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.
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.
“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.”
“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.
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.