Quest for Lost Heroes
used sorcery to open a doorway between worlds, allowing the tribe to escape to a hidden land of riches and plenty. Another maintained that the Gateway had been there from the days before the Ice Fall, a last remnant of a once proud civilisation and that beyond it lay mountains of gold.
    But whatever the truth the Gateway did exist and, on rare occasions, one or more of the Tattooed People passed through it. Such had been the case when Okas had wandered into the army camp six months before the battle at Bel-azar. He had squatted down at Chareos' camp-fire and waited in silence until Beltzer offered him a plate of meat and bread. He was a small man, no more than five feet tall, pot-bellied and wearing only a loin-cloth decorated with pale stones. His entire body was covered in blue tattooes - some in the shape of leaves, others in runic symbols around what appeared to be camp-fire scenes. His face also was tattooed with curving lines and his beardless chin was completely blue, shaped like a beard with a waxed moustache above it. Amazingly he spoke a little of the Common Language and, more amazing still, in the four months Okas was with them the uncouth Beltzer mastered the tribesman's tongue. Okas proved invaluable during that time. In the skills of tracking he had no peers - at least not among the Gothir. And he was a great 'finder'. Chareos' senior officer, Jochell, lost a valuable golden ring and had the quarters of all enlisted men searched. Through Beltzer, Okas told the officer that he would find the missing item.
    Jochell was dubious, yet he had seen Okas' skills in action during the hunt for Nadir raiders. Much to the amusement of the men Okas took the officer's hand and held it in silence for a while, eyes closed. Then he released his grip and trotted from the camp. Jochell saddled his horse and rode after him; Chareos and Finn followed, anxious to see the outcome. Two hours later they were at the scene of the previous day's battle with Nadir outriders. There was a small stream to the west of the battlefield. Okas moved to it and knelt by the water-line. Then he grunted and pointed. Jochell joined him. There, just below the surface, nestling among the pebbles was the gold ring, its pale central opal glistening blue.
    Jochell was delighted and gave Okas two gold pieces. The tribesman stared at them for a while, then tossed them to Chareos. That night Okas left them, but not before he had sat with Beltzer for more than an hour. He said farewell to no one else, merely gathered up his blanket and walked from the camp.
    In the morning Chareos had asked Beltzer, 'What did he say to you?'
    'He told me to stay close to you, Maggrig and Finn during the coming days. He also told me that Jochell's ring would grace a Nadir hand before the winter moon.'
    'I wish I hadn't asked,' Chareos said.
    'He's only been gone a few hours - and already I miss him,' said Beltzer. 'You think we'll see him again?'
    Now, as he walked through the early morning frost, Chareos remembered that conversation and the many which had followed it. Beltzer told him of the land beyond the Gateway. It was hot and humid, with towering trees and vast open veldts and lakes. There were huge animals there, higher than houses, and hunting cats with fangs like long knives. It was a world of sudden storms and sudden deaths.
    'Are you thinking of going there?' Chareos had asked. Beltzer looked away, his face reddening.
    'I would have liked to, but Okas said the Tattooed People kill any interlopers. Their history is full of massacres and the murder of their people by our races - they are terrified it will happen again.'
    The sky darkened and thunder jolted Chareos' mind back to the present. Finn called a halt and turned to face Chareos. 'It will be dusk soon and there's going to be a heavy snowfall,' he said. 'I suggest we look for somewhere to camp and sit it out. We will build two shelters and gather wood for fires.' The group walked on into a thick stand of pine; Finn

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