Chapter 1: The Nowhere Sphere

In a nowhere place, everything is possible.

At the time of Tianoman Valla’s Naming, a blue sphere hovers in the scrying bowl, along with a silver cathron in an ebony floor. The time for that future is due, for beyond realms and the known universe, a mighty manipulation commences, and it assumes the form of blue spherical space.

This is a Nowhere Sphere.

Tianoman is kidnapped by an enemy believed dead, and taken to the place where a silver cathron knocker lurks in the darkness of a polished surface, where also a crucible swirls in vapour, creating within an entity that cannot be permitted life.

An entire planet is vaporised, and souls scream for release in the aftermath. As Torrullin Valla’s memory returns after the event on Echolone, his ability to forgive is buried in the layers time has laid down, and now he needs to care, to feel again, to forgive. He must travel the void created by anti-matter to find not only Tianoman and the other Vallas, but also Elianas Danae, for he will suffer most.

In Nowhere, everything that moves in hearts, minds and souls will become the answers Torrullin requires to again known himself. It will also unmask the Danae.

Chapter 1

Purple cups pointed skyward, filled with morning dew. Already the early risers buzzed, waiting for the moisture to lift. It would be a spectacular day in the natural world. It would be a day of reckoning in the supernatural.

~ Universal Prophet ~


HIS EYES WERE SHUT. His mouth was dry. His heart beat erratically. These were the signs of fear.

Rayne, however, was entirely unaware that fear existed. He knew not the concept, the emotion or the reality of it. It had never factored and, therefore, went unrecognized. Yet he comprehended something was different, otherwise, alien … new. He could not give it a name, but he understood, once he grasped this difference, change would follow in its wake. He wondered, only briefly, if change was welcome or something to be shunned. He had no premise upon which to base judgement.

Why was that?

For the first time since the accident that removed from his mind all memory of his past, he wondered why it felt as if he was two-dimensional. In fact, he wondered why he never asked questions of any kind. Had he been living in a vacuum? Or was that vacuum the sum total of life and its experiences? Surely not?

Rayne forced his eyelids open. For a moment he was disorientated, his surroundings strange, and then sunlight picked at his pupils and, a moment after, daylight flooded over him.

A dream?

He drew breath, then another and another until his heartbeat evened out and his clammy skin normalised. He licked his lips and found that the dryness was only in his imagination, in the moment between oblivious sleep and near-wakefulness. All was well in his world.

Breathing out a last forceful breath, he gave a rueful groan and pushed up. Swinging his legs over the edge of the bed, he clawed his way to the new day, and rose slowly. A stretch came next and a luxurious yawn. He rolled his neck and headed for the bathroom.

Halfway there, he came to a halt.

Dream? He did not dream. Night after night he slept the sleep of the dead because day after day everything was the same. Only experience encouraged images in the dark, the prompts of a mind reworking what it saw, felt or heard in wakefulness.

Only experience encourages … his heart thumped. Where does that thought come from? What is wrong with me?

How did he now understand the concept dreaming? Rayne swivelled indecisively upon the balls of his feet. Again, his heart played its new game. He turned his head to the left, to the almighty view of nature untamed and the potent vista of an ocean so blue it defied description. He frowned. He knew he preferred the majesty of the sea in storm and darkness, an untamed state that spoke to his deeper places. Moving his head to the right, he glanced into the chamber leading from his.

It was empty. His brother was already up, no doubt preparing the morning meal as he did daily. His brother thrived in the routine of a day, always claiming it eased the mind to know the timing of events. Elianas would have answers or would do his best to find them. His brother was there with him when he awakened to a life without a past and recovered from the accident. He would understand what these new and strange feelings and insights meant.

He, Rayne, could trust in that.

Impatient, he headed to the bathroom.

A few minutes later he entered the dressing room and his hands hovered over loose-fitting pants and a bright blue shirt, a comfort and a style he was familiar with. The loose clothes were perfect for wandering in the garden and along well-tended paths … and he hated them. He wore them daily and never questioned the choice, and now he hated them. He despised well-tended paths also. He did not much enjoy routine either.

Biting back an oath, he allowed instinct to guide him and chose clothes he thought more suited. Slowly he dressed, his thoughts skittering from one angle to another, never finding a hold that led to illumination.

Change was the only certainty.

EGGS WERE BEATEN and ready for the pan, the toast was done, and coffee brewed. Breakfast would be a minute or two to serving once Rayne decided to come to table. A smile flitted across Elianas’ face. Rayne could be relied upon to be unreliable. If Rayne did not show soon, he would have to wake the man.

His brother could be trying sometimes. He fought eating, walking and sleeping at set times, but it was best for him at this stage of his recovery to function within a daily schedule.

Elianas straightened cutlery, placed the butter, salt and pepper in the centre of the table, and wiped his hands on a cloth. The eggs would spoil if …

Ah. A tread in the passage beyond. Rayne was awake. He returned to the stove to place the pan upon the heat, but halted movement upon seeing the manner of Rayne’s arrival. Elianas swallowed and the ice of premonition washed him cold.

Dark eyes searched the grey of the fair man entering. “Rayne?” he managed, and silently thanked the gods it came out steady. “I have not seen you wear black before.” I have not seen you wear black since you surrendered memory.

Rayne shrugged. “This morning I realise how much I hate fancy colours. I have much black in there, yet never wear any, thought I would try it.”

Goddamn it, I should have removed his black clothes. There had not been time to do so and, after, taking anything away would have raised questions he could not satisfactorily have answered.

Dark eyes dropped away. Elianas moved to the stove. “It suits you.”

Rayne smiled. “I thought so.”

“Did you sleep well?” A steady hand placed the pan where it had to go, and a firm wrist whisked the eggs a final time before pouring the mixture. Everything was automatic, for his thoughts were in disarray and food was the last matter he considered.

What has changed?

A sigh erupted from Rayne. “I believe I was dreaming.”

Elianas twitched. Fright. Ice. All gods. “Dreaming?”

“I think so. I awoke feeling peculiar and it occurred to me I was dreaming. I never dream, brother.”

There was confusion in Rayne’s voice. With his back to the man, a brother could close his eyes and offer up a prayer to all gods and goddesses. Please, leave him in peace. He is not yet ready. am not yet ready.

Aloud Elianas said, “People dream, Rayne. You simply do not remember in the morning.”

Had he looked, he would have seen grey eyes narrow. Peripherally, he noted a hand reach up to brush fair hair away from eyes. In the silence eggs scrambled.

“Elianas. Look at me.”

Rayne’s tone was not as accepting as it had been in the months of recovery. Elianas hauled the pan off the heat and faced the enigma of this new day, hoping his face revealed only serenity. Rayne, dressed in tight-fitting black breeches and a woven black tunic, feet encased in black boots, studied him, a small frown marring his forehead. Then he took a single step forward. Elianas take a small step backward. Rayne’s eyes narrowed and this time Elianas saw it, and understood there was intent present.

“Why are you different?” Rayne asked.

Elianas shook his head. “You are different, Rayne.”

A moment elapsed, and a nod followed. “Granted, but you seem afraid.” Another eternal moment passed. “Elianas, I have no concept of fear.”

The man with dark eyes and hair almost gnashed his teeth. “Of course you do. You have merely forgotten how it feels, for there is nothing to fear here.”

An eyebrow arched. “Truly? And what else have you withheld … brother?”

“I am not sure I know what it is you infer.”

Rayne stepped forward another pace and this time Elianas stayed in place. Rayne took another step, another and another until he was close.

Grey eyes impaled him. “I am not sure I know either, but today I know something is different in me, and in you. I further understand your difference is because of mine. I would like to know why that is.”

Elianas smiled. “You are tired …”

“I sleep too much as it is. I am not tired. You side-step.”

Elianas swore, moved from the stove and strode from the kitchen. He needed space to think.

Rayne watched him go – he felt those eyes – and called out, “Where is your black, brother? Are we not a pair?”

Seconds of silence ensued and then Elianas stood in the doorway. His dark eyes were unreadable, his posture stiff with inner tension. “Advice, brother, from one who loves you and has taken care of you these past months, Leave this new angle alone and allow time to heal all wounds first. The moment comes when you will be strong enough to cope.”

“Thus you are hiding something from me.”

“I am protecting you.”

“From what?”


Rayne strode nearer. “I like that not.”

“No, you would not, but I am not saying more.”

Gripping Elianas by the collar, Rayne slammed him against the wall, and then swore and released him immediately. “Suddenly, dreams, the understanding of something called fear, and now capacity for violence. I feel as if another seeks freedom, and he lives in this skin. Who am I, Elianas?”

The hairs in his neck spiked in dread, but Elianas remained calm. “You are Rayne.”

“What am I?”

“A man recovering from a terrible accident.”

Rayne scowled. “Why do I think that is a mistruth?”

Elianas sighed and told the truth, as far as it could go. “You know you lost recall, and it may now be returning. This will be a confusing time for you, but I will help you understand. Just give it time.”

“Time,” Rayne echoed.

Elianas swallowed. He dared say no more.

Rayne glanced into the kitchen. “I seem to have little appetite this morning. I am going for a walk.”

Elianas nodded. Perhaps activity would distract him.

“But not on well-tended paths. They have their place, I know, but this day I aim to seek out the wild places.” Rayne gave a tight smile.

Elianas’ fingers curled into unseen claws.

Rayne walked away. Elianas noticed the hunter stalk had returned to how he moved. Until yesterday Rayne’s movements were more casual. Returning memory would also restore inherent bearing. The dark man slumped against the wall. All gods, he was not ready.

“Elianas, do you think it will storm soon?”

He jerked his head to the left to see Rayne standing in cat-like silence and patience nearby. He shivered within. Stealth was back as well. “I have no idea.”

“Pity. I hanker after a storm.”

“Perhaps it will soon enough. Autumn approaches.”

Rayne inclined his head and continued down the passage. He spoke over his shoulder, “I shall discover my true self in the insanity of a storm, I think. Pray it is soon.”

He vanished from sight.

Long, terrible minutes passed before Elianas could move.

That is what I fear most, my brother. I do fear you may discover your true self in the insanity of a storm. I have prayed for benign weather daily and then I have prayed I have succeeded in blocking your memories sufficiently, in the event the weather does as it does without harking to prayer. That insanity has ever driven us to extremes, and you may never forgive me for removing the other insanity, the one that binds us. All gods, I pray you never remember. A new tomorrow may drive us apart.


Chapter 1: The Echolone Mine

Step over the threshold at your peril!

The real truth about the Valleur through the ages is uncovered when exploiters delve the green hills of Echolone for gold. After an ancient door is discovered in the bowels of the earth, it serves to unmask the hidden power Elianas carries within, a power that places him on the same pedestal Torrullin, as Elixir, already inhabits.

The two men swerve through different realms unravelling what now lies between them and every step reverberates in reality. As loved ones pay the ultimate price, old enemies again step forward to challenge their right to rule, particularly Nemisin, First Father of the Valleur.

Nemisin desires above all else to be the One and will do everything in his power to wrest the title from Torrullin, even using his daughter against Elianas, thereby unsettling a powerful partnership. In this he is not alone, for Tymall, Warlock, seeks to sunder that connection as well.

In a time when all seers’ visions and dreams cease, revelations are given to those who have never before experienced them at the site of a mysterious door in a mine. Here is a mystery and it requires solving, but the answers will change the future, in reality and realms.

Greed is able to create massive chaos. It will unbalance everything. Delving deep is able to construct fissures in time. It will release hidden truth.

It will also shatter sacred space.

Chapter 1

“Ten years of study (sorcery) has taught me this truth. Do not assume what you see is the only reality. Everything can be manipulated, even time … and particularly the perception of tangibles.”

~ From Le Matt Dalrish’s diary


THE AMBER-SKINNED man with his flowing dark hair and the golden-toned one with fair tresses attracted no attention on the beach. They certainly were something to draw the eye in appreciation. Stripped down to a loincloth each, they wandered in the surf soaking up the sun. For them it had been cold too long, and sunshine was the gift of the present. They did not speak much, and often wandered far apart.

Fact was, there was no other on the beach to see or hear them, and that was how they preferred it.

There remained unoccupied worlds where paradise was a siren song, and this was one of those. Numbered perhaps XT 492 on parallel 365W 684S, it was a world removed from most, a number somewhere in a logbook – maybe.

The two men had been in paradise for ten days – the almighty ten of other surpassingly strange journeys – and ate off the land, slept under the stars and soaked up the heat during the day. They said little, for words were not required; recharging minds suffered under the weight of words.

The time arrived, however, to move on. The time for words was again at hand. An interlude was just that – a period between other events – and time did not stand still, and people – others – did not wait forever.

ELIANAS HAD WANDERED far, lost to view and his thoughts, but when he returned with seaweed and coconuts in hand, he found Torrullin inserting long legs into black breeches. He dropped his bounty, and Torrullin looked up.

“It is time to go,” Torrullin said.

“I see that. Did something set you off?”

An amused smile blossomed on the fair man’s tanned face. “No. I just think if we do not leave, sunshine will do for me what storms do for you.”

Elianas drew a breath. It was the first real admission in ages. Yet the hidden parts of him recognised it could be wishful thinking. Torrullin often spoke impulsively. He would not easily sunder brotherhood by taking a step closer to a truth unacknowledged. He strolled to the fallen log where they discarded clothes ten days ago. That had been fraught with tension, until the rhythm of paradise soothed wounded feelings.

Now getting dressed was the stranger act. Elianas turned his back, removed his loincloth to shake the sand out, and reluctantly drew the confining breeches on. He did not bother arguing for staying; in his heart he knew also it was time to move on.

A moment later he virtually left his skin when Torrullin’s arm brushed against his back as he moved to retrieve his tunic. He glanced over his shoulder to see Torrullin, grinning, emerge from the garment. Irritated, he snatched up his own and dragged it over his head.

“Relax, Elianas. We cannot be self -conscious now.”

“Bugger off, will you?”

“It’s not as if I haven’t seen you naked …” Torrullin laughed when he landed on his back. “Oh, come on!”

“You are playing with me.”

“I am making light of an uncomfortable situation.” Torrullin found a perch on the log to put his boots on.

Elianas joined him to do the same, muttering, “Who the hell invented clothes? This is too constricting.” He pulled the neck of his tunic wide, craning his chin forward.

“It was made to cover men far too beautiful for their own good,” Torrullin murmured.

Elianas grinned, taking the compliment in his stride. “Not women?”

“We are by far the prettier species,” Torrullin laughed.

Elianas gave him a taunting once over. “I guess you could call yourself pretty, yes.”

He earned a cuff to the back of the head, and then Torrullin stood to buckle on his sword belt. As the scabbard bounced against his thigh, he said, “We must acquire you a blade.”

“My thoughts also. First a decent bath to wash the sand and sun from my hair.”

“And they say women are vain.”

“Yours needs the whole treatment,” Elianas grinned.

“Yltri’s hot springs? That way we remain removed from people.”

“Good. You lead, I follow.”

Broken coconut shells lay in a pile under the largest palm tree and Elianas’ bounty was discarded on the beach, but other than footprints, there was nothing to show they had been there. With regret, they left.


AFTER A SWIM and hair scrubbing in the springs of Yltri, they headed to Fortani, where Torrullin knew a master blacksmith, a man with a flair for the perfect blade, who knew how to match sword and man together. They spent three hot hours in the forge as blade after blade was presented, examined, tested and discarded.

Finally successful, they headed towards the nearest lake, this time cold water, to dive the sweat away. After, they sat on the bank redoing bootlaces for the third time that day.

“When have you last wielded a sword?” Torrullin asked.

“Literally ages,” Elianas replied.

He hefted the new blade and rose to take practice swings. Then he squared off towards Torrullin, jiggling his eyebrows. Smirking, Torrullin withdrew Trezond, and they commenced the ancient dance of swordsmen.

Metal clashed upon metal and grunts and gasps kept pace. Torrullin eventually disarmed Elianas, standing heaving with his blade at the man’s neck.

“Not bad, my brother. A good workout.”

Elianas pushed the blade aside. “Now I need another swim.”

Boots and all they jumped in and employed magic after to dry themselves again.

STILL ON FORTANI, they discovered an out of the way inn and stopped there for a proper meal. Four old men sat at a table in a far corner and thus they had space to talk. Over duck, vegetables and wine they discussed where to go next.

“I have been thinking,” Elianas began. “We have had time aplenty between us, and yet we always focused on the main events. We missed the by-play.”

Torrullin lifted an eyebrow, prepared to be amused.

“I am not joking. Always it is this evil or that task. It was family scandal, future concerns, past mistakes and so forth. We never stood still long enough to see around us. Take Beacon, for example. I know you have been there, and I know I have been there, although not at the same time, and what were we doing? I was following a clue, swiftly in, swifter out. You were probably about some diplomacy, and what did we see?”

“A giant city-world?”

“Right. First impression, only impression.”

“Your point?”

“Once Beacon was empty, and then settlers came. Who were they, how long ago did they arrive and what made them so special they took to the skies? What did they revere? What magic of those early years remains? Beacon may be a bad example, but there are other civilisations on other worlds, each with something unique, some ancient spark, and that is magic. We have walked by unseeing. We may have learned something new or strange or entirely profound, funny, insane, and we did not. Books do not tell us everything.” Elianas pointed a finger. “You wanted to go travelling when you came to say goodbye on Mariner Island, Torrullin.”

“Instead, we landed up in paradise together.”

Elianas’ eyelids flickered, but he said nothing.

Torrullin was thoughtful. “World to world, travelling archaeologists? I like it.”

Elianas leaned forward. “We have a new future and our past is now adrift. We live at the same time in the same space. This is our time and place now. We should know the past of the present as others know it. We are no longer about redemption and bloodlines.”

“You suspect if we research the past not influenced by the Valleur, we may find our personal future is not clouded.”

“I hate not seeing what is coming. Yes, I hope research is more than interest.”

“Why, Elianas? Gods, for once we do not have to look over our shoulders every minute, or stress about what comes next.”

Elianas placed a hand flat on the table. “You think eating and buying a sword roots us? You think touching this old piece of wood here makes us real? We are swerving spaces, Torrullin, and we have no purpose. What will we do? Skirt around this hefty question and intent between us until we drive each other mad?”

“Ten tension free days meant nothing?”

“It meant everything, but now we must move on or it will mean nothing soon. And it wasn’t tension free.”

A smile acknowledged that. “I guess not.”

“Why not start with Beacon?”

Torrullin pulled a face. “I hate Beacon.”

“More reason. If we find something there, where is the limit? We may even discover new respect for Beaconites.”

“I doubt it, but I get your point.”

“Fine. You lead, I follow.”

Torrullin wondered what the real purpose was, but he owed Elianas far more than the man owed him. He thumped the table. “Innkeeper, how many coins are due?”


Chapter 1: The Nemesis Blade

His name is Elianas.

Torrullin’s sanctuary is invaded by a desperate call through the spaces. Someone has stolen the Xenian seer Lowen Dalrish, and he suspects Agnimus, the draithen who nearly annihilated his world and then vanished without a trace.

It is time for the Animated Spirit to stand forth.

Meanwhile three Valla heirs await the rising of the Valleur Throne; only one will be chosen as Vallorin. When a prophecy is uncovered about Three Kingdoms and rumours of an army secretly building to prevent it, Torrullin realises the three heirs to the Throne are in danger, for the warmongers believe he will carve out three kingdoms, one for each heir.

It is time to deploy Nemesis, the mighty blade forged of two, of both darak and lumin.

As activity becomes frenetic in the spaces, the dark man of Torrullin’s visions and dreams stirs and becomes aware of the newness in the ether. He now seeks release from his long incarceration. He knows how to find the missing seer; more than that, he is the catalyst to releasing long-suppressed memory.

It is time for Torrullin’s Nemesis to stand forth. His name is Elianas.

Chapter 1

Listen not only with ears, friend. Listen also with your skin.

~ Arun, Druid


ROCK STRATA SURROUNDING him revealed he was deep within the layering of ancient rock. Shades of colour gave evidence of depth. There was disconcertingly little else to see. It was akin to being far back in time.

Help me!”

Her desperate scream assaulted him anew and he swung swiftly, seeking, ever seeking. That terrified plea was behind him, as it was behind a moment ago, and the moment before, and yet he found nothing every time he moved, and found nothing now … only the sad echoes of opportunities forever lost.

Then the uncaring rock moved to close in and he was the one screaming.

TORRULLIN SAT UP, sweat-drenched and chilled. The sheets were twisted, pillows on the floor and there were scuffling sounds in the night. He took a breath, another and another to still his pounding blood, and swiped damp hair from his face. Ordinary sounds filled the dark – crickets, a far nightjar, perhaps a mouse in the closet – nothing alien, nothing frightening. A dream, and he was in his bed and there was no danger.

Shivering, he rose and found his robe by touch, pulled it on and wrapped his arms about his chest for warmth. Swallowing, he headed to the bathroom for a drink of water, and did not bother with lights.

On his way back to bed, he halted in the centre of the large and darkened space.

Help me!”

Torrullin swore under his breath and closed his eyes to listen to the echoes, really listened, but there was no more. He stood a long time waiting for the cry to repeat and, when it was not forthcoming, knew with certainty he would not hear it again. It had now gone beyond his ability to perceive, and it meant one of three possibilities.

One, it had been a dream and his waking mind toyed with him. Two, she was already dead, and that should not be possible. Three, god help her, she was in real danger, had sent a call, and was now masked from him.

Fingers tightened on the fabric of the robe. A disturbing, repeated dream he could swallow, for it no doubt spoke of his turmoil over this woman. Death he did not see as likely, for she was like to him. But the latter did not sit well.

He was in motion. The robe flew across the chamber, he dressed feverishly, returned to the bathroom to splash water on his face, brushed his teeth with hurried movements, and then vanished from there. There was one person able to understand. Even if he said not a word, his presence aided clarity.



TEIGHLAR, SENLU EMPEROR and lord of Grinwallin, looked up in surprise from his midday meal. The sun-dappled portico threw geometric shadows over his pale face, darkening his blue eyes to the colour of deep water.


“Gods, it’s day here … thank Aaru, for I need a stiff drink.” Torrullin flopped into a seat opposite the Emperor, shifting his sword out of the way when it bit into his thigh.

“Hello to you, too,” Teighlar muttered. “There is only wine on the table, but help yourself.”

Torrullin was already pouring. “Forgive me, my friend. Am I intruding?” He barely tasted the first glass, slugging it back without appreciation.

“Besides ruining my taste buds with your rudeness? No. Is something wrong?” Teighlar pushed his meal aside. “You are armed, as ever, but I see you give the blade little attention. So what is it?”

The second glass went down more slowly. “Dreams.”

“Ah. Bad?”

“Yes. This is excellent wine.”

“Thank you. It is Senlu red, about five years old, and thank the gods you have reverted to more civilised behaviour. My winemakers would shudder to see your treatment of their finest. I assume it is night back on your sanctuary world, you just dreamed, and now hasten to me and daylight?”

“I did not realise it was day.”

“You were to pull me from my bed, then?” Teighlar grinned.

Torrullin responded in like fashion. “If necessary.” The grin vanished and he set his goblet down. “Fourth night in a row, damn it. Exactly the same.”

“Why come to me? I am no expert.”

“You are a friend.”

“You want a sounding board.”

“Maybe.” Torrullin lifted a shoulder.

“That bad.”

“I fool myself into seeing a dream as a mere dream, but tonight I heard her after I awakened.”

“Heard who?”

Torrullin pulled a face. “Lowen.”

“Ah. Erotic dreams?”

“I do not have erotic dreams, Emperor.”

Teighlar snorted. “Then you are unique as a man.”

“Dreams do not do justice to reality.”

“Lucky, too, as a man,” Teighlar muttered, finding himself currently between mistresses.

“Lowen is in danger and cries for help. I hear her only in a dream.”

Teighlar sobered. “A premonition?”

Torrullin frowned. “I do not know. I hope so.”

“You hope so?”

“I can do something, idiot, if it is premonition.”

“Of course. Have you tried to find her?”


Teighlar swirled his tongue inside his mouth, throwing his friend a thoughtful look. The subject of Lowen, he was well aware, was a sensitive issue, and largely taboo.

“Perhaps you should find her, then, and check on the veracity of your dream.”

Torrullin stared at him, but was not really looking.


A slow focus. “The rock encloses me. Why is that?”

“I am afraid you have lost me.”

“In the dream I turn again and again to find her and there is nothing, only rock, layers, strata. The rock moves to envelop me and I am the one screaming – it does not make sense. I have no fear of enclosed space and I would simply transport away from that kind of situation in reality. Why am I afraid?”

Teighlar poured more wine and lifted his glass to stare into the ruby depths. “Sounds like Grinwallin rock.”

Torrullin’s gaze sharpened. “Why do you say that?”

Teighlar took a long pull of the wine and swallowed. He gestured with the vessel at the arches nearby; Grinwallin, the inner city’s entry into the mountain.

“I often feel as if the stones in that mighty mound are alive, sometimes watching, sometimes slumbering, and I have often speculated, were a disaster to befall the actual building blocks of Grinwallin, it would arise.” The Emperor shrugged. “It would be in control. No escape.”

A long silence ensued, and then, “Has Lowen been here?”

Another long silence, for they knew each other’s minds well. “A week ago.”

Torrullin nodded. “What did she discover inside the mountain?”

Teighlar released a breath. “She would not say, and these factors may not be linked.”

Torrullin lifted an eyebrow.

A finger pointed. “You should talk to her, sort this impasse out one way or the other. No, listen to me. She is like the walking dead, and you have shut yourself away from everything. It is unhealthy and that may be the danger in your dream. Talk to her, soon.”

A brief silence answered this time. “I hear you, but that is not it. There is real threat.”

“The more reason to find her.”

Torrullin grimaced. “Where is she?”

“I do not know.”

“Or will not say?”

“Why would I hold out when I am the one advocating you talk? I do not know, for she did not say. She barely spoke to me.”

Torrullin nodded. “How is Grinwallin?”

“As demanding as ever,” Teighlar grinned. Then he was serious. “Samuel was here.”

“How is he?”


A veiled look went to the Emperor. “Why?”

“Curin passed away.”

A deep breath followed. “Damn, I did not know.”

Teighlar tossed him a significant look. “You have separated from too much, Torrullin. Oh, know why, you think you know why, and your family trust they understand, but there are limits.” Teighlar paused there. “Saska was at the funeral.”

Uninterrupted silence arrived in answer.

The Senlu gave a snort. “Elixir is the walking dead. You are a fool! Wake up before the perils – which are many-facetted – in your dreams overwhelm you and you find you are helpless …”

“Teighlar …”

“… no, pal! The rock encloses because it is a warning. Wake up to the issues before only regret finds you.”

Torrullin rose and bowed. “As my Lord Emperor commands.”

“Please, Emperor of what? You are the real master of Grinwallin. I am no fool.”

Torrullin, in the act of leaving, paused. “Grinwallin is yours, Teighlar.”

Teighlar threw his napkin on the table and rose as well. “Have you heard the stones sing to you in the mountain?”

Torrullin blanched.

“Ah. I heard it once, but no more, not since you came. What does that tell you? She heard it when she was here, I suspect, for she is not the idle type. A mystery required solving and Lowen cannot leave stones unturned … stones! Stone and rock – that is Grinwallin. Gods, you have so much, including freedom – just go, before I damage a friendship I hold dearest in my heart.”

Teighlar scowled into the amazing view over the continent Tunin. Grinwallin possessed a mighty vantage point. A brief, self-debating silence ensued, and then Torrullin was gone.


BACK IN HIS DARK bedchamber Torrullin was dissatisfied, restless and angry. Moreover, there was foreboding. In one brief visit with Teighlar the spectres of Lowen, Saska, Samuel and the mystery that was Grinwallin had risen from the ashes of a deliberately damped fire, and he could not ignore them.

He paced, hand straying often to the hilt of his sword. His nemesis at his hip. Would he need it? Was it time for its namesake to put in an appearance?

A beam of light pierced the eastern window and he regarded it in astonishment. Dawn, sunrise, a new day. The Valleur would regard that as an omen. Into the dark of his heart had now come light, chivvying action from inaction, stirring emotions from behind defences.

Torrullin gave a mirthless smile. Fine. It was time to confront Lowen.


The stones of a dreamer are a soul labyrinth.

As the Warlock Tymall steps up his murderous campaign against the Vallas, Torrullin vanishes into a realm created by dreams and need. Paramount is his search for the means to end his son’s reign of terror, and the answer no longer lies in reality. He will suffer the labyrinth of his soul and negotiate the marker stones of his past.

Torrullin must release his demons. To stand at the edge of the abyss, he must retrieve his innocence. He will not stand alone. Guiding him into and through another realm is Lowen Dalrish, the child-woman Torrullin saw as the nemesis of his future.

Another arises, the Warlock’s secret ally, a creature nursing vengeance since ancient days. After Margus breaks oath, this creature’s manipulation is set free, and a new army invades.

The animated spirit, according to legend, is the potion of forever, and his name is Elixir, embodied in one strong enough to see, hear, taste, smell and touch everything everywhere in order to mete out justice. If Torrullin survives the dream realm, does it mean he is strong enough to accept this duty? His world, his people and his loved ones require his strength, as he needs it to face the might of what lies beneath ancient Grinwallin.

After all that went before, Torrullin will face the power of stones raised when time began, before he may bow from the arena. Torrullin prepares, after all, to meet the dark man of his visions.

The time for meeting is now close.

Chapter 1

If it is not created with hands, friend, it is not real.

~ Universal untruth


AN OMINOUS SHUDDER shook the great cavern of magic inside the planet Cèlaver. This was the world within, a biosphere of trees and water and light Torrullin gifted a long-deceased king. Seasons came and went in the heart of the rock; it was true magic, more profound for being inside a world sterile and uninhabitable on the surface. Animals, birds and insects flourished, speaking to the people of the caves and tunnels of life taken for granted elsewhere.

Initial reactions to the chamber after its creation was wonder, and fear. At first the fear was for the incredible power able to bring forth such wonder, entrenching true cycles of nature, to have it continue independent of the source of power. Later that fear developed into something more – the fear of having it vanish to trap them inside the rock the magic displaced. After a time the fear was selfish. Cèlaver grew to love the magic, needed the magic, and was afraid to lose it.

Two thousand years on, fear was forgotten. Nobody now remembered the cavern of wonders was a thing of magic. Forests were real, as were lakes, rivers, pastures, sun, clouds, rain, snow, and wind, all of it. The cycles continued as a force unto itself. The forests were old, died in some areas and renewed in others as nature intended. Watercourses altered after heavy rainstorms. Birds and animals adapted and evolved as well. New species had come. It was real and required no magic to thrive.

Yet it was magic. A space was created.

The shudder intensified and low keening filled the air.

Countless were paralysed with dread. As one, casual strollers, boating fanatics, fishermen, lovers and picnicking families remembered what they had forgotten. Magic.

In log cabins, in tents and in the elements, holidaymakers froze, hikers stumbled on paths, and remembered. Magic.

Something was wrong. Nobody could move and not a sound was spent. If the magic that created this space was to vanish, there simply was no time to reach the exit. Panic would serve no one.

Another tremor rippled through the space. A child cried somewhere, the frightened sound audible into the furthest reaches.

And, abruptly, panic.

THE KING AND his family enjoyed a welcome break from duties, a treat they allowed themselves infrequently, because to enter the cavern was to desire to remain. One stated allotted time at the entrance and if one overstayed, one was prompted to leave. The first king of this magic, Ophuls, instituted the system, having quickly realised the addiction.

Had he not, the entire Cèlaver nation would have moved in, crowding the cavern and killing the wonder. Industry and the like would even today come to a standstill without the system.

His Majesty of the present had three more days available to him, but time had a way of speeding by here and he at first thought they were being prompted to leave, before realising, seeing it in the eyes of his stricken children, the shuddering was widespread, and everyone appeared to hark to the unearthly wailing. By the time panic overcame paralysis, he was ready.

He put a bullhorn to his lips and called for attention. Silence returned and he told them their fear would aid the sundering, and panic would hasten it. He told them to stand fast; to trust in the inherent good of the old enchantment, for doing so would thwart whatever attempted to cause them harm.

Whether it was truth, what he said then in haste, he did not know, for there was no precedent, yet he felt calmer, and relayed his composure on to his people in the certainty of his voice.

Calm prevailed. They stood fast. Rivalries, factions and enmities were forgotten as those within stood together and trusted.

The entire chamber seemed to wobble. It was not the ground as in an earthquake, but the tangible air. Then, a yellow streak of light appeared out of nowhere to race about the vast perimeter, thereafter commencing a crisscross action in the spaces between. A comforting hum overrode the ear-splitting wail, ever stronger and growing, growing, growing …

The Cèlaver watched in wonder and felt renewed. Gradually they joined in with the hum, a harmony of voices, and His Majesty hummed along with them with tears in his eyes.

It felt right. The soul song.

The distortion vanished. The wail receded to a bearable pitch and, heartened, they strengthened the vibration, a full-throated monastic chant that raised gooseflesh on every participant.

It was beautiful, spiritual, uplifting, romantic and mythical.

The wail vanished completely in the overwhelming notes. At first it was drowned out and then it disappeared in truth.

All shuddering stilled and was no more.

The hum continued in homage and thankfulness, and the streak of light slowed and coalesced as a glowing orb in the centre of the mighty chamber. It gradually sank to zigzag its way as if searching, until it halted before His Majesty and hung there.

The king lifted the bullhorn to his mouth and quietly announced the danger had passed. The orb dipped. The humming lessened. The king added Cèlaver now knew how to counteract a future threat, should it come. The humming stopped altogether, and the orb dipped up and down as if it pleased with the king’s insight.

His Majesty lowered the horn and asked in a normal tone, “Is that right? The hum counters?”

The orb dipped again, and then neared. It circled the king’s head once, twice, three times and then hurtled into the magical heavens. Trust in the power of the Light. The words were an unspoken thought transmitted to all.

The orb vanished.

ON A STRIPED blanket a fair distance to the left of the king and his family, two heads swivelled.

“It feels as if Torrullin is with us,” the man said after a moment, and had to clear his throat.

She nodded and lay back to stare up at the magical heavens. “Because he is. Any day now he will wander back into our lives. Two millennia are now officially scrapped.”


Chapter 1: The Sleeper Sword

The Sleeper is Awake

Two thousand years have passed since the epic explosion in what is now called the Black Valley. Torrullin is in the invisible realms and the Darak Or is with him, and the universe enjoys a time of unprecedented peace.

A new threat rises on the cursed horizon.

It is time for the Sleeper Sword to awaken.

Ready to return to Valaris, Torrullin cannot exit the otherworld without aid. Samuel is his kinsman, his fate forged to the greatest sorcerer the cosmos has ever known. He swears to hold his hand out to Torrullin, to aid him home.

The old players gather for a renewal of the fateful games. This time the duel between a father and son will wound many, including Valla kin. Torrullin needs to build a relationship with his grandson Tannil, save Fay from hell, rescue Saska from captivity, and find the means to end Tymall. Their contest will reverberate through the spaces.

In an endless adventure of urgency and drama, the on-going saga of Torrullin’s role as saviour is as a sharp as the sword he reclaims and as blunt as his acerbic tongue. Wherever he goes someone will be hurt. To love him is to be ruined, to hate him is to be ruined.

Perhaps true catharsis lies in the realm of dreams.

Chapter 1

Even after all has changed, time has a way of bringing forth the familiar. One day you look around you and remark, “Nothing has changed.”

~ Book of Sages


Western Isles

Valla Island

“AND WHAT DOES this say, Aunt Fay?” The boy pointed at writing under a depiction of a sceptre.

Fay turned the book to see what caught his attention. “That, Teroux, is Minara’s Sceptre. He travelled much and desired it as proof of his status.”

“He was Vallorin?”

“Indeed, but not for long. The poor man caught a virus on an offworld visit and the Valleur healers did not know how to cure him.”

“That is sad,” the earnest boy whispered.

“It was a long time ago, and we found the virus after. Nobody was sick from it again. We now have an enchantment to arrest alien infections until a cure can be traced or manufactured.”

He nodded sagely. “We did that after the Plague of Torrke.”

“Yes, after that terrible time.”

“Why did he need proof of status? He was Vallorin.”

“Apparently, inquisitive one, he was unsure most of the time. His sceptre gave him authority inside.”

Teroux puckered his lips. His father was Vallorin, and he was not unsure inside. He drew breath to ask another question, but then his father entered, and all thoughts fled. He ran into those waiting arms.

“You were gone so long!”

Tannil squeezed him. “I missed you, too.” He kissed his son on the forehead before lowering him. “Find Kismet and see what I brought back for you.”

Squealing, Teroux charged out.

“You were indeed some time, brother. Problem?”

Tannil crossed the room to embrace Fay, and sat at the table. Drawing the book closer, he answered, “Nothing serious. We seem to have it cleared away.” He smiled at the image. “I take it Teroux asked about this?”

“Oh, yes.” Fay glanced at the books on the table. “He loves the Oracles.”

Her brother grimaced. “He studies them harder than I ever did.”

“You wanted to speak to me?” she asked, distracting him before the gloom of his heritage overcame him anew.

“Yes, Fay.”

“I will not like it, obviously.” She placed her pen on the table, put the letter she attempted to write amid Teroux’s questions face down over it, and folded her hands in her lap. “Tell me.”

He glanced sideways at her. “I have an offer for your hand.”

“Tannil, no. I shall marry where my heart lies.”

“You do not even know …”

“It does not matter, brother. I know I am not in love; thus I am not to wed.”

“Fine. I told him that. Luckily he was not offended.”

“Who?” she asked, curious despite her determination.

Tannil grinned. “Teighlar.”

“Are you completely insane? He is immortal!”

“You are to live a long time.”

“Unable to bear children, unless I have a liaison on the side.”

“Goddess, Fay!”

“Oh, quiet, I would like to be a mother and marrying an immortal will never allow that.” She rose and stood before the window to gaze into the ocean.

This side of the Palace hung out over the depths and white gulls swooped into view, diving from on high into the embrace of the water, erupting, almost without exception, with a fat fish. The sound of the ocean was muted, it was that far below, but the gulls were noisy.

She twitched the sash closed, dampening their never-ending screeches. “Why would the Emperor want to marry me?”

“He thought it would serve to bind the Senlu and Valleur closer.” Tannil, Vallorin of the Valleur, grinned again. “That is what he says, but I think he is rather taken with you.”

She snorted. “He has only seen me once.”

“No man forgets you, dear sister.”

She smiled. “Thank you.”

Fay, short for Fayette, was golden glory akin to most Valleur, yet even among an attractive people she stood out. Her name meant Great Beauty, for she was that, and no man was immune. Suitors delivered marriage proposals daily and she denied them with a kind word or letter; she was busy with such a communication when her brother arrived.

Returning to the table, she stood behind Tannil to ruffle his hair. “You do not need to worry about me, my lord.”

He snorted and swatted her hand away. “Teroux will be an old man before you present him with a cousin.”

“But I shall, one day.” She sat. “Admittedly, the Senlu Emperor is a sexy man.”

A rap at the open door sounded and both looked to see their mother enter, and from behind an excited Teroux barrelled past. The boy jumped at his father, placing kisses all over his face. His grandmother looked on fondly.

“You like, Teroux?” his father ventured, laughing.

Teroux nodded, setting a-wobble golden ringlets, and sidled off his father’s lap. Breathless, he tugged Fay’s hand. “Come see, Aunt Fay! A pony!”

Fay allowed herself to be manipulated. The two vanished into the corridor.

“MOTHER.” TANNIL KISSED his mother’s smooth, perfumed cheek.

“Tannil, a pony?” Mitrill queried. “Where, son, shall we find the space?”

He laughed. “Kismet will work something out, and Teroux should be astride a horse already.” The latter was said with the constraints of an island existence in mind.

“Take him to Luvanor, as you were at that age.”

He grimaced. “I will miss him.”

“You spend much time there already. Teroux will probably see his father more.”

He knew she was right, but Valaris was their home. Then, spending time on Luvanor would broaden Teroux’s horizons, as it did for him. No islands there to confine him, continents of space, incredible diversity and an ancient history. The Valleur had been in these Western Isles too short a time for that kind of antiquity.

“I will think more on it.”

“You should consider moving everyone. As our space declines, families split apart – half here, half on Luvanor.”

He was surprised. She always advocated they remain on Valaris.

“I know what I said in the past. We have grown; soon we cannot sustain ourselves here. Ferrying supplies from Luvanor is impractical.” She approached the table. With deliberation she closed the open volumes of the Oracles. “I, and a few of the court, could remain here.”

Tannil had not expected to broach this subject upon his return, but he was not one to leave things unsaid either. “What does Caltian say?”

Mitrill looked up. “I have not spoken to my husband.”

He stared out of the window at the blue sky. Gulls flitted by with comforting regularity. “How long have you pondered this?”

“A while.” She sat, hands twisting in her lap. “Tannil, we must discuss this, and do so formally with the Elders. I am not advocating mass exile …”

“… but I should transfer my court to Luvanor.”

“It would be a practical choice.”

“I am loath to leave here. Three Valla men gave their lives for Valaris. My father died for the Enchanter, and why? Because the Enchanter loved this world.”

Mitrill shook her head. “Your father loved his father, Tannil, and their deaths were more than a sacrifice to a world. Both of them would prefer the Valleur live without hardship and tension, and if that is on Luvanor they would be the first to make it happen.”

Tannil rose. “Yet we exiled to these islands; you contradict yourself.” He ran a hand over a hefty tome. “You are right, space has become an issue. We shall have your formal discussion and I shall advocate the majority of our people move. Teighlar and I discussed this yesterday.” He looked up. “My court remains here. I shall divide my time between two worlds as I do now. I heard my grandfather speak to me, and I shall hark to his words until I am no longer Vallorin.”

His mother blinked. “You have never spoken of this.”

“You are Mitrill, one of the final few to speak with the Enchanter, and I was there. He recognised me and spoke to me. He asked that you take care of me and look out for his exiled people. He asked something else of me. I aim to remain on Valaris.”

Mitrill paled. “Will you tell me?”

Tannil enfolded his mother in his arms. Trebac glowed, for she was a trueblood Valla. “You loved him more than you let on, but I cannot tell you this.”

Usually self-possessed, mention of the Enchanter could send her into a dither of uncertainty.

“I will respect that,” she said, and stepped back. “You are a good son and you know me better than I suspect. I loved him, but not quite the way you think. I did not know him, for he kept me apart from himself and his sons, for my protection. It is the idea of him, the memory, the ideal he has become. Caltian knew him and spent time with him through all manner of strife, yet even my husband will admit to loving the ideal more today.”

“Why can you not say his name?”

She was silent for a moment. “He becomes too real, as if he is in the room with you, inhabiting your space. If I say his name, it is yesterday and he kneels before me, talking to my unborn son, recognising you in my womb. If I say his name, I feel again his lips on mine. Tannil, I enjoyed your father, but that one farewell kiss haunts me.”

She said more than intended, but Tannil already knew.

Mitrill left. Tannil watched her go. Many told him he took after his mother, had the same cleverness, and thus he felt he understood her. Although unborn at the time she spoke of, he was there and possessed clear memory of the event.

MITRILL DESCENDED to the Throne-room below. Unseeing, she crossed the vast space, blind to the simple, clean beauty of the white floor and walls. Then she halted and faced the ornate wooden chair opposite the massive doors. Her face twisted, seeing another seat, one of memory, and a single tear escaped.

“Torrullin,” she whispered.

THE VALLEUR RECALLED life to Torrke, but were unable to summon the Valleur Throne. The golden seat resisted all attempts. The resident magic of the valley had not returned either. After five hundred years of trying, stealthily as human hatred of Valleur intensified, they surrendered to the inevitable. The Throne and the valley’s ancient magic belonged to Torrullin. Only the Enchanter could recall them.

Thus they waited and watched the skies.

Two thousand years had passed.


Chapter 1: The Nemisin Star

Destiny stalks the twins

Margus and Torrullin are the two faces of a coin. No matter how opposite they are, they remain equal, except Margus has no qualms in using Torrullin’s twin sons against him; an agenda he knows causes his enemy suffering. To negate their destiny, desperately seeking release from their symbiosis, Tymall and Tristamil must fight until only one remains standing.

The Forbidden Zone is behind them; the wars of attrition return to Valaris. In a golden city waits a temple raised from a vision, and one night in every year a star shines through the aperture overhead. This is a connection to the world of Nemisin, the first homeworld. In this place where stars meet Torrullin must choose life and death for his sons. The scythe, however, forever silences someone dear to him; is he paying for his choice in the temple?

As the universe searches for the Light in all its brilliance, seeking peace, Torrullin begins to see himself as a prince among demons and therefore decides to change the rules. Death, after all, is not an end.

Too many lives have been lost.

Too many hearts have been broken.

Sometimes the only way to find peace is to lose oneself.

Chapter 1

Cold is pretty. Ice forms lace and the air is so clear it heralds angels. Leave me here; I am happy.

~Aris, Druid of Akanth


Torrke – The Keep

26th day of Dormire

CLOSE ON SIX months had passed since the stolen ship left Valaris airspace on a mission to deal with Neolone and the Dragon Taliesman. Leaving in high summer, they returned as the first month of winter drew to a close. Snow had not yet fallen, the land was dormant and the air cold, animals were in hibernation and rains had swollen rivers and filled lakes.

Torrke, seat of Keep and Throne, was quiet. Like to the rest of the continent, the valley awaited the first snowfall. The Keep was ready for winter; roof tiles were replaced, gutters cleared, general repairs affected, and food and fuel stocks laid in. From the courtyard delicate potted plants moved indoors and the mosaic pool’s pump was off.

Into this courtyard the marauders alighted, doing so during the midday meal on a sunny day. Staff and Elders ate al fresco, and akin to avenging angels they appeared. A maid dropped her tray of dishes and went screaming back to the kitchens.

Torrullin dragged his headgear off, throwing it to the paving underfoot, and his fair hair was a beacon. It grew over the past months to coil untidily in his neck, a fringe flopping over his familiar forehead.

“Lord Vallorin!” Pretora gasped, recovering from shock.

“If I had not been who I am, Elder, this Keep would now be seized. Are you not on war footing?”

A dark cloud passed before the sun to snuff daylight. To a Valleur that was an omen, and Pretora was no different in his perceptions. He blanched, stared at his lord, and knew serious trouble had landed.

“Of course, my Lord.”

Torrullin strode forward, his companions following more slowly, with Caltian wide-eyed. The Atrudisin had wondered what Valaris would be like and admitted to curiosity over the Valleur Throne.

“Triple your efforts,” Torrullin said, and entered the Throne-room. He set muddy boots to the blue aisle carpet and paced towards his Throne.

Caltian stared at the golden seat. So long was Atrudis isolated that ages had passed since a Valleur from the Forbidden Zone had seen it. It was a simple seat, and it was imposing; dear Aaru. He wanted to run his hands over it, but the warning spoken about its effect on those not known to it was now imprinted. He dared not touch it. He could lose his life if he did.

Outside, dishes were whisked away, most with food on them, and tables and chairs vanished with alacrity, and so, too, the retainers. Their Vallorin had moods to be avoided.

Grim of face, the others arrayed to the sides of the seat. Torrullin sat, gripping the armrests as power infused him. He welcomed the infusion. He needed the infusion, although the thought was unformed.

Pretora was hesitant as he approached, and behind him Kismet was hasty as he entered. Kismet caught up, slowed him.

“What, Pretora?”

“A face like thunder? We are in for it, Kismet. Quiet now.”

Both men glanced at Caltian, a stranger from another world, and searchingly at Saska, but were themselves under scrutiny and did not react. Whatever emotion lay behind those faces, all of it spelled trouble.

“My Lord,” Pretora murmured, bowing. Kismet wordlessly did the same.

“Pretora, did Camot return from Atrudis?” said Torrullin.

“Yes, my Lord.”

“Send for him. Where are the Q’lin’la?”

“At the Temple, my Lord.”

I am on my way, Enchanter, Quilla sent before he could be contacted.

Torrullin grimaced. All gods, he wanted to sleep forever.

“Lord Vallorin?” Kismet said.

Torrullin looked at him.

“My Lord, there are Dragons here.”

Torrullin leaned forward, eyes sparking. “Yes?”

“They arrived on the cargo traveller with many Thinnings aboard.”

“They were guised as Xenians,” Pretora added.

“Where are they?” Torrullin asked.

Pretora put his hands together. “We have incarcerated them.”

“Goddess!” Torrullin snarled. Alongside him heads were shaken. “Did you not tell Quilla or Krikian? Release them immediately.”

He rubbed his eyes and drew breath. Her Majesty Abdiah, Kallanon ruler, Dragonne Queen, would have a few succinct words about this. Fortunately, she harked to diplomacy.

“Abdiah planned ahead,” Vannis muttered nearby, his voice on the edge of amusement.

She clearly sent the two Dragons as forerunners, suspecting the battle for the Light would come to Valaris. Abdiah, as Torrullin once remarked, was her own advisor.

Kismet ran out, leaving Pretora clutching his robe.

“Thundor was successful, thank Aaru,” Taranis murmured. “If duped.”

Thundor saved the Thinnings in the Forbidden Zone from Murs annihilation. Great foresight, but he might have brought his brethren to new disaster here.

Torrullin did not respond.

“Lord Vallorin, what is wrong? We thought you were able to end …” Pretora’s voice petered out when his ruler swung a silvery gaze to him.

Quilla appeared and instantly read the situation. He frowned at Pretora. “Leave, Elder; all will be explained. Prepare the bedchambers and order up …” He glanced at the bunch around the Throne. “… food and wine.”

“We have no time to drink, birdman!” Vannis snapped.

Quilla ignored him. “Go, Pretora, and better put some sedatives in the food.”

The Elder stared at him in horror and then noticed twinkling eyes. He made himself scarce, relieved. The birdman had a calming influence on the Vallorin.

Quilla swung back serenely to the group of marauders; their reputation had reached Valarian ears also. He had not believed a word of it and now wondered if he was wrong. He looked them over critically and his gaze fixed on Torrullin.

“You had a hard time of it, obviously, but there is no call to frighten your Elders and retainers. You need them.”

“They have been lax.”

“They have not. We ourselves only returned two weeks ago. We found Valaris secure, as you will no doubt recognise when you open your eyes. They do not know the full tale and are unaware of new dangers, but they are prepared as if mindful of every facet.”

“But they know the Dragon is gone.”

“That was, after all, the point.”

Caltian swallowed. He killed the creature and thus fulfilled his destiny.

“Where have you been?” Torrullin asked.

The birdman studied him calmly as he said, “We were on Atrudis. Much fear arose with the re-emergence of Emperor Teighlar and, despite the documents you prepared, insufficient Valleur believed in you to take you at your word. We stayed to smooth matters and that took some doing. Eventually the charisma of the Emperor himself won hearts, but it meant we were delayed in returning. What would you have us do, Enchanter? Leave that world to a different war. A civil war?”

Torrullin rubbed his eyes again. “You did well, and I am sorry.”

Quilla smiled.

“Grinwallin?” Saska whispered.

Grinwallin was a mighty city in the eastern region of Atrudis’ Tunin continent; a city built of stone set atop a great plateau. It delved the mountain behind it as well as stepping in tiers down to the plateau. Grinwallin, when they attained it in search of the Taliesman, was in ruin, but the ruins were odd for a city ninety million years abandoned; it seemed as if it fell into disrepair a mere century before. Magic kept the spirit of a fair city alive, proven when its resident Emperor, Teighlar, rose from ghostly form to become real.

Teighlar and Grinwallin were gifted a second chance. The team left the city before it arose in splendour, before Teighlar’s people, the Senlu, awakened with him.

The birdman gazed up with wonder upon his angelic face. “I am not one for cities and many people, but I would happily change my ways for Grinwallin. She is beautiful, simply entrancing.”

In leaving, they gifted the Senlu their second chance without the strife a Darak Or would unleash. It was decidedly a point of light.

Saska smiled.

Quilla transferred his gaze to Torrullin. “Her architect was a genius. Grinwallin was conceived with heart and soul. You would–”

“What?” It came out as a warning.

Quilla heard it and sighed inwardly. Perhaps the Enchanter knew the truth about Grinwallin. “… be proud, Torrullin.”

“Why would I be proud?”

“We were part of her renewal, Enchanter. We should all be proud.”

Torrullin’s silvery gaze moved away.

Quilla prompted, “Is he here?” He meant Margus.

“We think so,” Taranis replied when his son did not. “We lost him out there and there are no longer traces.”

“Full circle,” Quilla murmured. “We deal with it. For the present, you bathe and rest, eat. Leave the rest to me. I shall see the sites cloaked immediately and that Camot is ready.” He quirked his head. “You are home and amongst your own, and we shall aid in carrying this burden. Take some time to find your good humour before you speak again.”

The birdman swung around and exited the chamber.

“A breath of sanity, our Quilla,” Taranis murmured.

“Yes,” Vannis agreed, and left. Back home now, the death of his beloved Raken was again new.

Tristamil, his face expressionless, followed. He wanted desperately to see Skye, and knew it would be hard for them.

“Well, we are a cohesive unit,” Taranis said, and strode the carpet into the courtyard. He ignored the few curious retainers outside and bounded up the outer stairs to the suites.

“Matt, show Caltian to the guest area.” Torrullin waved after Taranis, and the two left without a word.

“I assume I may still claim a place in our suite, husband?” Saska asked. Her emerald eyes were cold and simultaneously challenging.

He stared at her. “You are my wife.”

“I am a stranger to you.”

“Gods, I cannot do this now. The suite is yours; I will find somewhere else.”

Saska stood before him. “You have sucked all the joy from me and treated me like the enemy. Do not humiliate me as well. It is our suite, and you will join me in it.”

“As you will, my Lady.”

She nodded and left.

TORRULLIN SAT FOR many hours. A gentle prompting from Kismet to eat went unheard and Quilla came and went, but he merely left the Enchanter to his thoughts. None of them realised it was more than introspection, more than strategies that kept him there, although those were factors.

The Throne held him, asking questions, receiving answers, without conscious thought. A communion, for the ancient sentient seat needed to know what was new and what was changed. One day the sentience would gift the kind of answers that would completely destroy Torrullin of the present, to remake him, but that day had not yet arrived. For now, the communion was mutual and satisfying. It, more than anything else, told him he was home.

It was dusk when he finally stirred, standing like an old man. He felt old. He felt guilty.

He wanted to sleep forever.

SASKA WAS UPSTAIRS and had arranged food and drink for him. He looked at her, silently sat, and ate slowly. He did not speak, and she did not interrupt. She watched, waiting for a sign of something more than enmity, but he revealed nothing. He was far away. He was also clearly drained.

“I have drawn you a bath,” she said, when he eventually pushed his plate aside.

Nodding, he entered the bathroom, closing the door. Sighing, she sat on the bed.

He eventually emerged bathed and shaven, wearing a dark blue robe, and halted in the doorway. There was a spark in his eyes and her heart tripped. Whatever it was, it would be better than cold anger.

“This is my fault, Saska. How do I deal with this?”

“I have no answer, Torrullin.”

He came to sit beside her. He smoothed her hair from her face, the first tender action since she appeared to him on Atrudis, and then dropped his hand and looked away. “Forgive me.”

She gazed towards the window, taking a breath. “Sleep. I shall keep watch.”

“There are many watching. Come, sleep as well.” He peeled the covers back. “We need to rest now.”

She studied him a while and moved to her side. Together they climbed in, lying stiffly until she turned to lay her head on his shoulder, pushing her hand through the flaps of his gown to lie upon the skin of his chest. He stiffened and then drew her close.

Gradually they relaxed, and sleep came.

They were home.