On that note, the three left to prepare. Jorund on his way back to the palace and the two to their rooms and then talk to Danay. Tyler was left behind. He dug out the box from his pocket. A small box, same in appearance as the one with the communication stone. A familiar faint surge of energy coursed through him when he held it in his hand. He opened the box. Inside was another stone, this time golden in hue. Sigils were again present on its surface. As he looked at the reverse side, runic inscriptions greeted him. But this time, they were all Norse runes.
He cupped the stone in his right hand. Another surge of energy came from it, but this time it contained knowledge. An area spell. A lightning cloud. The new knowledge showed him how to use the stone and what will it look like when cast. To activate it, one has merely to focus where the cloud will appear and then crush it.
I don’t think I can use this against those minor gods. They would be moving quickly and it would be easy for them to get out of the cloud’s coverage.
He thought for a while, comfortable in the cozy ambiance of the room. His right hand was still holding the stone. A thought came to his mind.
“Yes, Elder.” Hal was the one who responded this time.
“There’s a magical stone in my right hand. A gift from Odin. It creates a cloud which disperses lightning bolts over an area. I don’t believe I know that spell though I may have cast it during one of my moments near Bildsfell. Would it be possible for you to analyze the stone and its spell? Try to determine if I could add it to my list.”
“Of course, Elder. Do try to grip it a little tighter.”
Tyler followed the instruction but was careful not to crush it. An indoor lightning storm wouldn’t be a good idea. After a while, X spoke up.
“We have finished analyzing, Elder. You may return the stone to its box. We are reviewing our findings.”
He returned the stone to the box and put it back in his pocket. He did find it inconvenient to push his armor out of the way.
“Review finished, Elder,” said Hal. “The spell is now available to you. A High Mage spell. It does require a lot of energy at full strength. The area of coverage and the number, as well as frequency of the lightning bolts, is going to be dependent on the energy infused during the spell.”
Got one over you, Mr. Five-Steps-Ahead! These two AIs are indeed trump cards! But it won’t hurt to find more. Well, I better get back to my room.
As he started to get up from his chair, Dionysus suddenly returned, startling Tyler.
“Oh, there you are, I was hoping you would still be here,” said Dionysus.
Tyler got back to sitting while Dionysus took his seat.
“I found them. Well, the lochos anyway. And strong individual energy patterns around it. No sign of any son of Ares. You’re right. It’s a trap.”
“No. Those minor gods don’t have that power. They're probably masking their presence. Somebody got them artifacts to hide their energies. But I could sense four individuals.”
“The four from Ares’ retinue then,” commented Tyler.
“I guess so. But something is going on too. The whole area around Dori, at least in a five-mile radius around the city, is covered by a potent spell. It prevents magical transfer into the city. As if anybody is crazy enough to try to sneak inside a city on the warpath.”
“How about the area where the lochos is traveling in?”
“Nothing of that sort. But if the Dorians got hold of such a spell, your trap can really be a trap. Such a spell can also be cast to do the reverse. Prevent anybody from leaving. You may not be able to transport back if things get hairy. Let’s presume that they do have a spell to do exactly that once you engage them.”
“I think that’s what they’re precisely going to do to prevent any escape from their trap. How long does the spell last?”
“That’s the problem. A few hours or a day, depending on its configuration. Do you still want to do this?”
“It’s not a question of want but need. If those four appear here with an army, then our job becomes an impossible one. I would rather risk facing them in an isolated situation than in a full-scale attack. Right now, they only have a lochos with them. That’s the best scenario so far.”
“You’re going be a petteia piece, Tyler. And not in a favorable position.”
“I am not familiar with the term, Dio. But I have always not been in a favorable position.”
The god sighed and stood up. He went to the map laid out on the table.
“The group left the town of Erineus. And instead of following the road, which will take them up and around the hills around Dori, they have taken a cross-country route. They have kept their march to the flatland at the foot of the hills. I have been told that they are now here,” Dionysus pointed to a spot on the map, halfway to Dori.
“Can you bring the three of us there? Or to a nearby position?”
“Of course. It’s only Dori which has that preventive spell. Unfortunately, your return may be a problem if they use a similar spell. I am sure they will try to cover as wide an area as they can to prevent escape. So, if you are successful and are ready to go back, you may have to walk south from where you were. Not north. That’s deeper into Dorian country. Ten miles south would be a safe place to activate transport stones. Five to six miles perhaps but that’s too close. If you crush the stones within the area of the spell, that’s it. You get to walk all the way back to Akrotiri. That’s more than two hundred fifty miles.”
“I hope not. That’s a long way.”
“Oh, after bringing you there, I can’t stick around. That’s Kriti. A region beyond the scope of my babysitting duties. And being around while you play with those demigods or minor gods will give the wrong impression of a drunkard taking sides. I’ll probably go check on the land the Pelasgoi promised me.”
“Got it. Talking about demigods, what’s the news about Erethizo?”
“Still at his mother’s domain. Now that you mention it, I find Eris’ absence in this entire situation odd. She is Ares’ sister and usually his partner in many plots and schemes. For her to be absent in a campaign of this magnitude, that is strange. Troubling, in fact.”
“Unless another or others are playing the game with Ares as the front. I mean, you have Ares and a huge army. Add to that his retinue. Against Akrotiri and its joke of a defense. Do you really need Eris? It’s not a pantheon-wide conflict after all.”
“You’ve got a point there. Even Athena did mention something like that. She doesn’t believe this all came from the battle god’s brain. Eris is probably involved but not in this invasion. She may have another part to play. You know, if this is not controlled, it may end up as a pantheon-wide war.”
“From what Athena told us, at least indirectly, that’s what she wants to avoid. But Zeus told me it might be part of something bigger. A plan which reaches across pantheons.”
“I had my suspicions. BUT! We are here! And the stage awaits! So, gather your players! The audience attends! Ready to play your part, High Mage?”
“As ready as I will ever be. I guess. Do you really think I had any choice in the matter?”
“No, you didn’t. Same as me. But here’s a gift,” said Dionysus as he placed his finger on Tyler’s forehead.
The familiar warm energy surge filled his head and his mind.
“What was that?” asked Tyler who was blinking his eyes and shaking his head.
“The spell of befuddlement. I thought you’ll find a lot of use for it,” laughed the god.