Description: The Pirate Kingdom had fallen, foiling Gault’s plan to use it to establish his Wizard Kingdom. Never mind, the evil wizard developed a new plan to impose his Magic Kingdom. Softbound Price – $14.99 Buy Direct From Author
Bees hummed as they gathered nectar from fragrant wildflowers and the cadence of birdsong filled the sunny meadow. A family picnicked in this meadow, nestled near the hemline of the forest, unaware that danger lurked nearby. A small boy wandered among the wildflowers, gathering blossoms to make a bouquet for his mother. There were blue flowers, white flowers and flowers of many other colors. It would be a wonderful bouquet and the boy could not wait to see his mother’s smile when he gave it to her. A gruesome scream punctuated the golden air. He turned towards the awful sound. Before his terrified eyes, he saw a narl fling itself on his mother, ripping her throat with its sharp, canine teeth. Another jumped upon his father, killing him before he could draw his knife. The boy cried out as the narls surrounded him.
Tarque drew himself from the memory. After all these years, he still envisioned the scene. His parents were dead, eaten by narls. A peaceful, happy time had ended in sorrow and death. His last memory was of a vortex of air lifting him high in the air, away from the snarling, snapping jaws. His world evaporated into darkness. His steed cantered down the road to Vintown. As he entered the capital city of Sylvanhaven, he sensed the excitement in the air. Workers busied themselves erecting tents. Colorful banners flew from poles along the streets. Shouts filled the city as the people prepared for the festival. Aromas of pastries, sweet meats and other culinary delights filled the air. The parallel between his memory and the state of the kingdom was apt. Peace and prosperity reigned here in the most powerful of the Six Kingdoms. The people were happy and gay, unaware of the calamity that gathered beyond the horizon. Seven days. He had seven days. He had to convince the King to change the festival. If he could not, then catastrophe would ride through the kingdom like a knight through a potter’s shop. He rode his horse along the wharf. Ships from all over the Six Kingdoms lined the docks. Dock workers loaded and unloaded cargo. The sound of prosperity rang in the air, and the people were happy. He could see the King’s Docks from his vantage on an overlook along the wharves. Crews were outfitting six ships in port for their next voyage. Banners and flags flew from the newest ship, the Queen Sand. After the Festival, the ships would form a flotilla that would visit each of the capitals of the other five kingdoms. The purpose was to introduce the Crown Prince to the other kingdoms. All the other nations feared Sylvanhaven’s might. He turned his path, following the Road of the Crystalcrest along the River Fleet, which led him to the palace of the King. As he entered the Courtyard of the Crystal, he looked with scorn on the heresy. The Fountain of Arii stood in the center of the plaza in front of the palace. Water brought by aqueduct from upstream gushed over the glistening crystal and fell in a cascade to the white basin below, forming a pool. A sparkling stream exited this pool and made its way back to the River Fleet. Workers toiled in the sun, erecting the platform from which King Bern Vin would oversee the festivities. This was the source of the calamity. The kingdom had strayed from the Covenant upon which it rested. The Kings had become proud and shunned the old ways. As the people strayed, Arii’s power waned. His protection would soon fail and the creature would escape. He turned and looked again on the clear, cold waters of the River Fleet. The river sprang from the real Crystalcrest, the abode of Arii, near the crest of the Crystalline Mountains. The river coursed through the heart of the kingdom, blessing it with Arii’s presence. This road, the Avenue of the Kings, followed the course of the river to its source on Crystalcrest. It led through many cities and hamlets that drew their strength from the traffic along the river. In seven days the Crown Prince would turn ten, the Age of Awakening. He would be of age for the Quest of the Covenant. Dedication of the children to the service of Arii took place during the Quest on their tenth birthdays. This year it would be a special occasion because Crown Prince Bearl would take part. In the old days, the Festival took place at the true Crystalcrest. Arii looked into the hearts of the children and saw their potential. He inscribed there their life’s work, assigning it by the desires of their heart and their natural talents. Then that evil wizard wormed his way into the heart of Karo, the father of King Bern Vin, and the Quest of the Covenant ended. Tarque recalled his last audience with Arii. He was growing weaker as the people drifted away. The strength of the creature he held captive grew stronger. If the Prince attained the Age of Awakening and did not come to Arii, then Arii’s power would fail. When his power failed, then Gwaum would escape. The kingdom would fall. Tarque turned his horse to look again at the Palace. His audience with the King would be this afternoon. He was not optimistic about his success. The king was obstinate and proud. He had warned him many times in the past. This was the last warning. If he failed, in seven days Arii would pass from this realm. The monster would awaken. The Kingdom of Sylvanhaven would fall. What would happen to the other five kingdoms was anyone’s guess. The power of Sylvanhaven was all that kept the peace. Without that power, Tarque feared that the Six Kingdoms would descend into chaos. It would be a terrible time like that which preceded the Covenant. That was what he was working to prevent. He wheeled his horse around, spurred him to a canter. It was time to secure his quarters, eat and prepare for his audience with the King. Tarque soon arrived at his destination, the Crystalcrest Inn. He dismounted and gave the reins to the livery boy who came out to greet him. “I will need the horse in four hours,” he instructed the lad. At that, Tarque climbed the steps and entered the inn. People eating their noontime meal crowded the inn. Tarque caught the innkeeper’s eye. “Ah, Tarque, you have arrived. I received your yuhma bird with its message. I have readied your quarters.” “Thank you, Darel,” said Tarque. “I need to prepare for my audience this afternoon. I will have a light lunch, and then retire to my room to clean up and dress.” “I will have fresh washing water in the bowl, some soap and clean linen. Do you want to eat now?” “Yes, I will have some soup and cheese.” “You may dine in my private room. I know you will want privacy to rest after your long journey.” “Thank you.” Tarque followed Darel through the door at the back of the room, sat down at the plain wooden table. He looked out the window. The alley that passed beneath the window appeared dark and abandoned, matching his mood. A plump middle-aged woman soon appeared with a bowl of soup, a plate of cheese and a glass of dark ale. Tarque ate in silence and washed the meal down with the ale. He arose and climbed the stairs to his quarters. The cooing of birds met him as he opened the door. His eyes lit on his yuhma birds, which were in a cage near the window. He walked over to the cage and said, “Ah, my little beauties. I see you are awaiting me.” He opened the cage and withdrew one of the birds. He scooped up some grain that was in a bucket near the cage. He allowed the bird to feed from his palm while he stroked its feathers. Then he walked to the window, opened it and released the bird. “Fly away, my friend. Fly home. I will return in a couple of days to tend you and your friends.” He watched the bird fly away. Yuhma birds were one of his specialties. The great wizard Nerza first perfected the art of using the birds.. They served as messengers between him and the few remaining followers of Arii. There was always one here, with Darel. The innkeeper used it to communicate with Tarque in his faraway home on the mountain. Tarque had others around the kingdom. They helped him maintain contact with the small, and dwindling, adherents of the followers of Arii. Rockheads the people referred to them, with derision, in reference to the pendant adherents wore. A small piece of the Crystalcrest of Arii affixed to a chain worn on a necklace hid them from the King’s Crystal Eye that he used to watch the people of his kingdom. The Rockheads only wore this adornment during the Quest, but the name stuck as word of it spread. Devised by Tarque’s predecessor, Aron, at the cost of his life, the charm’s magic was all that had kept Gwaum at bay. Even that seemed now to be failing. Tarque removed his dusty traveling clothes. He washed himself at the washing stand and toweled himself dry. He gazed at himself in the mirror. His face was still unlined, and his black hair still jet-black, with only flecks of gray. He thought of that time in Niru, almost twenty years ago, and the girl who was with him. They had accomplished much in that silver-lined time long ago. Then he had to leave. He wondered what happened to her. He laid down on the bed to rest. His thoughts dwelled on the state of the kingdom, and he worried about his audience with the King. The Kings of Sylvanhaven had become proud and arrogant, forgetting the source of their power. King Bern Vin was the latest, and the most arrogant of the line that dated from Bearl, the first King. It seemed fitting that the King named the Crown Prince, destined to be the last of the line, Bearl, after this first heroic King. The sun’s shadows shifted to reveal the passing of the noontime to early afternoon. Tarque arose from the bed, pulled his dress robe from the bag. He shook it, pulled it on and tied the sash. He left the room and descended to the street. The livery boy saw him come down the steps and darted out the door ahead of the old wizard. He appeared in a few moments with the horse. Tarque placed a copper coin into his dirty hand and said, “Thank you lad. I will be returning later.” “Thank you, Sir,” said the boy, with a grateful look at the copper coin in his hand, and then at the wizard who rode away.
Tarque arrived at the palace and nodded to the guards. They allowed him to enter. A page appeared. “I am Tarque, and I have an audience scheduled with the King,” Tarque said. The page nodded, intoning, “He is expecting you, Guardian. Follow me.” Tarque followed the page down a long, curtained hall. At the end of the hall were two massive wooden doors. Elaborate candelabras stood on either side of the door, guards beside them. One of the guards inspected Tarque’s face. “Your staff, please,” the guard said. “Be careful with it. It does not like unfamiliar hands.” The guard took it, his eye catching the golden star that shone bright on the handle of Tarque’s staff. Fear flickered across his face as he placed the staff in a golden bucket near the wall. He then opened one of the doors. Tarque walked into the throne room. King Bern Vin sat on his throne and watched him approach, his face portraying the boredom he felt. Tarque walked toward the king, stopped and bowed. “Greetings, King Vin.” “Greetings, Tarque. What dire news do you bring me today?” Tarque took a deep breath, looked into the eyes of the King, and said, “Again I bring you warning, King Bern Vin. The power of Arii grows weaker. The Quest of the Covenant has dwindled; those in his service are few. His ability to protect the Kingdom is flagging.” “You speak of old legends and tales, Wizard Priest. We are strong. No power can oppose us.” “There are ancient powers that dwell in this land,” answered Tarque. “These powers are such that your knights cannot defeat. Arii has been holding these evil powers at bay. But his strength wanes.” “You have warned of these dangers,” replied the King. “Your predecessor Aron carped about them, also. My father Karo grew weary of his maledictions, as I grow tired of yours. The dangers you speak of have never occurred.” The wizard drew himself up to his full height. “Your son, Bearl, is ten years old next week. It is time that the Prince took the Quest of the Covenant. He is of age, Sire.” “You mean the trek to that forsaken rock on that faraway mountain?” “Yes, Sire. The Prince must take up the old ways. It is the only way to avert disaster.” “Nonsense,” said Bern. “The festivities are all planned. No child has taken that Quest in many years. His dedication will take place at the Fountain as planned.” “You went to Crystalcrest when you were ten. You felt the presence of Arii.” The King smiled. “Yes, I did go on that worthless trek. This Arii you speak of, he did not appear to me. That is why my father instituted this ceremony. He sensed that Arii did not touch me. Thus, his power has waned. This ceremony is closer to the capital and brings commerce to the merchants of the city.” “Your artificial ceremony at your imitation shrine will not suffice. He must travel to the Crystalcrest of Arii at the source of the River Fleet. He must dedicate himself to Arii. This is the only way to save the Kingdom.” “No,” snarled the King. “I want to hear no more of your prattle about ancient gods or nonexistent ghosts who threaten my kingdom. The time of your magic is gone, Wizard. Go back to your mountain lair and worship your god. We have our ships and knights. No one can threaten us. It is now the Age of Men. Your time has passed. There are few wizards of your kind left, and they grow fewer by the year.” Thus dismissed, Tarque left the audience with the King with a sour taste on his tongue. He knew beforehand that his plea would be in vain, but he had to try. On the way out, he saw Aeoric, the captain of the King’s guard. For a brief instant, their eyes met. Aeoric guessed the turmoil in Tarque’s eyes. But he said nothing as Tarque passed on his way back out to the street. As he exited the palace, he paused to look over the square in front of the palace. It was already busy with preparations for the festival. His eyes rested on the Fountain. King Karo Vin, the father of the current king, constructed it under the direction of that other wizard. That wizard had caused great harm before Tarque and the girl had stopped him. His eye wandered to the great tower that rose above the plaza. It was still there, inside that tower, awaiting the rise of its creator. But Tarque had greater immediate problems. Many of the people in the outlying communities still adhered to the old ways, at great risk. The King kept a watchful eye and persecuted any he caught going to the mountain with their children. The numbers of adherents was small and getting smaller as the years passed. His predecessor Aron had managed to shepherd a small group of Sylvanhaveners into maintaining the Quest. However, the numbers were never large and not enough. Arii needed the King and all the people or his power would fail. And if Arii failed, then danger reigned. Tarque’s mind settled on the one fact uttered by the King. His kind was getting fewer. Few Wizards of the Golden Star remained. Such was the state of things. There were other, lesser wizards and witches scattered around the Six Kingdoms. His mind lit on another Order, the Order of Solaun. He had seen one of these women lurking behind the throne. So, King Bern Vin was under the influence of one of these. The Kingdom had fallen far since the days of Bearl and the first kings. He rode back to the Crystalcrest Inn, dismounted and handed the reins to Resh, the groom. He entered the inn. It was late afternoon. The evening crowd had not started to gather, so it was easy to find a table near the back of the great room. A small fire crackled in the fireplace, providing warmth to the room. Darel saw him enter and soon appeared with two glasses of ale. He placed one in front of Tarque and sat down. He took a drink of the frothy liquid and sat down. “I take it that you were not successful,” he noted, seeing the displeasure on Tarque’s face. Tarque picked up the glass, took a healthy pull at the amber liquid, and said, “I have failed. There is no hope.” “What will you do now?” Tarque’s eyes wandered around the great room. “I must confer again with Arii. You must contact the Rockheads here and tell them to get ready to flee. When the storm arises, it will flood the Kingdom. There will be little time.” “Where shall we flee? The other kingdoms will not welcome the Sylvanhaveners. The will not want us.” “I do not know, Darel. Tomorrow I will arise early and hasten back to the Mountain. I will talk to Quinn at Bridgetown, and warn him of the impending disaster. I will send word to you after consulting with Arii.” “I will contact the followers,” said Darel. “You must also contact Aeoric. He must save the Prince.” “The Prince? Why must you save him? He is a spoiled brat.” “The Prince is the heir of the Covenant between Arii and the heirs of Bearl. If there is to be hope of defeating Gwaum, it lies with the boy.” “I will send word to my cousin Aeoric. He is the only Rockhead in the King’s court.” “I will dine early tonight, Darel. Then I will retire to my quarters and rest. Tomorrow I will depart before the sun rises. I must get to Bridgetown by midday.” “Most of the followers are there.” “Yes, but they are few.” “And they are getting fewer.” Tarque drained the mug of ale, placed it back on the table and stood. “I will take a walk, now,” he said. “When I return, I will dine. Then I will go to bed.” “I will have a plate of food ready for you.” Tarque stood up. “Thank you, Darel. You always anticipate my needs.” “We have been friends for a long time, Tarque.” Their eyes met. “We will soon be in exile, my friend. Hard times are coming.” At that, Tarque left the table and walked into the street. 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Epic Fantasy Novel – The Rise of the Pirate King Under the vicious assault of Gwaum, the Kingdom of Sylvanhaven fell. The few that fled the catastrophe barely escaped with their lives. The wizard Tarque rescued Prince Bearl, heir to the kingdom, only to fall victim to pirates. The pirate captain Bort found the magic Sword of Vin and used its powers to become the dreaded Pirate King.
The wizard Aron stood on the summit of Crystalcrest and gazed at the valley of the River Fleet. The vast green valley stretched out to the horizon as it followed the river that carved it.. Dark figures moved along the road that followed the river’s course as it wound its way along of the Crystalline Mountains on its way to the sea. The last of the pilgrims were departing and he would again soon taste the flavor of loneliness. Each year the crowds came here bringing with them their ten-year-old children as they completed the Quest of the Covenant. Then each year they departed, leaving Aron, the Guardian of the Covenant, to his solitude. Crystalcrest glimmered in the setting sun behind him. Arii, his task complete, had vanished back into its recesses. The royal standard came into view far below him. This had been a special Quest, as Prince Karo Vin, son of King Theros Vin, had turned ten. His thoughts centered on the boy, Prince Karo, the reminder of his problem. Aron was getting old. He had not married and had no son. There was no heir to the post of Guardian of Covenant. His mind shifted to his nephew, Bernall. The boy was now almost five. It was time to begin his training. But Bernall was far away and the boy’s mother, Cyndi, would not allow him to train the boy. His brother, Mikal, had deferred to his wife, and the boy remained unaware of his heritage and calling. He and Mikal descended from a long line of wizards, though the skill did not manifest itself in Mikal. Aron had felt the boy’s power. He knew that his essence was that of a great wizard. The legends of their family lore told of a descent from Arii himself that dated to the time of the fall of Gwaum, many generations ago. According to family legend, the stone cottage, Stone Haven, of Aron’s boyhood, had been in the family for many generations. Legend said that it had been the dwelling of Arii’s mentor and uncle, the great wizard Nerza. He turned as a slight sound tickled the evening air. Arii had reappeared, the silver mist of his presence shimmering in the golden sun. “Something is troubling you, Aron?” Aron bowed his head, and then directed his gaze at Arii. “Yes, Arii. I am worried.” “You have no heir, Aron. Is that your concern?” “Yes, Arii. There is no one to take my place. In not so many years, I will join the other Guardians in the place of rest. I will leave you unattended.” “Do not fear, an heir will come to you, Aron.” “How is that to be, Arii? I have no wife. I have no issue.” “You have a nephew.” “But Cyndi and Mikal will not allow me to train him.” The silver mist swirled in the setting sun, creating an iridescent halo in its fading light. “A time of trouble is coming to Sylvanhaven, Aron. I looked into the soul of Prince Karo Someone has poisoned him against me. I could not take a part of his essence,” said Arii. “How is that possible, Arii.” “That I do not know, Aron. I know only that some wizard is at work in Vintown.” “Who could it be, Arii?” The mist swirled, reflecting the sun in a dazzling array of iridescence. “There is only one wizard that would dare to challenge me.” Aron’s mind roved over the possibilities with no wizard coming to mind. “Who would that be, Arii.” The name stirred Aron’s interest as Arii said, “Gault.” “Gault? No one has heard of him of for many years. Many think that he is just a legend.” “He is not a legend, Aron. He still lives. He is the same Gault that your ancestor Aris battled so many years ago.” “He would not dare challenge your power. To weaken you is disaster. Gwaum will awaken.” “He thinks he knows how to control Gwaum. He does not know Gwaum’s power as I do.” Aron allowed this thought to simmer in his mind as Arii continued, “You must travel to Vintown and visit the king.” “You want me to stop Gault?” “I fear it is too late for that. If it truly is he, his presence has already poisoned the royal household. If it is not he then we must discover who it is that dares to meddle with the Covenant.” “It has been too long since I visited Vintown. I will leave tomorrow.” “The more haste, the better, Aron. There are other things happening that will need your attention.” Aron gazed at the silvery mist and asked,”What are these things, Arii?” “They will reveal themselves to you as needed. There are powerful forces at work, Aron. You have much work ahead of you.” At this the silver mist spun, forming a vortex that descended into a crevice in the Crystalcrest. Aron’s audience with Arii was at an end.
As twilight encompassed his mountain home, Aron completed his evening tasks. The feeding of his yuhma birds gave him great satisfaction. The magic of the birds took many years to master, but the rewards were great. He enhanced their homing characteristics with his magic. They enabled him to maintain a communication network around the Six Kingdoms. With a special incantation, he could set a bird aloft and it would find any person that Aron knew. It surprised him that his network of friends in Vintown had not alerted him that there was a problem at the palace. If he was going to Vintown then he must inform Hale, the proprietor of the Wharf Side Inn that he was coming so he could prepare his quarters. He went in his cottage and wrote a short note. After returning to the cage of yuhma birds, he tied the rolled up note to one of the bird’s legs and sent the bird aloft. The bird cooed, circled, and then flew off to the east, into the gathering darkness. He walked the short distance to the stable. He patted the flank of his favorite horse as she fed at the trough. Again, he glanced eastward towards Vintown on the coast of the Great Sea. It was a four-day ride on a horse. But this special breed, enhanced by breeding and magic, could make the journey in two days. His ancestor, Aris, had begun the work of breeding this special horse. They were especially sensitive to the spell of the wind that propelled them along. Their special qualities made them able to gallop for long periods under the influence of this spell. The horses had their limits, of course, as all magic had limits. If pressed too hard for too long a period, the horses would die of exhaustion. However, these horses had rested well. He could make Bridgetown by tomorrow night. After resting in the stables and satisfying their immense hunger, they would be ready for the next day’s ride. He would be at Vintown by evening of the second day. The possibility of Gault at the palace troubled him. No tale of Gault had emerged for many years. He had seized control of the Grand Council, many thought by murdering Grand Wizard Annos. No one had ever proved the charge. Aris had known that Gault was seeking immortality. Zerena, of the Order of Solaun, had achieved this. He remembered Zerena from his dealings in Niru, the Hidden City. She was old. Many said she had known and been the lover of his ancestor Aris. If so, she would be quite old. Aron did not think she looked old at all. She appeared to be in her mid twenties with luxuriant golden hair and penetrating blue eyes. She was the head of her own order, the Order of Solaun, which had become a powerful Order on Six Kingdoms. She had managed to get it represented on the Council. The women of that order used magic to maintain their youth. They worked to maintain the peace by becoming consorts and mistresses of kings and princes. They used the powerful lure of sex to influence their lovers. Aron was not sure if it was their influence, or the power of Sylvanhaven that suppressed the warfare among the Six Kingdoms. Maybe it was both. Nothing was ever simple. His thoughts returned to Gault. If it was he, then he had returned from obscurity and somehow discovered the secret of immortality. His ancestor Aris had driven Gault from power. It could not be Gault. Of that he was certain. The encompassing darkness interrupted his thoughts. He glanced towards his dark cottage. He would take his evening repast and sleep. He must get up early tomorrow and begin his journey.
Legend of the Wizard Tarque The wizard Gault planned his magical assault on the Six Nations with care. One by one, he deployed the elements of his dangerous trap. At length he was ready, his insidious plan complete. Sample Chapter Only Tarque and Miralba stood in his way. Softbound Price – $10.49 Buy Direct From Author
The arrow flew straight to its mark. With a grunt, the stag charged off into the underbrush with the young wizard in close pursuit. Eran soon found the dying beast and dispatched it with a well-placed thrust of his dagger. He smiled as he thought of the savory meal that he and the other residents of the small cottage at the top of Crystalcrest would enjoy this evening. There would be plenty to smoke for storage since the animal was a big one. After field dressing the animal he began dragging the carcass down to the trail to his waiting steed. Eran loved the hunt. He had spent years honing his skills with the bow and prided himself on his skill. After reaching his horse, he slung the stag across its back. The cottage was close, so he determined that he would just walk the horse along, leading it by the bridle. As he walked along his heel caught on a protruding rock and he fell. He felt something in his ankle snap and a searing pain radiated up along his calf. He tried to stand but could not. He sat back down. The distance back to the cottage now increased in his mind. He did not want to crawl. He lay back on the ground, closed his eyes and opened the channel that he had used so many times before. She would be here soon.
Keera paused as she tended her herb garden. She reveled in the potpourri of fragrances exuded by the multitude of flowers. She brushed her hand against the mints, releasing their delicious scent. The hum of bees filled the quiet summer evening as they tended their duties among the blossoms. Butterflies flickered about. She could hear the cries of the hawk as it flew in circles overhead in its relentless search for prey. She could hear Aunt Jara humming a sweet melody as she tended the vegetable nearby. She arose and turned. The view, though she had seen it many times, still caught her breath. The River Fleet fell into its valley, cascading across the rocks as it fled its source below the Crystalcrest just a short distance above. Aris and Turis were away, in that far away cottage on the road to Cleery in Torne. Aris was completing his studies as a Wizard of the Golden Star. She sighed when she thought of him. Though raised as brother and sister, she knew that they were not. She wondered if he thought of her as his sister. She hoped that he did not. A familiar feeling touched her mind. Eran. He needed her. She closed her eyes and allowed his thoughts to find her. She could see him lying along the road, pain flooding his body. She opened her eyes and glanced towards Jara. “I have to go, Aunt Jara. Eran needs me.” Jara turned and glanced at Keera. “What is wrong, my dear?” “I don’t know. He is lying on the trail below the cottage. He is in pain.” She hastened towards the road.
Jara stood watching the girl walk away. She was still uneasy about the girl’s ability. Jara had trained Keera as a healer. She had used the knowledge to combine it with that other skill that appeared as a natural gift. Jara knew that it was not a natural gift, though. Her mother’s ordeal at the hands of the Mind Readers had influenced her and had absorbed some of the magic of that forbidden order. She and Turis had managed to hide her ability from the Grand Council of the Five Orders. The training as a healer had been a ruse, a cover for her real abilities. The skill involved forbidden magic. Vella and her Order of the Mind Reader’s near victory over the Council had reinforced the need for the ban. The members of that sordid order all died at the Battle of the Crystal so many years before. All died, except Vella. She had disappeared. Nuvan Gra, a Wizard of the Golden Star, had taken up the quest to find her. So far, his hunt had been unsuccessful. She wiped her hands on her apron, stood up and hastened to follow Keera. If Eran was hurt, Keera might need her help. Descending the road, she soon found Keera kneeling beside her brother. She watched as the girl bade her brother to lie flat on the road. She touched her brother’s forehead and closed her eyes. After a few moments, she removed her hand, stood up and took her brother’s hand. The young man arose and stepped gingerly on his foot. “It is better, Keera. Thank you.” “The bone will still be weak for a couple of days, Eran. It will be best if you do not put your full weight on it. I will help you mount the horse. You must ride back to the cottage. I will find a suitable branch from the forest for you to use as a crutch and we can prepare this stag.” Eran smiled and allowed her to help him into the saddle and the three returned to the cottage.
Morning broke across the valley, the deep shadows of the lower elevations melting away as the sun crept higher in the sky. Keera glanced at the western sky. The sun’s light would not last long. Dark clouds were appearing on the western horizon. She glanced up to see Eran, hobbling on his makeshift crutch, and coming out of the house. His face lit with pleasure when he saw her. “It is a wonderful morning, Keera.” “For not much longer, I fear, Eran. There are storm clouds to the west.” Eran’s eyes flicked to the western sky behind her. “Yes, the upper slopes of Crystalcrest are already under assault from the rain.” “I have only to pick a few more sprigs of these herbs, Eran. They are so much more fragrant when gathered in the morning.” Eran lay his crutch on the ground. “I don’t think I need this anymore. My foot feels fine. I will help you carry those baskets into the cottage.” Keera opened her mouth to protest when she saw a flickering bird gliding high in the sky above her. The hawk whose cries she had heard the night before circled above the bird. “A yuhma bird is here, Eran. It was probably a message from Turis. That hawk may get it before it can deliver its message.” Eran turned and looked up to see the hawk begin its dive. He dropped the crutch, withdrew his wand and conjured a whirlwind that spun the bird around, disorienting it. The confused hawk fell to the earth, unhurt. Eran knew that the hawk would awaken, disoriented, after he had retrieved the yuhma bird. He lifted his hand to allow the yuhma bird to light on his finger. He unrolled the parchment and studied the writing it contained. “It is from Turis. He requests that we come to his cottage in Torne immediately.” “I would love to go, Eran. I have never been to that cottage.” “I don’t think it is good for us both to leave.” “I want to go, Eran.” “You would leave Aunt Jara alone.” A voice from behind them said, “I will be fine here. The two of you should go.” Eran turned to face Jara, who was standing behind him. “If you think you will be fine here?” “I will be. Does Turis say why he wants you?” “No, he doesn’t. It just says we should leave as soon as I can.” “Give me that note,” said Keera. She held the note in her hand, running her fingers over the parchment. “Something worried him when he wrote it,” she said. “I can sense his concern in the parchment, but I cannot tell what bothered him. “Then the two of you should go right away,” said Jara. “Whatever it was is substantial. It takes something serious to worry Turis.” The brother and sister began walking towards the cottage to prepare for their journey. Jara said, “Just be careful, Keera. Do not let anyone see your ability.” Keera smiled and nodded. The two young people disappeared into the cottage. Jara watched them go inside the building. She felt uneasy. She did not have Keera’s ability. She did not need it. Rumors of events inside Torne had reached her ears, even here at this remote spot. There were events that involved the brother and sister’s uncle Ruther. Turis had feared that something would erupt. Perhaps that something was happening now.
The collapse of the Order of the Mind Readers had not been complete. Gault and his mother Vella had survived. Together they plotted their revenge. Danger loomed over the Six Nations as the wizards completed their plot. Keera and Eran toiled in frantic desperation to end the threat. Determined not to leave the Six Nations mired under the domination of Gault and his mother, they laid their own trap. Would it be enough? Sample Chapter Softbound Price – $14.99 Buy Direct From Author $3.00 Shipping
King Nyle Lithian watched his army’s destruction from the castle tower. Red dust swirled and began to settle over his beloved kingdom, covering it with its unwholesome stench. Gwaum’s roar resounded across the valley like nightmarish thunder. “Gwaum has beaten us,” he said to his First Minister, Niram Trum. Trum’s voice trembled with the fear his eyes showed as he asked,”What shall we do, Sire?” The King’s simple reply, “Flee,” sent the minister scurrying away. They descended the stone steps to the king’s court. Queen Betsa stood near the window overlooking the courtyard, their young son Ruther by her side. She turned as the King entered the chamber. “Gwaum has defeated the army,” she said, in a terror shrouded voice. “We must get out of the castle,” the King asserted. With a glance at Niram, he said, “Gather the court aides and their families and go to the dungeons.” The castle walls rumbled. A column gave way and the stones it supported fell, filling the chamber with dust and debris. Prince Ruther’s sobs mingled with the crash of falling stones. Niram’s eyes glazed as terror almost overcame him. He cried in alarm, “The buildings will bury us, Sire.” “Just do as I order.” The king said, his voice harsh with urgency, impelling the terror-stricken Niram to act. He disappeared into a corridor. The King walked to a tapestry emblazoned with the royal coat of arms that covered the wall behind the throne. Pulling the tapestry aside, he pressed a dark-colored stone. A trap door in the floor fell away, revealing a dark passage with stone steps. Cool, dank smelling air swept up from its inky depths. His eyes swept to the Queen. “Go, my darling. Take the Prince. You know the way.” The Queen’s dark eyes lingered on her husband. “What will you do?” The king withdrew his scabbard from its place on the wall and belted it on. He pulled on a chain that hung from his neck. A crystal hung from the chain, a crystal that glowed with a silver radiance. He handed it to the Queen. The radiance dimmed. “I now pass the rule of the kingdom to you, Betsa. You must find a way to save our son, Ruther and sustain the kingdom. I will not give up the kingdom to Gwaum without defending it.” “You will die, Nyle. Do not do this rash thing, my husband. Escape with us. We need you.” “I will not hide like a rat while this creature ravages my kingdom, killing my subjects. My duty is to my people. Take the boy. The House of Lithian will survive. Here is the Star of Torne. Put it on.” She put the necklace around her neck. As the crystal touched her skin, the radiance returned. She was now the ruler of Torne. Another bellow from the monster boomed across the city. Portions of the floor fell away and the wall of the king’s chamber collapsed. Red dust drifted into the room. A putrid stink filled the air. “Go,” he commanded. The Queen, tears brimming in her eyes, paused. She threw her arms around her king, husband and lover. Their hands clasped and they bathed themselves in the glow of one last kiss. One last time he felt her smooth skin. Then he let go. “Go, Betsa. Take our son and flee.” The queen took Ruther’s hand and she led them to the passage. “Papa, Papa, come with us,” the boy said, a sob punctuating his plea. “Go, my son. Someday you will return as King.” More stones fell and the Queen pulled the Prince behind her as her feet clattered down the stone steps towards the dungeon. The king watched them. A moment later a stone fell, crashing into the floor, covering the passage. He could feel the palace shudder. He darted into the hall. Stones lay scattered around the passage, blocking his route. He turned and ran the other way. Threading his way through the destruction, he found another stair. Down he went. Upon reaching the bottom, he kicked at the door that led outside. A moment after he emerged into the courtyard. His feet pumped against the cobblestone street as he ran from the castle. The acrid smell of smoke choked him as he ran. A loud crash announced its fall. He turned to see his once fine palace now a heap of rubble, dust arising from its remains. A moment later, he turned and ran towards the hill, sword drawn. All around he could hear the sound of screams and moans of people caught in their fallen buildings. Fires erupted from many of the rubble piles as cooking fires spread to the wooden support beams. Smoke billowed across the rubble-filled streets, choking him and burning his eyes. People milled about, confused and terrified. “Run for the hills,” the king said, his voice ringing out above the din. “Save yourselves.” The creature, his task of destroying the city complete, strode into the streets. His eye roamed about, seeking more morsels for his insatiable belly. The king stopped. Gwaum’s eyes fixed on the King’s royal garb. “So, I have found the king,” he said, an evil smile crossing his lips. “I love the taste of royal flesh.” His hand descended towards the king. The King drew his sword and stabbed at the palm. Gwaum bellowed in pain and his red, hot blood coated the King’s upturned face. Gwaum’s eye burned in anger. “You will die now.” “You will not get me without more of your vile blood staining my land.” Gwaum hesitated. He did not wish to fight this man. He had no desire to shed more of his own blood. Gwaum did not like pain. He pointed at a buring pile of rubble near the king with his red finger. The fire flashed, followed by a sharp crack. Flamed leaped from a nearby fire and engulfed the king. His body fell to the ground, charred and smoking. “I prefer my meat raw,” said Gwaum as he picked the king’s body from the stone street. “But you I will eat cooked.” He dangled the body over his mouth for a second, and then dropped it into his maw. The Kingdom of Torne thus ended.
High above the hills above the city a group of people hurried along a narrow path. Queen Betsa stopped for an instant to survey their surroundings. Below them, they could see the fires of the city of Cleery as it burned. Gwaum stalked the city. On occasion, he stooped to pick up some morsel to feed on. Screams, muted by distance, rose in a terrible shroud of sound from the destruction. Ignoring the terror that slithered down her spine, she turned to search the rocky bluff that towered over the trail. A familiar landmark teased her eye. Pressing against a rock a rumbling sound announced the opening of a dark crevice in the bluff. She pushed the young prince into the dark opening. “Go, Ruther. I will come soon.” “Enter the crevice,” she said to the line of people behind her. “Go now, before Gwaum turns to see us.” One by one, the refugees scurried into the crevice. As the last one entered, she stepped inside. Servants had lit the torches and they lent their smoky odor to the already acrid air. She pressed a stone besides the opening and the crevice closed. She looked at the Prince as he stood facing her. A torch flickered behind him, shrouding his face in darkness. She closed her eyes for one moment. By now, the king had surely met his fate. This morning she had awakened full of hope that the wizards would prevail and that they would defeat the monster. The horror of their fall and then the crushing defeat of the last of the king’s army changed her life forever. Queen Betsa opened her eyes. She was now the leader of her people and this dark cavern was her realm.
Death moved relentlessly through the forest, making little sound as it crept along, hunger biting at its innards. Emerging into a clearing, the creature’s eyes swept the meadow beyond. A cottage lay at forest’s edge. A thin curl of smoke wafted from the chimney. The creature sensed the smell it sought. Humans. He would feed.
The afternoon sun caressed the land with its golden rays. Beneath its watching eyes, a boy gathered red berries at the forest’s edge. His pail was almost half-full when he heard his mother’s call. “Arii. Arii honey, it is time to come home. Your father is here and dinner is ready.” Arii paused and looked in his bucket. The berries’ fragrance nibbled at his nose. His mother made some of the best red berry pie in the valley. He glanced back at the cottage that stood at the edge of the meadow where he was gathering berries. He saw his mother looking for him, her hand shading her eyes as she scanned the meadow. When she sighted him, she waved and then she went back inside. It took a full bucket of red berries for a pie. He did not have enough. He looked back at the berry patch. Fresh red berries glistened in the sun, inviting him to pick more. Overhead, he could hear the chatter of birds as they awaited his departure so they could resume their feast on the delectable fruit. Just a bit further on he could see a large clump of berries. That clump would finish his bucket. It would take just a few minutes more and he would have enough. He worked his way further into the patch, the thorns tearing his clothes and scratching his bare arms and legs. He regretted not listening to his mother’s warnings to wear thicker clothing. But the weather was warm and he did not want to get hot and sweaty. He reached the clump and filled his bucket. Arii was happy. The bucket was full. He turned to walk back to his home. The sound of crashing trees in the forest behind his home swept across the meadow. Arii watched in terror as a huge oak fell, smashing the cottage. His feet froze to the ground as a huge red monster stepped from the forest. A single, hungry fiery red eye bored into his eyes as the creature stood towering over the meadow. He could see his mother, holding his baby sister, wriggle through a window, escaping the ruined cottage. His father followed. He looked up and saw the creature. He interposed himself between the monster and his family. A huge red hand reached down and grabbed at the man, who turned to flee. He was too late, and the hand clasped him. Arii could hear the crunching of his father’s rib cage as death cut short his scream. Blood flowed from his mouth. The monster raised the man, and with a single gulp, swallowed him. His mother backed away. Her foot caught on a log. She tripped. The monster caught her by the foot, and picked her up. With upturned maw, he dangled the screaming woman over his head, the baby dangling from the terrified woman’s hand.. The baby slipped from her grip and fell into the black, gaping mouth. The woman followed her child an instant later. Terror froze Arii’s breath and chilled his heart. The monster belched. He then looked at Arii. A smile played across Gwaum’s face. One more small morsel would finish his meal. He began striding towards him. Arii dropped his bucket of red berries. The bucket spilled, and the red berries stained the boy’s bare feet. He backed up, slowly at first. Then he turned and ran. He could hear the giant feet of the monster thumping hard on the ground behind him. He ran faster and faster. He reached the trees and fled deep into the forest. The thumping behind him stopped, but Arii ran harder, flung on by his fear. On and on he ran, until exhausted, he fell at the edge of a small stream. A huge log lay in front of him, dead and hollow. He crept into the log. The rotting wood was dank in his nose as it flaked away. White grubs, exposed from the disturbance, wriggled and burrowed deeper into the wood. The sun fell. Darkness descended and the night sounds began. Narls howled in the distance. Arii pulled himself deeper into the log, tears of grief and fear falling from his eyes. Exhaustion crept upon him and he finally fell asleep.
Morning dawned in the tiny hamlet of Jarna. Nerza awoke to the chirping of birds in the garden behind his stone cottage. A few people still clung to this village, so far from the Road of Terror. As the sleep left his eyes, Nerza sat up. The dream had left him unsettled. He had seen a vision of terror drifting through the mists of his sleeping mind. His sister’s face had appeared, her eyes filled with horror. Then it had disappeared, followed by the image of the infant she held in her arms. Worry ate at Nerza. His sister, her husband and two young children dwelt in a cottage in a protected valley near Jarna. The horror that he saw in his dream he knew well. Hoping it was a vision of the future, he dressed quickly. He would have to hasten if he were to save them. He ate a sparse, hurried breakfast of hard cheese and bread to satisfy his hunger. He took his snow-white staff with the golden star on the tip of the hilt and walked off down the road. By noon, he reached the small stream that marked the valley. He followed the footpath upstream. His path soon reached the clearing and meadow that marked his sister’s cottage. He stopped horrorstruck, as he saw the crushed cottage. He walked towards it. A bloodstain marked the ground near the cottage. The monster had fed. Hot tears of grief filled his eyes and sobs burst from his throat. He fell to the ground and beat it with his fists. Finally he stood. Something glinting in the sun at the edge of the meadow caught his eye. He walked towards it. As he neared it, he could see that it was a metal pail lying on its side, its contents of red berries strewn across the path. He picked it up. He looked towards the forest. Broken branches and trampled wildflowers marked the path of someone fleeing into the forest. He could see the larger footprints of the monster, which trailed towards the woods. They appeared to follow someone who had escaped into the forest. Nerza strode towards the woods. He noted that the huge footsteps stopped, then turned back into the meadow. Who ever it was that escaped was too small a morsel for a monster who had just fed on two adults and a baby. Perhaps Arii had escaped. The boy loved red berries. Maybe the boy had picked red berries in the meadow and escaped into the woods when the creature appeared. Nerza stepped into the wood. He could see that disturbed leaves on the forest floor, marking the passage of someone. He noted the distance between the footprints. A child had fled this way. Hope arose in his breast. Nerza paused and studied the terrain before him. It was summer, and the early spring flowers had faded. The leaf litter from the previous fall was rotting, turning to the mould that would nourish the soil. Tracking the boy would require more woodcraft than wizard craft. Nerza’s father had been a hunter and had imparted these skills, long unused, to Nerza when he was a boy. He continued his trek through the wood, with an occasional pause to peruse the signs left by the fleeing boy. The trail ended near the brook downstream from his earlier path. Nerza again paused and looked upstream. Then he looked downstream. He crossed the brook and searched for the trail, with no success. It had vanished. He returned to the spot where the trail stopped. Again, he studied the stream. The boy had apparently followed the stream. Arii despaired. What if he had passed the boy earlier, and had not seen or heard him. Which way did he go? “Arii,” Nerza called. “Arii, are you here?” A pall of silence hung over the forest. A huge log by the stream’s bank beckoned him to sit and rest. Nerza sat down to think. Silence surrounded him as he sat, deep in thought. He became aware of a slight sound. He pricked up his ears. The sound seemed to flow around him. What was it and where was it coming from? He stood up and glanced at the log. Was the log talking to him? He walked to the end and saw that it was hollow. The log was big, as was the opening. It was big enough to hide a small child. He withdrew the wand from the handle of the staff. Calling the power of fire, the wizard used the wand to ignite the tip of a wooden limb that lay on the ground nearby. He picked up the flaming brand and held it near the opening, peering inside. At first, in the flickering light he could see nothing. But he heard what sounded like a whimper of fear. Peering closer, he could see a small face reflected back at him. “Arii? It is your Uncle Nerza. Is that you? Come out, boy. Do not be afraid. You are safe, now.” The whimpering stopped, and the boy crawled out, covered with the decaying wood of the tree and leaf fragments. A wriggling grub lay on his shoulder. Clothing torn and stained, he bore the dank smell of decaying wood. Nerza brushed the grub off. “Uncle Nerza. Oh, Uncle Nerza.” The boy grasped the wizard around the shoulders. His sobs filled the forest. His tears stained Nerza’s shoulders. He held the boy for a long time, trying to comfort him. The boy, his voice thick with sorrow and fear, said, “Oh, Uncle Nerza, it was horrible. The monster broke our house. He killed momma and papa.” “I know, Arii. I saw your house. I tracked you through the forest. I hoped against hope that you escaped and were safe.” “We will never be safe, Uncle Nerza. Not as long as that horrible monster lives.” His sobs returned. Finally, Nerza pushed the boy away and studied his face. “You will come to live with me now, Arii. You will come with me to Jarna.” “Will the monster come there, too? Will he eat us there?” Nerza shook his head. “I have protected my house with a magic spell. Gwaum cannot see my house. He will pass us by.” “Why didn’t you protect my house, Uncle?” “I wanted to, Arii. Your father did not like wizards. He would not let me place any kind of spell. He thought the valley was safe.” “But it wasn’t, Uncle. The monster found us. He killed them and ate them.” “Yes, the monster did horrible things, Arii.” Nerza stood. He took Arii’s hand and said, “It is time to go, Arii. We will go to my home. You will be safe there.” He and Arii strode through the forest. Nerza took a different path. He followed the stream to its junction with the larger stream, and this he followed to the road. Then, holding Arii’s hand, they walked to his stone cottage near Jarna. In less than a day, Nerza’s role as uncle had changed to parent of a young, growing boy. He hoped that he was equal to the task.
Kingdoms in Chaos – Epic Fantasy Novel Chaos and disorder reigned after Gwaum’s fall. Kingdom strove against kingdom in a deadly quest for power. The wizards of the Six Kingdoms faced their own peril. The mysterious Order of the Mind Readers lurked in secret places, plotting their own war and rise to supremacy. Compounding the crises, the refugee Raiders of Gwaum emerged as pirates, raiding the emerging commerce of the Six Kingdoms from their hidden lair. Mired in chaos, the Six Kingdoms risked plummeting into anarchy. Only a wizard of exceptional ability could rise to the challenge and end the wizard war. Sample Chapter Softbound Price – $14.99 Buy Direct From Author $3.00 Shipping
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