Fletcher Blackmon was kind enough to provide a sample first chapter here of his new book “Champion of Wrath”.
I couldn’t help but notice the great cover in my Facebook group for promotion of new authors of fantasy and science fiction.
Nin Ruach – The Enduring Spirit series tells the tale of the teenager Jared Stealthen heir to the mystical abilities of Ninjitsu, Kabbalah, and much more.
Have you ever wondered how a young boy who has just become a teen copes with a horrible personal tragedy – the death of all those that he holds dear in a terrorist attack while visiting Israel? How will this affect his choices between good and evil to save a world called Urath that is unknown to him that needs his help? How will this personal tragedy temper the magical kabbalah-derived and martial ninjitsu skills to which he has become heir to by a legacy only glimpsed through the highs of dreams and the lows of painful nightmares? Can he embrace the greater good and save a distant magical world and himself in the process with his new found abilities? Will the pain held inside and the evil that chases him prevent him from becoming who he should have or could have been?
Join Jared as he embarks upon his epic fantasy quest to find the six Companions, the Staff of Opening, and the Almioch the sword of all-mighty everlasting mystery foretold in the prophecy contained in the Bibron. All of which he will need to defeat the evil of Illrachnedar, his dark champion Darkon, the six Demra, and the Dreeshi horde that threaten to destroy him, all he holds dear, and the world of Urath that he has pledged to save.
This is only a small taste of what is held within the pages of this original fantasy that describes Jared Stealthen’s coming of age story as he enters into his legacy and destiny rooted in the mystical and mysterious events that surround him as he follows his inseparable connection to his faith through his legacy Star of David Mezuzah pendant, unavoidable tragedy, and the life-changing choices he must make.
Night was fast approaching following a warm and humid, miserable day of fetid fog and drenching rain. The horses of the small company of men slogged through the mud-encrusted trail, hooves plodding up the hill to a forest of blackened trees with red leaves. Mailed hands wiped sweat and rain from their foreheads. The oppressive weather had begun just after passing into the borders of the vast land of Malron.
Malron in days long ago was given the legendary name-the blasted land and served as home to the dark lord Illrachnedra and his evil champion, Darkon. The Dark Lord was only spoken of in ancient legend and had not made his presence explicitly known in ages upon the world of Urath. However, his self-proclaimed dark champion, Darkon, had waged wars in the past at the behest of his dark master. The new war was not a true war but instead a war of attrition that the forces of good played out each day against the forces of darkness who reveled in the slow agonizing battle to subvert all creatures of Urath.
The howling wind muted the nervous banter of the troop of twenty clerics and paladins clad in mud spattered suits of armor proclaiming their Odonite order and less so their family geneology. A stray, blackened tree branch hurled by the wind struck an inattentive Ingmar, the youngest of the group who had fallen behind, a glancing blow to his head knocking his helmet to the stray rocks and red leaves carpeting the forest floor. The clatter of rock and steel brought the attention of all the knights. A booming laugh was followed by the wry wit and sound of Godfrey their leader and head of the Odonite order, “Ingmar, better to lose your helmet than your head. Try not to battle the forest trees unless absolutely necessary.” At this jibe, the rest of the troop burst into raucous laughter.
Nedrick sagely added, “Your mother Delia who also happens to be my wife would never forgive me if you lost your life while under my watchful eye from a fall from a horse because a tree branch swatted you. Get back up into the center of our line and pay attention!” At this comedic reproach, Ingmar dismounted and picked up his helmet, cleaned it off, got back in the saddle, and trudged up to the center of the line.
Godfrey Othswarrow wore silver armor burnished with white gold accents. His midnight blue cloak covered his tall muscular frame and obscured the sigil of the Odonite order, a six-sided star made of two interlocking triangles on a field of sky blue emblazoned on his breastplate. The Othswarrow family insignia was that of an open book and was positioned centrally below the sigil of their holy order.
The company’s journey began a tenday ago. The AR wizardess Elia from Nivhol had opened a magical portal to transport the group of paladins and clerics as close to Malron as she dared. Elia was to serve as monitor of the portal so that she could retrieve the members of the troop who were successful or who managed to live after the planned confrontation with Darkon.
The invitation to battle had come as a surprise to Godfrey ten days ago. A scroll had been delivered by a messenger to Yad Uvon Clar, the seat of the Odonite order. The messenger was nothing more than an animated, fluttering, floating robe that parodied the shape of a human. The cryptic message inscribed with dark blood had said, “Meet me at the blasted forest at the outskirts of Malron with as many good men as you need. Engage in battle with me alone, surely your faith in ODONAR will assure your victory over me. Shall I expect you?” It had been signed with Darkon’s own sigil, his dread blade, Soul Raver, called Nashama Harem in the old language, poised to strike the moon over the blasted forest.
Upon hearing the missive, Godfrey’s adviser Heric unequivocally stated, “You cannot do this thing. How can you expect to be victorious? Even Daavon, blessed be his revered name, could not defeat Darkon, cursed be his name. Have you thought this through? What will Zemia, your wife, say? Walking into the enemy’s lair is not an intelligent well thought out plan that will lead to success. I implore you to disregard this letter. No one will think less of you if you do not undertake this quest. It is foolhardy and doomed to failure at the outset. Please reconsider, I beg you.”
“Heric,” Godfrey calmly said, “I will sleep on this and will take council with you on the morn. I shall look to the portents seen in tonight’s dreams and visions of ODONAR’s will.”
Peaceful sleep soon overtook Godfrey upon reaching his chamber. The most beautiful of dream’s showed the radiance of his God, ODONAR. The warmth of this glow filled him with his faith as if he could not hold anymore. An image of his force mace dispatching Darkon to the netherworld replayed itself several times. All the while, the glowing warmth covered Godfrey. It was a shame that Godfrey did not notice that his force mace was glowing red instead of the familiar blue. Godfrey dismissed this triviality as a direct result of scoring a hit on Darkon with the force mace in the dream. The intense warmth filled Godfrey with a false sense of confidence that overreached and boasted of ODONAR’s faith in him to successfully complete this quest. Little did Godfrey know that as he released himself from this comforting dream which would decide his fate that the golden warmth became a reddish hue with the ghostly visage of Darkon which pulsated with noxious vapor coming from the opened missive laying on Godfrey’s bedside dresser. These same vapors prevented a number of good spirits from directly intervening to warn ODONAR’s chosen and prevented others from strongly counseling against this coarse of action. The disparity in the color of the mace in the dream was all that could be done to try and warn Godfrey. It was up to Godfrey to hopefully realize this sign to avoid his doom.
The next morning the meeting with Heric had gone exactly as Godfrey desired. Even Elia did not protest. He had decided to embrace this quest and had gotten more volunteers from the orders of clerics and paladins than he planned to take. He quickly selected nineteen of the best his order had to offer. Godfrey asked Elia, his sister, to provide the portal. Her visit to Yad Uvon Clar at this time also seemed an additional portent of ODONAR’s approval of this quest. Elia was not pleased but could never say no to her brother, even without Darkon’s subtle persuasions within her dreams to drop the subject. The group of nineteen gathered their armor and weapons and waited for Godfrey to invoke the blessing of ODONAR on their quest, on their weapons and armor, and most especially on his force mace. Then they had disappeared quickly into the silver vapory spatial portal that Elia casted.
That day seemed like a long time ago. The tenday march from the site of the portal drained the strength from the men as they entered the lands of their foe. Everything was blackened and bare. No animal sounds or bird songs could be heard. It was as if all life had ended here and that they were trespassers in an alien land. The only difference in the landscape had been upon entering the blasted forest. The red leaves seemed out of place with the lifelessness evident everywhere else they turned. At times, it seemed that the leaves actually pulsed with an evil life. Yet when cleric Dunsten examined the leaf with his gloved hand, there seemed to be no pulsation. Paladin Stewart nudged Dunsten and said, “Stop looking for problems when there aren’t any.”
At this comment, Dunsten released the leaf but said aloud to the rest of the company, “I do not see caution as being responsible for a problem; in contrast, it seeks to prevent problems.”
The companionship of the company was all that was holding them together. They had been traveling northward into the forest for what had been ten miles. Full darkness would fall in a few short hours. The troop halted. Godfrey brought his gelding up to the front rank to see why they had stopped. The blue ribbons that they had been tying onto trees to guide their path back to safe haven were now in front of them in the distance.
Godfrey felt a chill run down his spine along with sweat and frustration. There was a malignant force bearing down on he and his troop. A sense of rank fear permeated this small clearing in the forest. An unnatural wind passed though the trees creating a sound akin to the moans of dying men and the shrieking of the souls of the lost. Full darkness descended like a mantle of evil that cloaked the Odonites in an otherworldly film of uneasiness.
A suggestion on the wind called to Ingmar to check the red leaves again to make sure that they were not pulsating as they had seemed to do before. However, Ingmar had removed his mailed glove and moved his unprotected hand towards a blazing red leaf. Dunsten on horseback adjacent to Ingmar screamed a warning that was an instant too late for Ingmar and the rest of the ill-fated company.
As Ingmar’s fingers closed on the red leaf, it began to pulsate. The leaf then stabbed the young paladin. His blood was drained into the leaf within the span of one hundred heartbeats. His bloodless husk was refilled with lifeless fluid that ate his body from the inside out which in turn caused his body to rapidly decay. His empty armor clattered loudly on the forest floor.
Dunsten and the other full clerics – Emerle, Dwayne, Rejen, Tendrick, and Wilum began the casting of a divine circle of protection, calling on the power of ODONAR that had been granted them. The blue circle began to take shape and became a hemisphere that enclosed the remaining nineteen. Godfrey took up a position in the center of the protective hemisphere. Feverish sweat and fear covered his face. His certain resolve did not seem as certain as it once had. The paladins of the group unsheathed their weapons as one with a loud metallic hiss of swords leaving their scabbards and maces, flails, and axes being unloaded from belt loops and broad backs. Grim determination was written on their faces. These paladins, Harlow, Efram, Lyle, Kendall, and the others had trained all their lives together for a moment such as this where their faith and battle skill would be tested to and possibly beyond their limits.
Godfrey unhooked his force mace, a weapon fueled by the faith of the wielder. The force mace irradiated the center of the hemisphere with a piercing saphirine hue. The comfort and closeness of this ancient artifact eased the tightness in Godfrey’s chest and brought a lightness and holiness to his soul that served as a balm against the palpable evil.
Dunsten could see a red mist take form just outside the blue protective force field. Where the mist touched, paladins and clerics alike died as the protective sphere began to dim and recede. The shouts of the dying roused Godfrey to action. He raised the force mace on high and called to ODONAR to dispel the dire scarlet mist. ODONAR must have heard his desperate plea for the red mist coalesced into a terrible horrifying being of pure evil – Darkon.
Darkon was clad in scarlet-black, magical mail armor. Spikes and sharp spines with serrations stood out from the armor as if it were a living beast of hell that sheathed his wickedness. Soul Raver, his soul rending black blade, was in the process of being unsheathed. Newly shed blood beaded up and slid to the desecrated earth where it was swallowed thirstily. Each drop served as prizes for the Dark Lord, Darkon’s vile master. Time seemed to stand still for Godfrey. The blue protective shield winked out of existence. The blood ran cold in Godfrey’s veins. Where eighteen of his fellows stood, there was no one left but Dunsten and he. Dunsten was crying and mumbling incoherently, “They are all dead Godfrey – eighteen of our strongest paladins and clerics in the span of five minutes. ODONAR’s protection spells have been rebuffed as if they were waves being pushed back by an immoveable object. Alas, Godfrey, I fear that I have been paralyzed and cannot move from where I stand. Forgive me my lord, but I cannot cast my spells. I know not why.”
Darkon, sarcasm dripping like venom said, “The others have shed their life’s blood and souls creating new leaves for my master’s masterpiece of desolation. I thank you from the bottom of my black heart. I find it hard to believe that you were fooled by that wonderful dream that ODONAR bestowed on you letting you believe that he would bless this folly. Even the red glow of your force mace did not give you a warning sign to dissuade you from your self-righteous glory hunting. I am rather pleased at the way things turned out. This old cow Dunsten shall bear witness to what is to happen next to you so that the rest of the forces of good will know true fear and shall be given pause in their future dealings with us.”
Godfrey spat back with determination, “If I should perish here this night, know that it is my body that shall die. My soul is forever with ODONAR and cannot be reached.”
Darkon retorted, “I could only dream of having your soul. It is your mind and body that I have use for as a symbolic gesture of good faith when I could so easily kill you.”
Godfrey raised his force mace and directed it at Darkon. Saphire beams of holy force sped towards Darkon. The dark champion used his fell blade to deflect the holy bolts. Next, Godfrey called thunder and lightening down to blacken the spot where Darkon stood. Darkon longed to return to his red mist form but could not due to Godfrey’s strength of faith. Darkon had not counted on that. However, that would not alter his evil plan. Darkon cast a scarlet field of fire that engulfed Godfrey. The armor that encased Godfrey began to glow blue white as its protective enchantment shielded him from the brunt of the flames. Darkon rushed Godfrey, covering the twenty feet in seconds. Godfrey was taken by surprise at first. However, he stood his ground bringing the force mace into the horizontal ready position to ward against a frontal attack. Soul Raver was brought into play. The moaning of lost souls filled the air. Godfrey’s motions began to slow as the evil artifact’s power on desecrated land began to tell. Where the two powerful artifacts met, shards of light spanning the gamut of the rainbow were produced. Dunsten stared in mute disbelief that his lord was holding his own against Darkon even for this short a time. Daavon had been the only other in all of recorded history who had been able to stand against him.
Godfrey knew that Darkon eventually would take him. The link that always connected him to his God was somehow weaker in this forest of the damned. He was foolish to have believed that he could defeat Darkon on his own terms. He should have heeded the warning shown to him in his dreams if it were not for his own ignorant hubris that disregarded the truth. Godfrey asked ODONAR for a quick, painless, and honorable death if that was to be his fate. Godfrey parried Soul Raver and struck the unprotected rib cage of the dark champion. This surprised Darkon. More than that, Darkon was not prepared for the impact of a holy weapon such as the force mace driven with such force of faith in ODONAR that a blue scar appeared on Darkon’s armor and on his very person.
Darkon screamed in pain and re-aimed Soul Raver at the momentarily unprotected hamstring of his opponent. Godfrey blocked a moment too late. Soul Raver had nicked Godfrey’s holy armor and where it touched the armor withered and disintegrated. The barest of flesh wounds appeared on his thigh. If an unprotected mortal had been touched, his soul would have been lost. But, this was Godfrey, ODONAR’s chosen; his soul was already residing with ODONAR and could not be touched. Soul Raver was irritated and let his master feel its displeasure. Darkon spoke a word of command in that instant of bloodletting. “HOLD!”
In that instant of magical release, the word of power following Soul Raver’s taste of flesh provided the unique ability to hold Godfrey in thrall. Godfrey gasped and struggled but to no avail. He was held immobile and could not speak because his lips and vocal cords could not move. Godfrey took in all this sensory information in an instant. He was totally at the mercy of Darkon. Godfrey’s long time friend Dunsten was in a similar yet slightly different precarious position. All but the barest glimmer of hope that Godfrey would escape left him.
Darkon then created his own spatial portal that swirled with malevolent crimson and black swirls of dark magic. Givon and Irgall, the heads of the orders of Clera Nedra and Pala Nedra respectively, appeared as if they had been waiting for this appointed time as if this were the careful orchestration of a choreographed play in some one’s twisted mind. Givon was emaciated with patchy, lifeless, white hair hanging from the pate of a decrepit, old man. His yellow eyes glowed with evil fanaticism, the look of the truly lost. Just as Givon looked frail, another closer look said he was not and that he had powers to call upon when needed.
Dark, inhuman health and vitality seemed to exude from Irgall. It was said that he was a master of many weapons, feared no one, and had never lost a battle in his life. His features were obscured by his great, black-horned helmet. However, nothing could obscure the fact that he stood six and a half feet tall and was all solid muscle. His great two-handed sword was sheathed at his side for the moment. A long flow of jet-black hair could be seen falling from the back of his helmet.
Givon and Irgall stared at Godfrey and Dunsten. Their laughter seemed to prolong the agony that Godfrey felt at his own foolishness. Givon hilariously said, “Darkon, I did not know it was Hogfest already. You have captured two swine already.”
Irgall piped in, “I thought that they were going to be presented to us as dead Odonites.”
Darkon interjected, “My dear associates, I have done what you could not; although you have tried and failed miserably. You shall not be punished this time. However, do not fail me again. You can both be replaced if you disappoint me. The plan I have in mind allows Godfrey and his jackal to leave here alive so that they can serve as examples of what happens to those who oppose Darkon and his master Illrachnedra. In addition, it will demoralize the Odonites as well as the other ‘good’ religious factions. We will send Godfrey back as a blind, aged, and enfeebled shadow of the man he is you see before you. Dunsten, you will see him back to Yad Uvon Clar, won’t you? Now there is a good boy.”
Givon and Irgall exchanged appreciative glances and said together, “Thank you great master for this unexpected delight.” Givon, always scheming asked, “Darkon may I have Godfrey’s force mace?”
Darkon, surprised by the request yet knowing the implications commanded, “Irgall retrieve the force mace.”
Irgall responded by walking over to Godfrey and began to pull the force mace with all his might. At this, Godfrey could only wince at what was happening. However, he could not feel any pain from Irgall’s actions. The force mace would not be taken from Godfrey’s hands. A blue bolt of lightening blazed from the mace and coursed through Irgall’s hands charring and burning his hands. Irgall gasped with excruciating pain and let go of the mace and fell panting to the ground.
Givon shrugged his shoulders and said, “Just as I thought. I had to check though.”
Irgall shot him a murderous gaze and said, “I shall repay you in kind Givon for the knowing pain you have inflicted on me.”
Darkon, tiring of this sport, cut in and said, ”Enough of this foolishness, leave the force mace alone. None of us can take it. Now, cast the spells of blindness, aging, and enfeeblement on Godfrey. I shall meld a potent spell of illusion and forgetfulness to bind the magics so that neither Godfrey nor Dunsten will remember what spells were cast or for that matter any detail of what happens now. The spell of illusion will make it impossible for anyone’s magic to heal or remove these spells from him. Begin the spells Givon!”
Givon began the complicated mesh of spells required to inflict the damage of blindness, aging, and enfeeblement. A sickly yellow mist settled over Godfrey as Givon chanted. Godfrey could feel his faculties fail and his back stoop. His muscles, once chiseled, started to shrivel up. Last to leave was his sight so that he could watch the ghastly transformation occur. Dunsten was silently crying for his lord and knew that there was nothing that he could do to prevent what was happening.
Irgall was still in pain. This was distasteful to Darkon. He reluctantly offered, “Irgall take a red leaf and crush it in your open hands.” Irgall did as he was bade. To Irgall’s surprise red gel oozed out of the leaf restoring the vitality to his charred hands.
Irgall, in a rush to give thanks, said, “Thank you again for mercy.”
Darkon responded, ”There will be no next time. One leaf is all you will get. I expect payment. You have cost Illrachnedra a soul for your foolishness. Never again believe what Givon says as fact or that there are no implications as a result of your actions. I need an alert and alive Pala Nedra. However, I have never tried a reanimated one, do not give me a reason to do so.”
Givon slowly walked over to the compromised Dunsten and punched him with all his might at the location of Dunsten’s heart. Dunsten fell in a heap and breathed shallowly. Darkon reprimanded Givon, “That was not required and did not have my permission. You and Irgall are dismissed before my merciful and jovial mood changes. Be gone!” At those words, Givon and Irgall were sucked back into the spatial portal to be sent back to whence they had come.
Darkon made ready to depart. He said to no one in particular, “One down and two to go.” With a flourish, Darkon wished Godfrey and Dunsten a miserable trip back to Yad Uvon Clar and then disappeared suddenly.
Little did Darkon know that Dunsten had just had a heart attack. No one had known that he had a heart condition that was pushed past the edge with the loss of the Odonite company, the unspeakable things that had just happened to Godfrey, and the violent encounter with Givon. Dunsten’s heart then skipped a beat and then stopped.
Godfrey had no idea who was with him if anyone. He could not see and had no idea where he was. It felt as if someone had put a blanket or curtain over the functions of his brain. His body felt unwieldy as well. The force mace sensed that both Godfrey and Dunsten would die if it did not intervene. At that moment, the force mace led Godfrey to Dunsten. The force mace brushed against Dunsten’s chest. A brilliant blue light suffused Dunsten’s heart and restarted it. Dunsten soon fell asleep with Godfrey mumbling and rocking on the ground, “What to do, what to do?”
Elia paced the well-appointed guest chamber for high-ranking officials in the new wing of the Yad Uvon Clar monastery. The white washed walls and white marble columns framed by the vaulted ceiling reminded her of Nivhol, the seat of the wizards of the realm. The golden braziers and silver candelabra were half extinguished. The book she had been reading, the Histories of Daavonell, was left on the ornate oak desk near the blue velvet reading chair facing the hearth. The blue tapestry rug with the Odonite holy symbol reminded her why she was still here. She ambled closer to the fire in the stone hearth to warm herself. She picked up the mug of steaming black kav and gingerly took a sip. The first stirrings of winter were upon the land. The wind blowing noisily outside confirmed her thoughts. It was hard to believe that a little more than ten days had passed since she had left her husband, Kirian, the current Temporatur of Nivhol in order to facilitate Godfrey’s request.
Somehow she knew she should have been able to make Godfrey realize that his quest was foolish. However, no matter how hard she had tried, it was to no avail. She did not have a good feeling about the whole set of circumstances. This night was to be the return of Godfrey and his men from the spatial portal. She would need to steel herself to go out in the chill.
At that moment, Zemia, her hair in disarray, stuck her head into the chamber. She nervously said, “I want to come with you tonight. I cannot wait any longer to find out how far Godfrey is from the portal. I hope he is nearby and that he is on his way without injury to himself or his party.”
The worry lines on Zemia’s pale face were framed by jet black, shoulder length hair. She was a prominent figure in Odonite matters; but now with Elia here, she could let her true feelings and concerns show. Her mental armor could be removed in order to bear her heart.
Elia brushed a lock of her long brown hair back away from her angular, aristocratic features. She moved over to Zemia and gave her a hug and said soothingly, “Whatever the outcome of Godfrey’s quest, we shall face it together. We shall leave for the portal in a few minutes. We had both better dress appropriately.”
Zemia pulled out two heavy, woolen cloaks from the pegs behind the side door to the chamber. She remarked, “These should keep us warm.”
Now that they were prepared, Elia cast a small traveler’s spell to bring both of them to the hill where the portal was placed. The moon was full in the late autumn sky and illuminated the lush green hill with a surreal yellow glow. Elia felt uneasy and a bit queasy. There was a warning deep in the recesses of her subconscious. However, this feeling of warning did not seem to match what her senses told her. Elia cast out with her magic to detect whether anything was amiss. She did detect the presence of another person behind a large tree on the hilltop. The signature of this person was very familiar. Elia told Zemia in no uncertain terms, “Stay here, there is someone I know up there and I want to find out exactly who it is and why they are here.”
Zemia agreed and said, “Be careful!”
Elia purposefully marched up the hill. When she reached the top, the concealed person walked out from the cover of the trees so that the person was obscured from view by anyone else that might be watching the exchange. Elia, with a surprised look on her face, exclaimed, “Why are you here? You suggested I come in your place due to my relation to Godfrey. You are supposed to be back at …” The words never finished leaving her mouth. The hooded figure slashed the unbelieving Elia with an ancient and terrible blade as she stood dumbfounded and unable to cast a single spell of defense. It dawned on Elia that she was in the presence of one of the Demra of old. His twisted features swirled in and out presenting a ghastly visage to the terror stricken Elia. Elia knew that she had but moments to live. The ancient cursed blade he used to strike her was called a Soulstill and was used to separate the soul from the body.
Time seemed to stretch out for Elia. The final downward stroke of the Soulstill was on its way, she knew. She could see Zemia walking towards her from the bottom of the hill to see what was taking her so long. Elia, sweat and concentration etched on her face and features, forced her soul to hold onto her body long enough to cast a complicated spell consisting of three parts. She gave up the idea that she would survive this encounter. Instead, she sent a Mindshout to Zemia telling her to get back to the protection of the monastery and that she was under attack by a Demra. Zemia, as if in a dream, began to run back to the Odonite monastery stumbling through the darkness with fear in her heart and with angry tears staining her face. She would bring aid quickly to save Elia from this treachery. Elia also released the remaining bonds between her soul and her body; they were unfurling beyond her ability to hold them. She consigned her soul to Odonar and sent her love as well as a limited warning to her husband Kirian. However, fate would dictate that he would not receive the warning. The Demra’s power, however, prevented anyone, including Elia, from revealing its identity. These things were all that Elia could do before the Soulstill ended her life on this plane of existence. The Demra felt cheated by this half victory; but with a somewhat satisfied smirk on his face, disappeared and said to no one in particular, “Just one more wizard of AR to remove. It shall come to pass shortly.”
It had only been twenty minutes since Zemia had run at breakneck speed back to the monastery for help. She mustered the better part of the monastery by ringing the Odonite muster bell. Bleary and half dressed warriors with weapons in hand trundled down halls and stairs to meet the muster. Zemia ran with them to the hill. Over one hundred Odonites saw with dismay the body of Elia with twin blade wounds. The light that had always suffused Elia in life was totally absent. A prayer to Odonar was said by all present. Elia’s body was held reverently and taken back to the violated Odonite Monastery grounds. Zemia, grief stricken, asked in a small quiet voice, “Where, Odonar, is my Godfrey? Please let him be whole and let him return to me with God speed. I cannot handle this by myself. I need him here with me.”
Kirian was beside himself worrying about his wife Elia and Godfrey. It was not like Elia to march off to a cause without thinking things through. No amount of convincing her seemed to sway her away from Godfrey’s course of action. It was hard to believe that she had left yesterday. The decorated halls depicting the history of wizardry and the wars that were fought within Nivhol uncharacteristically did not hold any warmth this morning. Kirian looked lovingly and respectfully at his descendent Daavonell depicted in glorious combat against the evil Darkon in ages long past. Tears welled in Kirian’s eyes. These were tears of pride and sadness for the sacrifice Daavonell had made to stave off darkness in those unholy times. As Kirian glanced at Darkon’s painted image, he felt a deep foreboding at the core of his being, a feeling he had never had before. However, it was formless and directionless. If this silent warning had sufficient substance, he could do something about it.
Kirian, one not to dismiss feelings or warnings, decided to scry the portents to see if anything would reveal itself to suggest if there were any real and immediate danger to those he loved. Kirian breathed a deep sigh and moved to his blue crystal ball lying on its ancient pedestal in the middle of his modestly appointed chamber where tomes, scrolls, and other wizardly paraphernalia were scattered on large bookcases recessed into the walls and cluttered in a known pattern on selected pedestals and tables throughout the room.
He approached the crystal sphere with respect. Its facets held a depth that was unfathomable by those who were not trained in the arts of the wizards of AR. Kirian gazed deeply into the depths of the swirling orb. His legacy pendent glowed brightly as he held it reverently and brought it slowly to touch his forehead in an age-old custom designed to connect the third eye, the one that looks through space and time, to the knowledge of the ages. Kirian was thrust through the layers of the crystal into the swirling maelstrom. His soulspirit left his body to fathom the current and near future portents.
This use of the magic cost Kirian more than he would have liked but he knew he must try. Hazy images of people and places from the past and present moved around him. As he tried to touch them to build clarity, he was rebuffed. No matter who or what he focused on, he was not able to gain more than hints of danger and the rising of things long thought banished from this world. Kirian’s soul form grew cold as he tried to go further into the crystal and the future to get more definitive confirmation of the shadowy events. He now knew that Elia and Godfrey were indeed in danger.
Time disappeared as he gazed and descended into the infinite depths of the crystal. A small warning reminded him that he had stayed too long that his magic may not last and be strong enough to bring himself back to the physical plane of existence. He made the calculated risk to endure and seek beyond his ability to scry the nature of the danger and its outcome as it affected Elia and Godfrey. Despair assailed him. His spirit nearly died. He saw that Elia’s future had ended nine days hence and that a great disability would assail Godfrey.
Kirian used a desperate magic known only to great adepts in the history of AR. His amulet blazed with the knowledge of ages of AR wizards as he accessed the power to delve into possible possibilities. Kirian could not relent; he pushed past what only a few wizards in the annals of time had tried and been successful at. The series of twists and turns in the pattern of mankind played out before him in a limited way. He saw the leaves and the sands of time that ODONAR used as his abacus to tabulate the fate and paths that each individual could take. A mortal may only look at this pattern for moments before the mind would be burnt out with the shear volume and depth of knowledge that is contained. Kirian glanced for the briefest of moments and knew with a crestfallen heart that there was nothing that could be done. The life of his soulmate would be lost and Godfrey would have a long life filled with pain. There was nothing he could do to prevent it. If he tried, hopes for the future and many leaves and grains of sand would be lost forever.
Kirian broke contact with the realm of possible possibilities. His spirit form was exhausted and had aged considerably as a result. Kirian with a heavy and broken heart knew he must perform a number of responsibilities before he was to die. This a sorrowful parting bit of information that he had gleaned. He tried to disengage from the crystal using the magical commands to do so. However, he had spent his magic, resolve, and focus. He felt cast away in the midst of a swirling storm; but there were things that must be done that only he could do. His plans made to insure the chance and hope of a future for Urath must be completed. His hopes and the life of his son depended on it.
As these thoughts passed through his mind simultaneously, a small delicate hand that was untouched by the trials and tribulations of the world touched Kirian’s hand in the physical world. At that moment, a spark of energy jumped from the tiny hand to the worn hand of his father. In that instant, Kirian sensed what was happening and used the lifeline that his son had incredibly sent him. Unknowingly, with this simple gesture his son had saved his life. Kirian cast the return spell now with this infusion of loving magic and concern.
Immediately what seemed so hard moments ago was like waking up from a groggy sleep that had been filled with nightmares. Kirian decided to put his tears aside and follow an adamantine purpose with the time he had left.
Kirian hugged his son, “I love you. You shall be the hope of Urath.” His son just snuggled closer looking lovingly at his father with round blue eyes the color of heaven.
Kirian had planned long for this day as it was foretold to him in the histories of his amulet. He was the last of the AR wizards. He had used magic to disguise his nature from those around him. He had also known that he would have to cast off years of his life in exchange for the magic to conceal his son’s existence from everyone, even his wife. Elia had thought she was childless and that she had had a miscarriage. Kirian had not wanted to do this to Elia but had no choice. No one could know that the last wizard of AR had been born. Kirian had cast a vast illusion and protection spell to safeguard his son’s existence and his nature from all. Kirian now knew that the moment that he had been dreading was at hand. He would have to choose a protector for his son, a protector with power, kindness, and the ability to protect her son like no other. Kirian slept with his son in his arms that night. The next day would see him travel to this protector.
The next morning, without saying so much as a goodbye to the wizards of the council. He strode off on his horse, Windswept, before the break of dawn. He passed through the closed gates with a mild gesture as he cloaked himself and his son in illusion to fool the gatekeepers.
Kirian galloped at lightening speed on his magically endowed charger. She was named Windswept because when called upon to do so she could race like the wind. Kirian flew by the settlements outside Nivhol the wizards keep. He skirted the major city of Ehrad, the capital Ehrin, also known as Pelar in the old tongue. He stopped to rest Windswept at the borders of Shaiim forest. He had felt a faint calling to do so.
Kirian dismounted with his son in tow and walked Windswept into the forest. All was dark and silent except for the sound of crickets. In the distance, an amber glow of fireflies could be seen. Kirian was drawn to this light. As he stepped closer, he could see that the fireflies had outlined a Traveler’s Gate. This particular Traveler’s Gate was a very large flat shale boulder as wide as ten horses lined up end to end. Kirian realized the gesture that was being made to him and thankfully and reverently accepted by moving himself, his son, and Windswept onto the Gate that was concealed as a boulder. He knew that this assistance would shave many days from his travel since he did not want to call attention to himself through the use of magic cast outside his magically protected residence at Nivhol.
As Kirian stepped on the boulder, it seemed as if the boulder fell away beneath him for it was invisible now but its sturdy presence was still apparent. It was as if they were falling through the earth and then being hastened along a tunnel below the earth at speeds greater than even Windswept could attain. The smell of the soil was relaxing, gentle fires from the earth warmed the travelers as they sped by, moist dew descended to wash away the cares of the mind, and then a refreshing wind passed them to dry the dew as their passage through the gate ended.
Kirian, his son, and Windswept appeared on a similar boulder but a much older and larger version of the boulder from the other forest. Kirian’s breath was taken away as he saw sunrise take shape over the magical Shaiim forest of which ancient legend had spoken. The wondrous noises of nature abounded. Squirrels darted here and there on tiny missions only known to themselves. Deer and foxes came to stare at the newcomers. A number of other animals with multicolored pelts that Kirian could not name approached. The birds chirped and sang praises to the forest. The dew had just set on the carpet of the forest. The sun was golden and provided a deep warmth as it passed over the ancient trees of the forest. There were shady aspens, mossy fir and fern, steadfast oak, leafy pine, alder, and silver wood. Their boughs provided a canopy overall. The tallest trees reached some three hundred feet tall with wide diameters that twenty men could not hug.
Kirian’s son tugged the sleeve of Kirian’s robe. Kirian looked to see what had
Gotten his son’s attention. Kirian saw that a swirl of purple leaves was forming into a path that was wending through the trees in the distance. The ferret that his son was petting ran onto the purple leaf path and stood in the air and indicated with its tiny claws that they should follow.
The travelers proceeded to follow the brown little ferret that was chattering and looking back now and then to make sure that they were still following. They passed small crystal clear and pure streams of icy water dotted throughout the path. The gurgle of brooks could be heard. Soon the rush of a wondrous waterfall from the heights of an enclosed valley could be heard and then finally seen.
The traveler’s path ended at the center of the valley in a small clearing facing the waterfall. The waters parted and a wizened lady in a green flowing robe with flower accents walked from out of the waters. Where her bare feet touched the land, new flowers arose. Flowers already there caressed her as she moved past them. The trees of the valley fairly bowed to her. There was no other explanation for their movement for there was no wind. The animals of the forest peaked through the brush and were completely silent in reverent awe. There were a few impertinent fairies that approached the Urath mother and they were met with a loving touch.
It seemed like it was taking the Urath mother a long time to reach Kirian. He then realized that he had been holding his breath. At the same time, he let it out. The Urath mother said in the gentle voice of the aspens, “Be at peace”. Finally, she reached Kirian. Kirian could see her sparkling wise eyes that changed back and forth from viridian to a water blue. What Kirian had thought to be a green flowing robe was inaccurate. Moss and grass and other greenery he knew not had formed her clothing. The flowers that accented the living robe grew there and were not cut for ornamentation. The age lines on her face were many but faded in and out. Kirian knew that the Urath mother, Terel Xaranth, was ancient and lived on Urath an uncountable number of years. She was the protector of all living things in her forest as well as the other forests that dotted Urath. Though, Terel Xaranth stood but five foot two, she had the awesome presence of the entire forest and all its secrets and lore wrapped into her. She was a being of near absolute power and compassion. He knew he had made the right decision for the protector of his son.
Terel Xaranth greeted Kirian by hugging him close as if she had known him all his life. She kissed the palms of each hand and his forehead where his third eye was. She also patted Windswept as he vigorously nuzzled her and then she produced sugar cubes and an apple from the sleeve of her flowing robe. She suspended these items in the air so that the horse could partake. A gasp of delight escaped the Urath mother as she said, “Ah, there is a little one about. The earth has told me. I must see this marvelous creature.”
Kirian said, “You will be the first being that I have let see or even know of his presence. His mother does not even know that he is alive. She believes him to be dead of a miscarriage. It is a small price in guilt I must bear to pay for his safety.”
The Urath mother held his hand and said soothingly, “All things can be forgiven when there is sufficient reason for their occurrence. Do not hold me in suspense a moment longer. The earth and Shaiim forest will prevent anyone, even the Dark Lord, from detecting him. I have seen to it.”
Kirian dropped the veil of illusion that had been complete. His son was now visible to all in the forest. Kirian saw that now his son looked like an animal, insect, tree, or any other such forest item as the need demanded. This was even more wondrous than the illusion that he had maintained for nearly a year. The child walked than ran to Terel Xaranth. Where the child touched, the robe seemed to flow over him as if to cloak him as well. The robe seemed to detach part of itself as it fit over the child like a new set of clothes. His son laughed and indicated that it tickled. Terel Xaranth scooped him up and Urath-blessed him as she cast bits of bark, soil, grass, small fiery cinders and dew onto his small head. A small rune was emblazoned where the bones of the skull meet on the top of the head. The Urath had baptized him. His son had a profound look on his face and he gently kissed Terel Xaranth. She beamed with joy. She said, “Such a one has never been born before, he shall be greater even than Daavonell.”
Kirian did not know what to say for the kindness and protection that the Urath mother had bestowed. Terel Xaranth then said, “I know why you are here. The Urath has whispered it to me. I shall be your son’s protector and shall give my life for him if it were ever to come to that. Nothing shall take away the hope of this world. You must name your son and pass on his birthright. I have seen in the tunnels of the Urath that you have other heavy burdens to bear. The creator blesses those who perform selfless deeds. Be not afraid, your passing will be swift as was your wife’s passing. Do not forget that I have kissed your third eye. For all other memory of our meeting shall be erased for the protection of your child. Now you must name him.”
Kirian reached towards his son. His son approached him knowing in some small way that his life would change forever in the next few moments. He was excited yet sad as well. Kirian, tears staining his cheeks, touched his son’s forehead and looked into his eyes and then into the heavens above as he intoned with truth, intention, and need to seal the name binding, “You shall be known as Arondar from this moment forth, son of Kirian and Elia Allustriel, sacred and blessed subject of the creator AR also known as ODONAR. Arondar in the ancient Hebreic tongue means “Herald of Light”. Allustriel reconfirms your destiny – heavenly star of light. You shall be the herald of the light that has the chance to banish the darkness on Urath. AR grant that you are successful. You are the last of the long-lived line of AR wizards that have existed since the world was young. The knowledge of all who have gone before us is contained in this amulet. The magical knowledge of the ages is contained within if you have the might, measure, and magic to access it.” Kirian then placed the amulet and pendant around Arondar’s slender neck. As Kirian did this, he felt a loss as if he had been carrying a great weight for a very long time. This concluded the age-old naming ritual. Kirian embraced Arondar and kissed him with all his fatherly love. Kirian, emotionally spent, then fashioned an illusion to replace the amulet on his breast so that none would know the difference.
Terel Xaranth called to Arondar with her Urathlore and told him to pick up an acorn that suited him. Arondar picked up a crystal silverwood the rarest of trees. Terel Xaranth turned towards Kirian and said he has chosen his staff of wizardry. It shall grow with him as he grows. I have a favor in return to ask of your son.”
Kirian asked, “Will he understand what you are asking?”
Terel Xaranth replied, “You would be amazed what Arondar can understand already. Urathlore is silently teaching him as we speak. Kirian, you and your son must promise that you will protect the forest as I will protect your son. There will be a time when I shall require a seed. Arondar will know when the time is right and what to do. Do you agree?”
Kirian and Arondar both nodded their heads. Terel Xaranth said, “Kirian you must pursue your destiny. Your mightiest task has been accomplished. You shall soon be at peace. You must leave before your absence is detected.”
Kirian said, “I do not know how to thank you for your gift Urath mother.”
Terel Xaranth, moist crystals at the corners of her eyes, said, “You have already thanked me by blessing me with the son I never had. Tell Elia that I will try to be as good a mother as she would have been. We shall meet again. Are you ready to forget the events that have transpired here?”
Kirian replied, “ I am.” Kirian hugged his son and kissed him one last time. Terel Xaranth touched Kirian above both eyes with a small twig-like wand she had concealed in the sleeve of her robe.
Kirian awoke as if from a dream. He saw a vast forest with no other beings present. The next moment he and Windswept were at the outskirts of what seemed to be a smaller forest. For the life of him he could not remember why he was riding Windswept or for that matter why he had left Nivhol in the first place. Also, unknown to him, he could not remember that he had ever had a son or that he knew that he would die.
It had been several days since Kirian had left Nivhol to ride Windswept. He could still not remember why he had left just before dawn. Maybe he had just needed to clear his head. He missed Elia but reconciled to himself to the fact that she would in all likelihood be back in less than three days now. Kirian turned back to the affairs of Nivhol. There were a number of missives and messages to which he must attend.
The day was drawing to a close. Much of the business of Nivhol had been concluded. Kirian returned to his chambers after a long session with the council of wizards regarding common matters. However, the main topic of discussion had been the ever-increasing incursions by evil beings into the lands of Heltain. Something must be done soon to curb this aggression and potentially push back the enemy. This was a problem that the entire realm would have to weigh in on and would have to decide on a plan of action. However, this was a topic of discussion that would have to wait until he could sleep on it and collect his thoughts.
A knock at the door shook Kirian out of his revelry. Kirian spoke the words, “Come in.” A hooded person in crimson robes entered. His voice was familiar to Kirian and sounded like a member of the wizard council that he had just left only an hour or so ago. However, the person’s mannerisms did not match his voice. Kirian now saw the face as the hood was dropped. The shock of seeing the half demonic-half human face froze Kirian for the moment it took the Demra to cast an entrapment spell. This particular spell prevented sound and thought from leaving the room. Kirian shouted, “What have you done with mmmmmm?” The name of the council member would not come out of his mouth. This was part of the entrapment spell. There would not be any trace of the Demra’s identity unless Kirian could defeat and escape the Demra. Kirian had a vague tingling in the back of his mind as if he should have known this would happen. Kirian then said, “I will send you back to Gehenim where you belong.”
The Demra laughed and said, “You have not the power. You are but mortal and have expended too much of your magic throughout the years to even make this interesting. You should have sensed me and revealed my disguise long before this moment. Where is the much-vaunted power of the wizards of AR? I would think the last one would have learned something from his ancestors.”
Kirian knew that the Demra was right. He had used so much of his magic in the past but he could not remember why. This troubled him; but he had to put it aside to deal with the immediate danger that he was confronting. Kirian concentrated on his heritage pendant. However, the item was strangely silent.
At that moment, the Demra struck Kirian with a bolt of pure evil swirled in purple and black malevolent whispers of despair that wracked his mind and body. Kirian could not focus his mind. He felt like he was a spectator watching some event that he had no influence on. Kirian cast a desperate shielding spell to block the vile magics that the Demra was using against him. As this spell was cast, the defenses set into his chambers took effect. Brilliant beams of white and blue radiance slammed into the Demra pushing him back and blasting his chest with holy light.
The Demra just smiled and said, “Is this the best that you can do? I have weakened the defenses that you had thought were impregnable. How you mortals over estimate your strength. If only your magic was as strong as your convictions.” The Demra then cast a counter spell to dispel the defensive magic that Kirian had launched.
Kirian was then alone again with only himself to draw upon. Kirian’s options for offense and defense were dwindling. He knew he had a last desperate attempt to try and banish the Demra. He knew he could not magically overwhelm the creature. However, the Demra knew he would try this tactic. As Kirian cast the spell of banishment which would take all of his remaining power, the Demra bifurcated his essence to span two spatial locations. The portion of his being that could be banished was sent to his protected inscribed pentacle. The part of his essence that embodied appearance and human form with only residual vestiges of the Demra remained in Kirian’s chambers.
Kirian spoke the words of banishment and saw that the holy words of power passed through and beyond the Demra without effect, dissipating into thin wisps. Kirian did not at first recognize what had happened. Then, understanding dawned on him that the Demra had separated and protected that part of his being that could be affected by banishment. Now that the power that the spell invoked was gone, the Demra’s essence flowed back into the Demra like fetid swamp water filling a sewer system. Kirian now knew he needed to prepare to die. His magic had been exhausted and there was nothing left to draw upon.
As the Demra began to cast the killing spell, a strong, shielded memory buoyed and uplifted Kirian. He saw Terel Xaranth in his mind’s eye, felt her warmth and love as well as vague comforting recollections of the memories that Kirian had forgotten including loving memories of his wife Elia and his son Arondar. A feeling of peace and contentment and hope for the future filled Kirian as he cast the spell that Terel Xaranth had imparted to him. As the killing stroke of magic came, a disguised time released, illusion disruption spell traveled along the Demra’s magic to reside in its right hand. Kirian now knew that there would be a time in the future when this covert magic would be needed. The killing spell engulfed Kirian burning away his mortal form. His soul now free to join with ODONAR. The Demra, although pleased with itself, had the briefest gnawing feeling that this victory may have been a hollow one instead of the great victory he and Darkon believed it to be.