Following on directly from
AVAELYN: THE ENSHROUDED WORLD:
The Vallas go to war with each other.
Avaelyn returns to Reaume, no longer enshrouded … but soon another world draws attention, for it is there that the great battle will be fought.
Avior is veiled.
By inverted sacred sites.
On Valaris, four strangers to the realm prepare to face Torrullin and Elianas, Tristan and Alusin, and they have a tale that raises terrible alarm. On Akhavar, the reality of the true enemy surfaces. The Path of Shades must be reopened … and old foes therefore step into the arena. A vengeful Timekeeper, an ancient Vallorin with a bone between his teeth, and a wife seeking to undo her husband.
The plight of Avior’s children is discovered, and all fight to save them from the monsters flourishing beneath the shroud created by myth. From dragons to darklings, the field is strewn with horror.
How to end their reign?
All are called into battle, from the Valleur, Kaval and Guardians to mysterious sorcerers gathered on the volcanic world of Danaan, but is Valla pitted against Valla that causes shudders in the ether.
No matter what, Torrullin will not stand aside, not until every child is safe.
So many! I am blessed.
~ H. Waetherhar, novelist ~
The Dome of the Kaval
ELIANAS felt Torrullin labour for breath, felt his dead weight on the other end of the tether, and felt him plummet through moisture. He felt also the man’s elation when he realised he was in the atmosphere of their world, and silently celebrated with him.
He heard every word of the interaction between Torrullin and Avaelyn’s sentience, and tears flowed over his cheeks. How blessed they were. He jerked forward when Torrullin slammed the grappling hook into bedrock, thanking his foresight for handing the four men behind him extra tendrils to secure the hold, for they instantly braced to hold him upright and inside.
The link to his beloved vanished.
The tether dematerialised.
All gods, he whispered internally, closing his eyes, I pray it worked.
The loud exclamations around and behind him forced his eyes open, and Elianas stepped to the edge of the Dragon ogive. And there she was. Avaelyn. Beautiful Avaelyn. Back in Reaume.
He fell to his knees, and wept.
A GLOWING blue coil of light appeared from the cloud cover and with it flames shaped like a three-pronged hook. It swirled to the north of Roux Island, and thereafter the flames raced for the ocean, only it didn’t reach the sea, it smashed into the small outcrop Torrullin had once claimed was an ancient rock that was one giant column from the ocean floor itself. A massive eruption of light ensued, and then utter darkness descended.
“Bloody hell,” Teroux whispered. “Is he … did he …?”
Silence was next … until they heard a man laugh.
“Knew it,” Tarlinn declared. “This is why we jumped into that void. Having accepted himself, he discovered the belief he needed to unveil our world.”
“I understand now,” Tristan murmured.
They heard splashes as if someone swam towards Teroux’s island. Looking at each other, the four men raced for Teroux’s jetty. Skidding to a halt on the slick stone, they stood at the far end and cast gazes into the inky ocean.
“There!” Teroux exclaimed, pointing frantically.
Yes, there. Arm over arm, a man swan towards them, and then he was close, and they knew it was Torrullin.
Tristan hollered, “Wet enough, are you, for a swim this night?”
Treading water, Torrullin shouted, “Tristan! You made it!”
“Seems you did, too!”
The splashes resumed and then they helped him from the water. Despite the fact that he dripped salt water, the cousins enfolded him in their arms. Alusin smiled like an idiot, watching everything.
Eventually Tarlinn asked, “Is she back?”
Torrullin grinned at him over the clasp. “Avaelyn has returned to Reaume, yes.”
The dwelling on the cliffs
ELIANAS alighted on the grass where the bench perched near the edge, and simply stood there, his dark eyes trawling from one end of their home to the other. It was still night, but in the enveloping darkness he saw everything.
Kneeling, he placed his palm upon the cold green stalks. Thank you, Avaelyn, from my heart.
The world sentience did not reply with words, but he felt a warm, ethereal hand descend to his crown and briefly rest there. He had, however, heard her speak to Torrullin via the connection they maintained – him in the Dome, Torrullin blindly diving into Avaelyn’s atmosphere – and counted himself as eternally blessed.
When he looked up, Torrullin was before him.
“That was a fool thing to do,” Elianas grunted, before smiling and adding, “but I am so glad you succeeded.”
“We succeeded,” Torrullin murmured.
Rising, he moved to the man and merely embraced him. Yes, for this, this, there were no words.
HAVING asked for the remaining hours of darkness to reconnect with their home, when the first sunbeam fell upon the bench in the elements upon the cliff, both men, sleepless, knew the time had arrived to resume the ever more complicated mission of the present. Avaelyn had returned to Reaume, thus was that quest done with, and now it was time to focus on the greater tapestry, as Tarlinn would say. Sitting with cold mugs between them, watching the ocean light up as it greeted the day, they wondered who would arrive first to prod them into renewed action.
It was Quilla.
The birdman, though, did not come to prod, he came simply to greet. Appearing before them, he placed a tiny hand upon a small breast, and bowed. “My lords, you are returned.”
Simultaneously, both men raised hands to their brows, touched.
Quilla smiled. “Reverence, is it? It does fit, doesn’t it?”
“It does,” Elianas agreed.
“Welcome home,” Quilla murmured.
Rolling his shoulders, Torrullin stood. “Thank you, Quilla, and thank you for watching over everyone.” He snatched up the mugs and sent Elianas a questioning glance.
“You go,” the dark man replied.
“Take as long as you need,” Torrullin offered, and indicated for Quilla to follow him.
Elianas sat on.
TRISTAN and Alusin were in the kitchen preparing the kind of breakfast fit for a host eating in stages. Boiled eggs, sausages, salad, sliced bread, with a pile of plates to hand. A ‘help yourself when you’re hungry’ meal. Coffee burbled somewhere, and the orange juice was freshly squeezed.
“Thought you’d be back on Akhavar already,” Torrullin teased as he entered with Quilla, wiggling his eyebrows their way.
Alusin grinned, but Tristan grunted, “Can’t, not until we’ve faced the Syllvan. A promise we made.”
“Bugger,” Torrullin stated.
“Pretty much,” Tristan laughed.
Torrullin grabbed a plate and loaded up. Already eating as he made his way to the table, he said, “Thanks. Hungry.” Sitting, he tucked in.
Quilla soon joined him, his plate as loaded.
“How does a birdman eat so much?” Torrullin muttered.
“He does when he’s hungry,” Quilla snapped back, and ignored everyone to eat with relish.
Teroux and Tarlinn appeared then, and simply fell in with the ‘help yourself’ meal. A few minutes later, it was Karydor and Echayn, with Belun and Teighlar in tow. Belun and Teroux went at each other, laughing and pumping hands, and then Teroux and the Senlu Emperor sized each other up and, realising no animosity held sway anymore, backslapped each other resoundingly. Somehow, they fit around the table, including Tristan and Alusin.
“Any moment now,” Torrullin said, winking at Teroux.
The Kaval leader grinned. “I know. Tian won’t wait much longer.”
“Tian brought everyone,” Tianoman said from the passage, and entered with his entire family trailing him in.
“Cousin!” Teroux hollered, scraping his chair back and racing at the man.
Torrullin, leaning back, watched fondly as the cousins gripped each other, both laughing and crying at the same time. Aislinn waited her turn with a silly grin on her face, and around them milled Lunik holding Sianora’s hand – excellent, Torrullin mused – as well as Timare and Zane, and Enlyl and Ashar leaned against each other shoulder to shoulder watching everything and everyone with big eyes. Tianoman gripped Alusin to him, happy to see him safe and sound, and then suddenly demanded an explanation for Tristan’s blue eyes … tuning that out, Torrullin swivelled his gaze to Karydor at the table, to find his father waiting for his look. Ah, yes, family, and quite a large one now.
When Elianas’ hand descended to rest on his shoulder from behind him, Torrullin closed his eyes. Perfect. His loved ones were in the same space at the same time.
“We are blessed,” Elianas murmured in his ear.
Indeed, oh, indeed.
BELUN returned to the Dome, which was now in orbit around Avaelyn as a precautionary measure, and Enlyl and Timare reluctantly went back to Valaris, while Lunik took Sianora and Zane to Kalgaia, explaining about their task underway there. Ashar went with them.
That left Torrullin and Elianas with the three cousins, who could not stop talking, Karydor, Echayn and Tarlinn, who were wordless, simply listening to those three try and outdo each other, as well as Alusin and Aislinn, who could not get a word in, and Tarlinn, Quilla and Gabryl, the latter having joined them a while ago, sitting now with his father, both quiet, but smiling as they watched everyone.
In the informal sitting area overlooking the bridge over the fishpond in the garden, Torrullin and Elianas sat side by side near the ledge, backs against the stone, legs stretched out, and merely listened also. This day they would allow the chaos of many personalities, but tomorrow? Ha.
Teighlar rose and came to hunker before them. “Knowing you, this isn’t normal for your home,” he teased.
“Today is different,” Torrullin murmured.
Sitting cross-legged, Teighlar nodded. “Alik would love this. That girl is made for a large family.”
“I’m surprised she isn’t here,” Elianas put in.
“She’s in surgery,” Teighlar shrugged. “No doubt she’ll visit soon enough.” He eyed them. “Gabryl and I will return to Grinwallin to renew family bonds just now, but before we do, what’s next?”
“We don’t know yet,” Torrullin said. “Gabryl can’t leave, though, not until he’s faced the Syllvan.”
Silence arrived then, as those words penetrated.
Tristan grunted, “Then let’s get it done, so that we can all go on. You, too, Torrullin, and you, Elianas. Both of you have been avoiding the Syllvan, and that’s downright stupid now. They have answers we all need.”
Elianas grimaced, but didn’t otherwise respond.
“Perhaps all here should face them,” Teighlar suggested.
“No way,” Echayn muttered. “I’m going to bend Sabian’s ear for a while, find out what he knows about shadowy influences.” Echayn summarily vanished before anyone could stop him and force him into the Sentinel Chamber.
Karydor stared at the space vacated, grinned, shrugged, and as swiftly disappeared.
“Clearly not,” Teighlar sighed.
“Tian,” Aislinn murmured, “let us leave them to it. Teroux can come to us on Akhavar when done …”
“No way; I’m coming right now,” that cousin stated. “No Syllvan for me.”
Tianoman glanced at Torrullin, who laughed. “Go; we’ll join you soon enough.”
“All right then,” Tianoman nodded. Taking Aislinn’s hand, he dematerialised with her, and Teroux hastily followed suit, an expression of anticipation on his face. He, no doubt, wished to wander Akhavar’s mountain halls and renew the bonds there. Far better that facing a tree trunk able to unmask one’s secrets, after all.
“Quilla?” Teighlar prompted.
“I am not afraid of questions,” the birdman said. “Count me in.”
“An hour,” Elianas grunted, levering himself upward. “Need to refresh first.” He strode away, heading for the sleeping area of the dwelling.
“An hour,” Teighlar echoed, and shifted to the edge, jumped off and went a-wandering around the garden. Gabryl joined him.
Tristan and Alusin did the same, but went in a different direction. That left Torrullin with Quilla and Tarlinn. Quilla ruffled his feathers, and said he would be back, that the Lifesource would offer him the serenity needed for the Syllvan, and absconded. Torrullin gazed at Tarlinn, and waited.
The not so generic man soon kneeled before him. “I wish to assume a place as family, Torrullin.”
“I have noticed the differences,” Torrullin nodded. “You are now forever separated from not only the Throne, but the man you were in the past. Are you whole?”
“I believe so.”
Rising then, Torrullin bid the man do the same. Gripping his shoulders, he said, “You are Tarlinn Aleru, and I welcome you as family.”
When the One spoke your true name, it set you free. Tarlinn’s knees nearly buckled as the release overcame him. “Thank you.”
Letting him go, Torrullin winked. “So. Here we have a full-blood Aleru able to restore the bloodline … means you’ll have to make little Alerus, of course … and there’s a full-blood Danae running around, too, able to do the same. Karydor may need some convincing …” He doubled over in laughter when Tarlinn merely gaped at him. “I’m just saying that the great lines can be rebuilt.”
“Yes, well, give me a break, will you? I don’t even remember how to use that part of me yet.”
“Ha, trust me, that will not last much longer.”
Shaking his head, Tarlinn gave him the finger, and jumped off the ledge. Laughing still, Torrullin went to find Elianas.