"Misguided Missiles"
Fists of Rayje, Part 3
by Edward Bolme
What happened before? Read Part 2 "When will you Rayje?", as well as
The Prodigal Daughter, The Unwanted, and Water Damage.

Rayjeís construct stood in the shallow surf, waves batting futilely at its mighty ankles. The great machine reached down and placed Rayje on the beach, not a nice sandy beach such as they had in Paradwyn, but a grassy beach choked with blue yajo, both in the surf and on the shore. No sooner did Rayjeís foot touch the ground than the yajo began to weave itself defensively, creating a foot-tangling mesh that would seriously hamper his movements. The shifting in the yajo, grasses, and other plants moved out from Rayje like a ripple as the Weave sought to defend itself from an outsider. A few hundred yards inland, where the grass was as tall as he was, Rayje saw the grasses weave into a thick interlaced wall of green. That would be as far as he could get without help.

He could always ride his construct; with effort, he could get far enough inland that by the time his construct could move no further, he himself could walk between the bulbs of the giant grasses freely. If one considered slogging through knee-deep muck to be free movement.

But Rayje had other help. He reached into his haversack and pulled out a Weave key, a magical woven grass token. No sooner did he pull the key into the sunshine than the Weave unbound itself and relaxed.

Rayje smiled. They donít make them like this any more, he thought.

Most keys allowed the bearer to go to one place within the Weave. One key to go in, another key to allow you to leave. The grasses of the Weave created a woven bridge in front of the bearer and unbound themselves as soon as the last traveler had passed.

Rayjeís, however, was a very old Weave key. Rayje looked at it, clutched it in his fist, and looked east. Immediately the grasses bent and formed an arcing path. He swept his gaze north, and as he did, the grasses bowed themselves before him, creating a path wherever he wished. It seemed almost like a giant invisible arm was sweeping across the Weave, laying out a path wherever Rayje looked.

Rayje chuckled. Even though itís been so long, he thought, itís still a fun trick. Then he paused. He furrowed his brow, and stood silently for a long time. A chill crept up his back, and the smell of smoke tinged his nostrils.

Something is wrong here, he thought. Iíve been away too long.

Raising his ring, he undreamt his construct, sending it back to the dream plane. He used a favorite spell of his to dream up a disguise that made him look like any other Weave Magi.

War in the Weave? He thought, frowning. Say itís not so!

* * * * *

Zaya sat with a circle of her few supporters, clenching and unclenching her fists, as if trying to grasp something that was no longer there.

"I will regain control of this region!" she growled. "But Iówe, that is, will need help. The question is, from whom?"

"Naroom is out, what with the Dark Twins running over everything," said Ahdar. "And the Underneath fears they're next."

"Ninx reports that Paradwyn is in a lot of trouble," offered Taisa, "and I donít think we could count on Bograth for help."

"Donít be so sure," said Zaya, "allies can be found anywhere."

"Cald would of course be a poor choice," offered Ahdar, "since theyíre already at war with us."

"That actually makes them a good choice," countered Zaya, "since they need the least convincing to want Gia overthrown. Possibly the best. We should see if thereís some way that we can speak with them, strictly covertly, without getting fried to a crisp before we can talk. Taisa? You work on that."

"And what will you be doing, Zaya?" asked Ahdar.

"I have some other potential allies I need to speak to," she said flatly, and she rose from the circle and left.

On the other side of the circle, no one noticed as a nondescript Weave Magi arose and departed. He glanced south and east, and immediately a Weave path opened for him.

* * * * *

"What news do you have?" asked Gia, leaning wearily on a staff and looking at the group of Magi that had gathered.

"Seer," said Yerthe, ignoring the question, "you donít look well."

"All of this has aged me," said Gia with a sigh. She hobbled over to a log and sat heavily upon it. "My throat is killing me, me feet are ready to explode, I canít draw a decent breath, I have never been so uncomfortable in all my life."

"Ashio looked really tough, Seer, but you did well."

"Well, enough," Gia conceded. "So what news do you bring me?" she asked again, pulling a lank strand of gray hair from her face.

"Rumor is that the Dark Twins may be expanding their war, Seer. Word is that theyíre sending an army westward."

"The Dark Twins are preparing to attack the Weave?" gasped Gia.

"Yeah," chuckled Yerthe, "youíd think theyíd learn a lesson from how we beat back the Calders."

"Not if they had help," Gia said.

"Help?" asked Yerthe. "What do you mean?"

"The Magi from Cald had no Weave key, nor any Weave allies. They had no means of moving rapidly through the grass. But if the Dark Twins had someone willing to help them?someone who is angry or upset at all that we've done together?

"The other day I heard Zaya say that sheíd do whatever it took to regain control of us," offered Artyva.

Yerthe looked at the Magi in confusion, and then his face broke into an expression of horror.

"Zaya!" gasped Yerthe. "But?she wouldnít work with the Dark Twins?would she?"

Gia drummed her fingers on her staff and waited.

"She did say 'whatever it took,' right?" asked Ahdar. Artyva nodded.

Gia bowed her head and rested it against her wooden staff. "The question that is left, then," she said quietly, "is how to prevent Zaya from hooking up with this dark army."

At the rear of the assembled Magi, a nondescript but vaguely familiar Magi stepped away from the crowd, and, weaving a path, moved off into the tall grasses.

* * * * *

In the heart of Cald, Rayje walked through the sweltering city of Aragonar toward Barakís estate. When he arrived, he found the warlord leaning against an ornate balcony of hot metal, his mouth working angrily. Rayje cleared his throat to get Barak's attention.

Barak glowered down at him. "Who the Core are you?" he cursed.

"I, warlord, am Rayje," he said.

Barak laughed. "And Iím Gia," he said mockingly. "Rayje is a legend."

"While I would not describe myself thus," Rayje answered, "I appreciate the compliment."

"Leave me," said Barak dismissively.

Rayje powered his ring and brought his construct back from the dream plane, conjuring it in such a manner that it held him on the palm of its hand as it rose from the ground.

Barak looked up at the strange Magi, now towering over him atop a colossus that seemed to eclipse the sun.

"Make me," said Rayje.

* * * * *

Magam smiled as a familiar person entered her house. "Good day, warlo?

Barak limped in, favoring one leg, one hand pressed against one of his eyes. He looked like he didnít feel very good at all.

"May I ask, warlord," hazarded Magam, "what?

"Shut up," said Barak testily. Then he gestured to a stranger who followed him in. "Magam, this is Rayje."

"Get out of here!" said Magam, waving one hand with amusement.

"Okay," said the warlord as he quickly exited the house.

The stranger remained, his steely eyes staring at the long-haired ringsmith.

Magamís smile dimmed. "But Rayje is nothing but a legend."

"No, Iím not," said Rayje simply.

"What do you mean?" asked Magam uncertainly, as she cast a nervous glance at the door by which Barak had exited.

"Iím not a nothing-but-a-legend," said the stranger. "Iím not a nothing-but-an anything."

Magam rubbed her forehead with a trembling hand. "Okay, Rayje" she said. "What did the warlord want me to do for you?"

Rayje smiled.

From outside the door, Barak said, "I told you, sheís smart and observant."

"I understand the scroll of fire has been taken," said Rayje. "Show me where it was last seen."

* * * * *

Rayje knelt by the pedestal upon which the scroll of fire had once rested. He sniffed the air as the last glowing motes of his several spells faded away.

"Orothe did this," said Magam bitterly. "Bria was their agent, but they will pay again and again for their arrogance."

Rayje ran his finger along the ground, lifted it, looked at the residue on his fingertip, then rubbed his thumb against his finger and smelled it.

"Bria, yes," he said, "but Orothe, no."

Magam and Barak looked at each other. "What do you mean?" asked Magam.

"What I mean," said Rayje, "is that you need to learn to tell who your real enemies are, and," he added looking pointedly at Barak, "who your real friends are."

"And youíre here to help?" asked Magam hopefully, while Barak flushed with anger and embarrassment.

"I have to help," said Rayje, "for if I donít the whole Moonlands will fall. And it seems like Iím needed here at the moment."

What happens next? Read Part 4 "Hot Water"

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