no longer hide them. They were
growing too big, too noisy and too hungry. The villagers found out. At
first they were afraid and wanted to kill the dragons, but after Alwycka
showed them how gentle they were, the people of Tritem quickly became very
attached to them. They helped care for the dragons and raised them to
adulthood. The dragons lived in peace with the villagers.”
“Until the disease killed them,” Gretel snarled.
“Yes, that’s true, but that wasn’t until many centuries later. There were
at least 79 dragons alive at that time. Arbon had many young ones with
both Diphini and Elyssia. You know the rest of the story, almost.
Darmantha was born in Tritem. The blood of Kumtur flows through his veins.
You could say he shares the same blood as the dragons too. He’s spent a
lot of time on this island and is familiar with the ruins of Utheria and
Sparma Springs. They say Zelinda’s blood bubbles up from the spring every
day for several minutes to remind all who see it that Kumtur’s blood line
and kingdom will never end.”
“Wow, that’s a sad story. I’ll bet where we’re sitting right now was
walked on by soldiers who came to attack the Utherians. Let’s go there. I
know it will be sad, but I’d like to see the springs and the ruins.”
Gretel looked up at Quirin.
“As soon as Claring, Marti, and Sindri get
back, we’ll be off. We’ve had a good rest now. I see you’ve finished off
“Where did they go, Quirin?”
“They went to the Pimbo River. It borders
Utheria in a semi circle, coming in from the sea on one end and flowing
back into it at the other. Utheria is built on the land inside and also on
the outside the river. Kumtur kept his ships in the river. Wait till you
see the bridges spanning the water. They’re monstrous. People built their
houses on them. It’s quite a sight.”
Marti and his parents came back to the clearing.
Quirin stood looking down at Gretel. “Are you ready to see Utheria? I know
that I am!” They picked up their packs and slipped them on their backs.
“We’re off then. Onward to Utheria!” Quirin led the way once more.