By Michael Liesik A tale of Moonlands

Staring at his reflection in the river, Zet couldn’t help but grin. It was an evil little grin that showed a good number of his razor sharp teeth. In fact, just the thought conjured forth an image of Korg falling flat on his face in the mud of Bograth, almost making Zet giggle uncharacteristically. He stared at the river for several more minutes before striking up a conversation with his reflection.

"Now that I’m done with that bumbling idiot, I can prove to the Dark Twins that I’m worthy of being treated as an equal." Thinking of Warrada and Hrada, however, started a throbbing in the back of Zet’s skull and work its way forward, bringing a grimace to his face. The image of him flying through the air only to be brought to an abrupt halt by the wall at the far end of the throne room flashed through his now pounding head. "Better not," he decided. "Not after my last encounter with them."

Zet shook his head, trying to clear the throbbing headache but it proved ineffective. The image of his defeat at the hands of Warrada refused to leave his head. "I must think happy thoughts!" For him, of course, those thoughts consisted of Korg making a fool of himself. After several minutes, the headache went away and Zet’s face split, once again, with an evil grin.

"Now, where should I make my next move? I should definitely set up a kingdom of my own, but where?" Zet pulled out a tattered old map of the moonlands and began looking it over.

Zet's mind then began to race, thinking of where he could go. "The Core is sealed up. Naroom is in the hands of the Dar... them. Now that I’ve pawned Korg off on the people of Bograth, I can’t exactly set up shop there. Paradwyn is far too close to Bograth. Orothe? No, I’m not a very good swimmer. Underneath? No, last time I was there I had mushrooms growing behind my ears. Cald? No, they’re far too pushy to accept my rule. The Weave? No, there’s no way that a Core Magi could take over the collective consciousness of the Weave. Without wings, Arderial is out of the question. Kybar’s Teeth?" Looking down at his stubby legs, Zet thought better of that idea. "Not there, either. Nar is uninhabited but to get there, I’d have to go through Naroom and the D... them. That just leaves d’Resh. According to Korremar, d’Resh is inhabited by very few people; nomads mostly. That means no strong leader, no king. Perfect! I can gather followers with little to no resistance and establish a kingdom of my own. Then I can cause some real disarray!"

As Zet left his seat by the river, he was so happy that he almost started skipping. Things were really beginning to go his way.

The first challenge that presented itself to Zet was crossing the river. Fed by the melting snow on the peaks of Kybar’s Teeth, the river flowed north, creating the borders between Naroom, Paradwyn, Bograth and the Weave. It was filled with rapids and crossing points were few and far between. Moving along the river, Zet found a slow section of the river, dotted by stones that were close enough to each other that he could cross. About halfway across the river, Zet noticed that the stones around him began to move. He had inadvertently been crossing the river on the backs of a sleeping school of wellisk pups. Now, stranded in the middle of the river, Zet felt the "rock" under his feet shift. Before he could react, he found himself up to his eyes in water.

Jumping off the bottom of the river, Zet managed to catch a mouthful of air while moving closer to the far side of the river. Using this process, he managed to cross the remaining half of the river, only swallowing a couple of mouthfuls of water in the process. Coughing and sputtering, Zet collapsed, face down on the riverbank. This was definitely not a good way to start off his journey to his new kingdom.

After lying in the sun for some time, Zet rolled onto his back and sat up, shaking his head. "That didn’t work as planned. Good thing no one was around to see it. They might have thought some of Korg’s stupidity had rubbed off on me." Zet rose to his feet and began walking away from the river.

Reaching the desert of d’Resh required Zet to pass through the edge of the Weave and past the river of sand that flowed into d’Resh. The river was rumored to contain items from every era, past, present and future. It was said that you could find items that you’d lost as a child or items that you would eventually lose long after all of your hair had fallen out. How those items ended up there, no had ever been able to explain.

As he walked by, he saw a large ring floating near the edge of the sand. It exuded power and appeared to be very ancient. As he reached to grab it, his foot slipped on the shifting sand causing him to trip on his robe and sink hip-deep into the sand. Finding the relic still several arm-lengths out of reach, Zet quickly formulated a new plan. He focused for a second and summoned his trusty koil. "Fetch!" he commanded.

The koil slid across the sand, wrapping its tentacles around the ring. As it began its return trip, it started sinking, slowly at first and then with increasing speed. It reached Zet just in time to hand him the ancient item before disappearing below the sand.

Wading out of the sand, Zet undreamed the koil and sat on the ground to examine his new find. It was nothing like he’d ever seen before. The black gem was marbled with streaks of crimson and seemed to pulse with a life of its own. The ring itself seemed to be made of a pitch black metal that didn’t reflect any light.

"Interesting," thought Zet as he put the too-large ring on his finger. As the ring slid into place, it contracted, fitting perfectly to his much smaller digit. A second later, nightmarish images began racing through Zet’s mind, accompanied by an almost overwhelming sense of dread. Zet began pulling at the ring, desperately trying to get it off his finger, but it refused to budge. Wailing in despair, Zet fell to the ground, holding his head in his hands until, gradually, the images stopped and the feeling of dread receded.

"That wasn’t supposed to happen," Zet said to himself, relieved that the harrowing event had concluded. "I’m going to have to find some way to get this thing off my finger. In the mean time, I’d better get moving before something else happens."

When he reached the edge of the Weave, he found it crawling with Magi. They appeared to be searching for someone or something. While Zet excelled at sneaking, he preferred doing it in short spurts, not for extended periods of time. His trip into the Weave was anything but uneventful. Every twenty paces or so, the grass of the Weave would shift, causing him to lose his footing or forcing him to find a new route. Infrequently at first and then with growing regularity he would hear the voices of Weave Magi, scouring the tall grass. From the small snippets of conversation that he caught, it sounded like they were hunting Core Magi.

"Core Magi in the Weave?" he thought. "Who would be that stup? Korg. No, I left him back in Bograth."

As he grew closer to the edge of the Weave, he was forced to take cover behind one of the root bulbs to avoid being seen by one of the Weave hunting parties. "This is getting too dangerous. I’ve gotta get outta here!" As he dashed from his place of cover, he heard Weave Magi giving chase.

"There’s one!"

"Get him!"

"Over there!"

Pushing his way through the tall grass was much harder than Zet had anticipated. The Weave itself appeared to be hindering his progress, working to keep him from escaping. Grass, as tall as the trees of Naroom, shifted and weaved together to form walls, constantly impeding his progress. With all the might that his stubby legs could muster, Zet ducked and dodges blades of grass as they came at him, trying to knock him off his feet. Zet summoned a koil as he noticed the Weave closing off his last escape route. The koil flailed its many tentacles, struggling to hold the grass at bay. Zet was barely able to slip past the struggle, breaking free of a blade of grass, which had wrapped itself around a leg attempting to immobilize him. Looking back he watched as the koil was pulled into the depths of the Weave. "That didn’t go as planned," Zet said to himself, running as far away from the Weave as he possibly could.

Ahead of him he could see the heat rising from the dunes of d’Resh. "Soon," he thought. "Soon I’ll have a kingdom of my own with loyal servants to do my bidding." With an evil grin of anticipation on his face, Zet set off to claim his throne, as the strange black ring glittered, unseen, on his finger.

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