Chapter 1: AVIOR: The Mythical World

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 myth.

By destruction.

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.

CHAPTER 1

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.

Avaelyn

Teroux’s home

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.

Splash. Splash.

“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, Avaelynfrom 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.

Morning

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.

“Teroux!”

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.

Later

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.

AVIOR 

Chapter 1: AVAELYN: The Enshrouded World

Our children are sacrosanct.

Avaelyn the world returns to Reaume, that great collection of spaces tangible and intangible, after a thousand-year absence, but no one knows the home of Torrullin Valla and Elianas Danae again swerves in its designated place.

Avaelyn is enshrouded.

By magic.

By time.

By manipulation.

How to rip aside the shroud?

On Akhavar, meanwhile, Enlyl Valla lifts from the mud in the badlands an ancient artefact, a sword created to protect children. The plight of Reaume’s children is dire, after all, and volunteers from many worlds gather to do something about it.

Will the sword help?

When the shivers of premonition tell that the young are taken to keep Avaelyn enshrouded, the Vallas take the fight to the monsters responsible for such horror. They will not rest until every child is safe.

However it comes to pass, Avaelyn will be unveiled.

CHAPTER 1

Beware of examining your past too frequently.

~ Teighlar of Grinwallin ~

Avaelyn

Trezonadr Mountains

SLAPPING his hands upon the expanse of his scarred wooden kitchen table, Sabian swore foully. Master Historian? Ha, master fool! He cussed some more, then swiped the empty mug accusing him from the tabletop, grunting when it shattered against the far wall. Yes, better. He felt … well, perhaps calmer was stretching it. At least less furious. Ha.

A snort of amusement emanating from the region of his open front door had him straightening with such alacrity that he pulled a muscle in his lower back. More cussing followed. Master bloody fool, indeed.

“What’s got you in such a mood?” Torrullin Valla laughed as he entered the small cottage Sabian called home beneath the towering mountains in this region.

“Book,” Sabian muttered, swiping fair hair from his forehead as if the strands had been placed there to deliberately irk him. “That damn book, is what.”

Eyeing the book in question – a hefty tome with the appearance of terrible age on a dedicated pedestal next to Sabian’s cluttered desk in the corner near the pantry – Torrullin murmured, “A conundrum?” Open to around a third of the way, an illustration stared at the wooden ceiling overhead. “Is that a sword?”

“And don’t we know too well how swords can determine fate?” Sabian mumbled, rounding the table with his arm extended. “What brings you?”

Stepping into the ritual forearm to forearm clasp, Torrullin said, “I’ve come to pick your brain.”

“Hopefully not about a sword. Coffee?”

“Please.” Releasing the greeting hold, Torrullin moved to the book for a closer view. “No blades today, no battle other than seeking an answer to our dilemma.” Peering at the rendition of a weapon that appeared as most swords did, seeing nothing in the depiction to have caused Sabian such distress, evident in the lifted eyebrows he sent Sabian’s way, he added, “I am of the opinion the past holds the key.”

“And here we thought we were free of said past,” Sabian rebutted.

“Old stories can still tell us something.”

As a historian, Sabian trusted to that truth and thus did not refute the statement. He set to gathering the necessary to brew a pot of the dark stuff, knowing his guest preferred it strong. “So ask what you came to ask.”

Finding a brush and scoop, Torrullin hunkered at the site of the broken mug, sweeping the ceramic shards from the floor. “Is there mention in the Lore Book about veiling?”

Sending him a look, Sabian muttered, “Of course. The Arcana myth that protected the tear between Valaris and Ardosia is chronicled, a veiling if ever there was one, and so is the Forbidden Zone obscuring. You know this.”

Rising with his gathered pieces, Torrullin headed to the small bin near the backdoor, tossing the lot in. “Other than those.”

Lifting his chin at the bin, Sabian said, “Thanks. Amazes me how you are handy when it comes to chores.”

Smirking, Torrullin took a seat at the table. “Because I am so important it should be beneath me?”

Grinning, Sabian took a seat opposite. Behind him the stovetop kettle burbled. “Not who you are, is it?” Wafting a hand, he went on. “Sure, there are other shrouds in our longer past, such as the time Nemisin denied the existence of Danaan, and his lies surrounding Orb, and there are a few ascribed to races other than the Valleur, but none hold the kind of answers we need. Nothing points to a way out of Avaelyn’s enshrouded state, not even obliquely. Then again, truthfully, there may be, but I haven’t yet found it. That is a mighty book.”

Indeed. A mighty book. One created by a bloodline of lore keepers, one as old as the Valleur, of which Shep was the current embodiment. Shep’s last name, in fact, was Lore, and was the scholarly man with deep wells on compassion not eminently suited to the task. However, Shep’s need to record events in the magical tome ended when Avaelyn swerved away from the timeline. These days he spent most of his time at the Healers, leaving the deciphering to Sabian.

“Where is Shep?” Torrullin asked, causing Sabian to hike an eyebrow upward. “Right. Healers.” Frowning then, Torrullin murmured, “Shep seems reluctant to talk about the past contained in that book.”

“After our adventures on Lykandir, he clammed up, yes.” Inhaling, Sabian again slapped the tabletop, unexpectedly enlightened. “Because he knows something. The man says not a word because he’s afraid he’ll give it away. Always garrulous, now silent? Why didn’t I see it before? No, stymied by a drawing of a sword, I am, stumped as to why the book won’t let me turn the page. Fool. As if a lost blade is able …” Halting there, he swallowed. His fingers curled into claws. He rested his blue gaze on the far man on the other side of the table. “Torrullin, no such animal as coincidence, right?”

The grey eyes meeting his abruptly shifted into silver. “Now you’re downright frightening me, Master Historian.”

Those silvering eyes meant Torrullin had entered a different realm of understanding. Clearing his throat, Sabian divulged, “I think I’m scaring myself. See, that drawing? Nothing special. An ornate pommel, probably pricey, but nothing extraordinary. Still, resonance, you know. And when you read the legend it comes with? See …”

“Speak plain,” Torrullin growled.

“Lake of Swords, Torrullin, where Tristan ended Halon’s life and threw his blade into the water. Alusin found it, though, and returned it to him. A veiled place, a thing of time, and someone retrieved something from the water, and that has never happened before. Has that altered the dynamics, I ask?” Rising, he made his way to the ancient book. “This sword, also tossed into the Lake after its owner died, had before its disappearance the ability to ever return to the hand that knew it best. If lost during battle, within an hour of losing it, it would hurtle through the spaces back to that hand.” Licking his lips, he faced the silver eyes fixated on him. “What if the owner is reborn? I’m willing to wager you my vegetable patch that the sword will rise from the shallows of a legend and return to the one it has waited for, and in so doing, the Lake of Swords will appear, a magical enclave, Torrullin, able to wed the flows of time, space and everything within and between.”

“A portal.”

The man had paled somewhat, Sabian noticed, but he nodded towards that paling countenance. “The blade was known as Akynitun, Valleur for …”

“… death’s gateway or …” Torrullin inhaled, and exhaled the next word explosively. “… shroud.” He inhaled long before asking, “Whose hand did it know best?”

“No name is given but he is described as a Golden with brown eyes, his hair a dark gold, a good man, a strong man. He protected children, his life’s work.”

Closing his eyes, thereby releasing Sabian from the pressure of that otherworldly gaze, Torrullin mused, “Sounds like Tianoman.”

“That’s what had me in a tizz. Your grandson does fit the description, but it didn’t resonate, not as the rest did. Now I’m thinking his son Lunik, or another of his sons. By now he has sons, plural,” Sabian stated. “A man walking the plains of Akhavar, old enough after a millennium, as they count the years, of our vanishing from those spaces to have come into his power naturally, a Valla with Danae genetics. Perhaps a man who feels the need to protect children also?” Throwing his hands up, he added, “But this is all supposition.”

Silver orbs lanced his every secret space, causing Sabian to shudder, and when Torrullin responded with, “Too much coincidence is in play,” his knees weakened. They, he already understood, himself, Torrullin, Elianas, Shep, the others, would now overturn every coincidental stone until the narrative either revealed the answer to Avaelyn rejoining the timeline for Reaume, or utter failure resulted. Failure was not an option. Torrullin sought return to the space where Akhavar and his family resided within, and would undo every strand he could find to have it come to pass.

Avaelyn’s western seaboard

Roux Island

WOOD creaked, sails flapped and stays hummed in the freshening breeze coming off the ocean. White spray danced into the air at the apex of every wave. Gulls swirled overhead, noisy as ever.

Teroux Valla worked the ropes, tying off loose ends before the storm arrived. His golden curls hid under a woollen cap. Did not need hair whipping his eyes right now. Even in harbour ships remained vulnerable, and this baby was his favourite. First built and by his own hand, it was special to him, for he rebuilt himself with every hull curve and deck plank laid. Leaving Akhavar and his traumatic past behind for this island on Avaelyn led to ship building and also restoration of self. In a way, it was his good luck charm.

Lovingly sweeping a hand over the polished railing, Teroux eventually considered every task done and stared over the ocean instead, noting the waves reach higher, the spray thrown further, and in the distance the smudge had already darkened. An hour, no more, and the spirits of sea and air would pummel his island and every ship in the vicinity. Not many of those, fortunately, for he had sounded warning two days back.

Time then to stoke the fire in his cottage and prepare a nourishing meal. Giving the smudge a final look, he turned away and headed down to the sturdy stone quay, checking the knots anchoring the vessel to its mooring as he passed by. As he set a booted foot to the lowest step of the meandering stairway carved into the hillside adjacent the harbour, a scream tore through the air, curdling the marrow in his bones. No, he imagined that. No one lived on his island. Shaking his head, he trod onto the next step, and another screech separated his ears from his head. Breathing fast, he raced upward, for the sound had source up there, not behind him on the jetty.

On attaining level ground, he skidded to a halt.

There, by Aaru, a flying contraption hung from the flagpole jutting up from his chimney, a deflating balloon covering half his cottage, and a woman clung to a rope swinging underneath a torn basket. He wanted to laugh – had he not said flying baskets were idiotic when they had not the gas to keep the balloons properly afloat – but she was in danger, and that bloody thing needed to get off his roof before the damn storm was upon them.

Striding in, he called up, “Can you not float down?” Her hair was as golden as his, she had to be Valleur, and that meant born with magic.

Hazel eyes glared down at him. “I’m human, idiot!”

Right. Avaelyn was home to Valleur, Senlu, and humans originally from Xen III, Beacon and Valaris, with a few oddballs thrown in here and there. Humans, too, laid claim to the golden glory that was the Valleur natural hair colour. Rolling his eyes, he said, “Let go, I’ll catch you.”

Immediately she shook her head, whitening markedly.

“Listen, you’re brave enough to fly in that thing, high, so I think you can manage a few yards of freefall. I will catch you. I am Valleur.”

“I know who you are,” she grimaced, and abruptly released her hold to plummet.

Well, that caught him unprepared, but he hastily muttered the words of cushioning and stepped underneath her. As he extended his arms, she landed in them. Despite the cushioning, his shoulders protested with jolts of fiery agony. Bloody hell. Setting her down, he shouted, “A little warning will have helped!”

Winking, she said, “My thanks.” She glanced upward. “The wind blew me off course. Why do you have that pole up there? It’s an invitation to lightning.”

“It diffuses strikes,” he grunted, massaging one shoulder. “Now help me get that thing off or the storm will use it to rip my roof into smithereens.” Gesturing at the broken balloon, he stomped to the corner to see what was where, and ignored her when she made no move.

Snarled as the ropes were, it took him the better part of ten minutes of succinct spelling to remove the offensive device. The woman did try to help after a few minutes, but there wasn’t much she could do, not until the material lay rumpled in the grassy paddock where he kept two horses. They, luckily, had already been stabled against the approaching weather. She started rolling the material, and he aided her, eventually magically lifting and sending the remains of the basket and the untidy roll to the storeroom beyond the stables.

By then the wind was a howling monster and, unspeaking, they hastened indoors. As there was nowhere else for her to go, she had now become a guest until the storm petered out.

“Thank you,” she said once he had secured the front door.

“Who are you?” He headed to the hearth and there snapped his fingers to set flame to the pyramid of sticks, thanking his stars for magic, for he had not the wherewithal left to build and stoke a fire the old-fashioned way. A magical blaze required simply a few sticks.

“Naemi Wynd.” She closed in to extend her hands to the blaze.

“Call me Teroux.”

Dressed in leathers to cope with the cold in the higher air currents, she was soon warm again, and moved to the large window overlooking the small bay. “Something happened up there, Teroux. I’ve flown many times, testing the gas ratios I’m trying to perfect, and know well the currents, but …”

He interrupted. “A storm on approach can be unpredictable.”

“I wasn’t near this region, not until shoved this way.” She did not look at him, no doubt thinking she sounded crazy.

He was Valleur. Crazy was once everyday for him in the times before Avaelyn separated. “Shoved? What happened?”

“It felt as if something sucked at the basket and then released so quickly that it catapulted me in a different direction. Kind of like a hole filled with vacuum briefly opened, and then suddenly closed. Shoved.” Shrugging, she faced him. “Sounds impossible.”

“It’s not, but should be on Avaelyn. We’re enshrouded and outsiders cannot influence anything.” Frowning, he thought it through. “Either there are localised currents we are unaware of, or …” Like to her, currents of air and, in his case, water also, had become a field of expertise. “… someone on the ground either deliberately or accidentally messed with your situation. Hopefully not.” For that would mean someone needed to be taken to task and it meant investigation. “Well, we can’t do anything about it now,” he muttered and made a beeline for the kitchen alcove he loved to spend time in. “You hungry?”

“Starving,” she laughed, and the sound of a woman laughing in his private space did something to his gut he had not experienced in over a hundred years.

The Singing Chapel

SEARCHING for Shep Lore, having left Sabian to his mutterings, Torrullin eventually apprehended the purple clad, rotund half-Valleur in the small chapel that served as a place of tranquillity for those needing it while at the Healers, or as Shep preferred, the hospital. Valleur in general, despite his eye rolls, called it the Healers.

The man was rapt, listening to the birds in the foliage outside singing their songs of praise. Birdsong was the reason why this serene place was named the Singing Chapel, a site sacred now for many reasons, no longer merely a Valleur sacred site forming part of the fourteen geo nodes.

“My Lord!” Shep gasped when he became aware of Torrullin. “Oh, my mind, Forgive me!”

“No matter, Shep.” Sitting in the nearest window seat, Torrullin sent his gaze outward. As ever, the surroundings soothed, and the musical tones bathed him in bliss. “Ever I am renewed here.”

Shep smiled. “Indeed.”

“How fares the facility?”

“All is well. We finished the final repairs a few weeks back.” He referred to the damage caused by the near collision with Lykandir three months ago. “We have only three patients. Nothing serious.” His tone offered a lilt at the end of his summation, as if wondering why he had been sought out this day.

“Lake of Swords,” Torrullin murmured, and listened to the man’s response with more than his ears, and sensed how Shep Lore instantly tensed. “It is time to tell me, Shep.”

Silence answered him first, and thereafter a volubly sigh sounded. “Very well. Not here.” With deliberation, the purple form rose from his bench and headed out, which was most telling, for Shep never acted first in his ruler’s presence.

Whistling silently through suddenly clenched teeth, Torrullin followed him out. “Shall we go to the Lifesource?”

“Excellent idea. Quilla should hear this also.” Tawny eyes speared him as Shep looked up. “My Lord, call Elianas.”

Torrullin’s gut hollowed.

He sent the call.

AS THE two men dematerialised for transport, Anastir stepped from the shadows. As First Sorcerer and Elder, he was entitled to go where he pleased, but listening in on Torrullin’s conversation could be construed as something beyond eavesdropping. He had trailed Shep Lore, however, and Torrullin’s arrival had been a surprise.

It seemed, Anastir mused, that Lord Elixir had stumbled upon the same track he had skinned knees on, and Shep, as suspected, knew the way. He intended to attend the impromptu meeting at the Lifesource.

Indeed. Change was now daily fact.

Teroux’s cottage

OVER roasted vegetables, slivers of fried fish, and garlic bread, accompanied by a fruity white the winemakers finally excelled at – it only took them fifty years of vinegar varieties to find success – Teroux asked Naemi to be specific in location for the ‘shove’ she experienced.

Her golden hair tucked behind her ears, she ate with abandon, using her hands without apology. “You’re a good cook,” she said, lifting her goblet in toast. “My mother will love you, for sure.”

Smiling, Teroux acknowledged her compliment.

“I flew over the orchards beyond the hills that keep the salty winds at bay, so that’s roughly forty sals east from here. All along the coast folk spoke of the storm, and I decided to keep inland. As I moved the rudder to shift south, heading home, that’s when it happened.”

“Did you see anything on the ground?”

Her eyes narrowed. “Wasn’t looking at the time … but … seriously, I smelled mud, stinky stuff, stagnant, and I could swear I saw muddy droplets around the basket. And then your island loomed, and I went down.”

“How long from there to here?”

“Minutes, Teroux. That was the weirdest part.” She stared at him. “It sounds like I hallucinated, I know, but that’s what happened. Forty sals in minutes. No balloon flies that fast.”

Leaning back, he fingered his goblet. “If we can find this mud, maybe it will lead to more clues. An isolated incident. Someone working a spell that rebounded. That someone needs to be cautioned. If not,” and Teroux leaned forward to stare intently into her hazel eyes, “we need to know if an outside influence did this.”

“How? Everyone knows Avaelyn is hidden. You said so yourself.”

“Is it?” he whispered. “I wonder. We are in Reaume once more, Naemi, and this is a busy space filled with talents even the Valleur have had to stand back for in our past. What if someone can see us, while we remain blind?”

AVAELYN

Chapter 1: FAROCHIN: The Terraformed World

Grief-stricken over losing his wife in childbirth, Karydor commands that his son be drowned. Carers choose to hide the new-born instead. The child, when his father realises his terrible mistake, vanishes without a trace.

Ages later, suffering cycles of rebirth to walk in the same time as his son, Karydor discovers the identity of the man his son becomes and, in need of atonement, sets out to ease his path through life, hoping for a future when he will be able to look him in the eye without guilt.

On Farochin, a world where the terraform is about to fail, Karydor, Kristyn, Echayn and Fletcher team up, hoping to save the world from the influences of FARA, the godhood responsible for the failure.

A god, however, is not easily undermined.

A world is not effortlessly rescued.

A father will step into that arena, though, because of the love he bears his son. This is Karydor Danae’s atonement.

CHAPTER 1

A flag is History’s banner.

~ Adjunct Glestiel of Nolkoth ~

Farochin

Thela

City of Therin

SUMMER inTherin this year was milder than usual, according to the locals, and yet sufficiently present to make for uncomfortable sleeping patterns. When the sun rose, Karydor was relieved. The act of trying for rest could now be abandoned. Nightmares plagued him, too; respite was elusive for many reasons.

Dressing swiftly in lightweight linen after splashing tepid water on his face and completing the morning ritual of ablutions, he hastened down the bougainvillea enhanced outer stairs to the cobbled street in search of breakfast. The old man baker on the corner knew his hours; a savoury pastry would be waiting.

It was indeed waiting, steaming on a platter, although the old man was not in sight. He was rarely in sight, preferring not to talk to Karydor – or, more correctly, be seen talking to Karydor.

Karydor snatched it up and, chewing, wandered along the lonely path down to the ocean.

The tide was in, and the wind seemed favourable, which meant ships were able to enter harbour. Sitting on the low sea wall encrusted with dry seaweed, he finished his tartlet while watching masts aplenty vanish south to where the calm deep-water and a berth awaited. The Waymere Sea on Thela’s western coast was still, the sky clear, beckoning travellers to cross the ocean to lands beyond. Few did, according to the tales he overheard while picking olives; most would head north again from here and then east into Natticus Sea instead, the cradle of their civilisation on Farochin.

Inhaling the fresh air before the summer winds dried it to kiln degrees, Karydor simply sat. Today was a rest day; no pressing duties required his attention. Unfortunately, that also meant he could not hide from himself, but this day he intended to remain as serene as the gently lapping waves. Anger and aggression did little to aid the process of recovery, after all.

He knew his name and he knew one date, and that was all. Memory of before was lost when he went overboard a ship much like those now lining up to the south, he was told. No ship’s captain or quartermaster had yet recognised him; either no one wished to know him, or his ship had sailed onward.

He had no recall of going into the ocean, but his clothes revealed him as a seaman, according to the healer he eventually woke up to. They hauled him, waterlogged and near drowned, from the beach after a storm. That was two months ago, and no memory had resurfaced.

Other than a date.

The healer, upon hearing it, looked around in some fright and advised him not to repeat it. The man would not be drawn further, despite repeated prompting even after he discharged his patient. While he was no help regarding information, he did arrange a bedsit for Karydor in the recuperation enclave, as well as work on the olive farms to the east. The labour was intense, but Karydor preferred that to any activity involving the sea.

To the east, behind him, the first yellow rays breached the hilltops and sent tendrils amid the earthy-hued structures that comprised sleepy Therin. Soon the city would awaken, and a buzz would overtake the natural world’s sounds.

Standing, he chose to amble along the shoreline; it afforded the most privacy. He preferred avoiding people or, more correctly, the strange glances they sent his way. He did not look like them. He could not explain it, and no one seemed to have the courage to tell him more. Even the farm labourers avoided him.

Perhaps this morning a ship would put in with someone aboard who knew his face, or at least his kind.

Therin Harbour

RIGGING groaned and sails flapped. Barnacled hull bashed against swollen jetty, and sailors everywhere shouted and cursed, laughed and jeered at mates, either engaged in securing ships, offloading merchandise, or smoking together where the quays met dry land.

It was chaos.

Karydor counted sixteen vessels, with six more awaiting entry, and noted wagons begin the descent from the merchant district to the harbour road. Structured chaos would soon become bedlam.

Gritting his teeth to still his instinctive reaction to the noise and frenetic activity – frustration that frequently led to fury – he ambled to the far docks where the larger ships berthed. Those sailors travelled further, and many were from strange ports; perhaps one working them would deign to talk to him.

Moving through crowds of men, who swiftly stepped out of his way, given that he towered over them, he noted a fair few shaven heads showing fuzzy growth, lending their scalps a coppery sheen. No doubt the roll of a ship at sea put an end to grooming, fuzz being preferable to nicks and gashes. He grimaced, watching them watch him; not only was he larger than everyone in Therin, but his dark brown hair flowed to mid-back. He arrived with his tresses attached to his head from the ocean; he refused to shave to bare skull, although the healer had recommended he do so, to fit in, apparently. He lost his temper that day, hearing that.

The locals were placid. He was not. Wherever he hailed from, clearly equanimity was not among his people’s traits. He snorted as he approached a hulking vessel, acknowledging that maybe his temper was out of place even among his own.

The Dromerias had seen better days, but was a strong ship. Isolated at the far point, it summoned him. Perhaps it was the lack of activity that drew him, but more likely was the silence. Admittedly, the two states complemented each other, and yet this silence contained something extra. What that was, he could not fathom; intrigued, he closed in.

Karydor soon squinted up. The absence of movement on deck seemed unnatural. Either the vessel arrived on the night’s tide and had already unloaded, its crew now in port somewhere, or something else kept everyone below. He frowned, noticing the colours snap in the breeze. On a black background, a silver sickle moon cradled an emerald. He shuddered on truly seeing it. He knew that flag. He had no memory of it, but he knew it.

An odd sound pierced the even stranger silence.

The pull of a longbow.

How he knew that, Karydor could not gauge, for the locals generally openly carried daggers only, but again, the knowing was immediate. This was a longbow.

He instantly sidestepped.

An arrow thudded into the planking beside him.

“I suggest you leave,” someone said. A man of some maturity, by his tone.

No, he was not walking away. After two months of nothing, now this? Silence, longbow, the sense of summons? Here was something in the offing, something he did not foresee upon waking earlier, and he would be the fool if he walked away. He wanted answers and those answers might be before him now. That arrow was no more than a warning; the intent had not been to kill. He hoped so, anyway, and took the risk.

“Do you know me?” Karydor asked.

He spoke the language – Faroche – but had questioned whether it was his native tongue. He possessed an inflection no Therin inhabitant had yet revealed.

Instantly a white head of hair craned over the railing above. He had hair. Karydor’s heart stuttered into an uneven rhythm. Hair. Like to his. The man was old, his face lined and weathered, his skin tanned to that of aging wood. Hazel orbs latched onto his.

“I do not know you, but I can tell you are not from these parts.”

Karydor snorted again, aloud this time. “Pretty obvious, I’d say. Seems you are not a local either.”

A cackle erupted. “Did the hair give me away?”

“The bow, too,” Karydor grinned.

“Bring the arrow,” the old man commanded, and shoved at something. A rope ladder swung over the side. “Come aboard.”

Karydor worked the arrow free – a slim head, sharp. Whoever made it had to be a master. He then gripped the nearest rung and clambered up He was not about to deny this opportunity, whatever it might herald. Those answers? He needed them.

FAROCHIN

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 ~

Avaelyn

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?”

“Yourself.”

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.

THE NOWHERE SPHERE

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

Valaris

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.

THE SLEEPER SWORD

Chapter 1: The Kallanon Scales

An ancient map points the way …

… as well as a strange prophecy, and anyone who dares speak of either, dies.

A new enemy enters the Valla arena, but this one is as old as time and seeks a forbidden place. The terrible source of Valla power is uncovered. As friends and family are murdered, Torrullin reveals the truth about the Valla Dragon. He hurtles into battle when his twin sons are kidnapped, and takes with him into danger a pilot, a navigator and an innocent girl – they are the Dalrish seeking escape from Xen III.

Another truth rears up, the tale of the Nine who fled into the Forbidden Zone with a strange taliesman in the shape of a dragon. Quilla knows who the fire creatures are; the Q’lin’la fled them in ancient time. They are the Kallanon, the Glittering Darkness.

“There are dragons in my future,” Torrullin once tells Quilla, and that future is now.

War erupts on a world no more than a circle on an ancient map. There Torrullin discovers who his sons really are, Taranis of the Guardians confronts his inner demons, Bartholamu of the Siric faces his arch-nemesis, Q’lin’la and Kallanon are thrown into the same melting pot, an ancient emperor speaks again, the new Lady of Life is born, the Dalrish have a profound effect on Torrullin, and Vannis seeks revenge.

Chapter 1

We are formed in our present, actively and emotionally. And we are formed of our pasts, personal and historical.

~ Malin Drew

 Valaris

The Valley of Torrullin’s Keep

Graveyard

SUMMER’S HEAT HAD sprinkled layers of fine sediment upon the fawn stone of the ancient crypts. Saska traced an arrow into the dusty deposits beside the arch of an empty chamber, and entered the mote-filled space. A marker perhaps, to call to her husband Torrullin, to declare I am here.

Her thoughts being on Torrullin, distracting her, she thus did not see him until it was too late. His shadow loomed inward, and she whirled, blood pounding. In her introspection she had placed her life into his hands.

She trapped herself.

A perfect situation for a psychopathic sorcerer.

His striking face ugly with hate, he laughed like a devil from a child’s horror nightmare. His expression and his actions rooted her, paralysed all thought and action. The next moment was the one that would mark her death. No, he would kill her, but the next moment was meant first for utter degradation. She realised how aroused he was.

She had to defend now. Lifting her hands, she swiftly cast a shield of protection, but he countered easily, his face twisting in delight. He wanted her to fight, she understood. She staggered back into cold stone, fingers spread in desperate resistance, but she possessed no magic able to stop him, or anything to distract him long enough for her to flee.

He lifted a slim black whip, shook it in cold calculation, and then cleaved it to her repeatedly, spittle flying. She screamed once before placing her energy into surviving instead. Her gown split. She stumbled. Blood flowed, dripping to the sandy floor, and he thrust her viciously down, the whip’s handle hot at her throat. His free hand clawed at her bodice. She fought him with nail and tooth, causing him to laugh anew.

As he kneed her legs roughly open, his twin hurtled into the speckled space with murder in his eyes. Without saying a word, he attacked his brother, tearing at his hair, splitting his lip. Dragging him out, he struck him repeatedly, and hurled him against the crypt stone.

The brothers fought for long silent minutes, without quarter, coming within a breath of death.

Despite her relief, and a desire to see her tormentor dead, Saska whispered enough, thinking more of the agony Torrullin would suffer than her own, and they ceased. Heaving, beaten and bruised, they glared at each other.

She crawled slowly into sunlight.

Looking up at her persecutor and her saviour, she realised he had already altered his appearance to fit that of his twin. She could not tell them apart. She could not win, not then, not now, not ever. She knew the next encounter would be even more brutal, and he would engineer it for when his twin was absent. Neither brother apologised, for there could be no words.

Torrullin’s Keep

SHE HAD TO LEAVE or die here. Their love would die. She hated it here now, and thus spent her time elsewhere when the boys were in residence. They pretended respect for their father’s wife, but one was a liar and the other desired her dead.

At age five it was a deadly scorpion, a week later a lethal snake. At six, her horse spooked riding the ridges of the Arrows. Immortal she might be, but she could survive only to a point. The twins turned seven, a bad year. Poison, crossbow, and an attempt on her body while her mind roamed. At eight, after stabbing Nessie the cook, they left her alone for a while. No, he left her alone.

Quilla advocated years ago that she absent herself when they were in the vicinity, exactly when Torrullin needed her most. Now she did precisely that and it drove a wedge between her and her husband.

Yesterday’s terror made her decision final.

Saska went to Quilla at the Lifesource Temple for healing. His reconstruction was not as complete as Torrullin’s could be, for red welts remained on her arms, but no matter. Quilla, dear friend, had been sad. She saw the brothers earlier, both healed. What tale they spun their father she could not know, but Torrullin took pity again.

A screech filled the air and she looked up in time to see a hawk capture a smaller bird in mid-flight.

I am that little bird.

“Saska!”

She leaned over the battlements and saw Torrullin in the courtyard below. She waved, and then moved out of view. When she looked again, he strode through the great Dragon doors together with his sons Tristamil and Tymall. It was Millanu’s Naming Day and they were on their way to the Graveyard to pay their respects.

The last place she desired to be.

Wandering to the north-western side, she watched them and had to admit they looked good together. Three lean and fit men, the one fair, the other two with gold and auburn streaks. The Vallas. Glorious in their beauty, terrible in their power.

Torrullin looked back, angling his head upward, and she discerned disquiet. He knew something brewed, but he also chose to go on walking.

She lifted her gaze to the next rise, to the Graveyard. She noted Vannis’ stance in the distance, and Raken, his wife. Lycea, the twins’ mother, was there also. Both women had aged in the twenty-five years since she met them. Unlike me. I do not age. Yet today I feel truly old.

The boys lived at the White Palace with Lycea, occupying their own wing in Vannis and Raken’s home. Raken quietly informed Vannis the first time something happened between her and one of the boys, and Vannis gave both such a beating she dared not say anything thereafter. Vannis respected her silence, knowing how close he came to losing himself in violence.

Poor Torrullin, Saska thought. A virtual recluse, afraid of accusations he imagines in the eyes of friends and family. He is particularly shy of Vannis lately, Vannis, who at their birth twenty-five years ago told himto ensure the unrecognised babe did not take a first breath.

Going below, she wandered the Keep, recalling happier times. There were many. Making love anywhere, as the mood took them. Their wedding. Filling the empty rooms of the newly built Keep with treasures … yes, for a while they were truly happy.

Then the boys turned three and remembered their time in their mother’s womb. Valleur babies were aware before birth and thus the father needed to cradle, speak and sing to the unborn. Recognition and commitment entrenched before birth. Unfortunately, Lycea carried twins and one babe hid behind the other, and therefore remained unrecognised until labour commenced. He entered his world with hate infusing every atom, and only his brother knew him. They even sounded the same.

Inhaling a sense of grief, for happy times were no longer a sufficient foundation to build a future on, she went upstairs next.

Their personal suite comprised of a small sitting room, Torrullin’s select library, a bathroom and their bedroom. The whole was a haven as life after the Darak Or progressed into parenthood and rulership. Recently it became Torrullin’s retreat as he withdrew from social graces. To her it was a prison, the walls enclosing, and conversely it was also the only place she felt safe. No retainers were permitted, and neither were her stepsons. Torrullin found their bed slashed to ribbons one night, and instituted the rule the following morning.

Nothing I want here; too many memories.

She lay down, gaze touching on the little wooden Buddha from Beacon, the large jade shell from Canimer, her homeworld, and other arresting items on display. Too many memories indeed.

Shifting her gaze, she watched the pale woven hangings move in the breeze …

TORRULLIN’S TREAD ON the stairs awakened her. She started dragging a sleeved tunic on to cover the welts, and jumped from her skin when his warm hand arrested her attempt at concealment. She emerged from the item to look into his grey eyes.

Panic. Hers, and his.

Tossing the garment aside, she went to the window, staring blindly over the beautiful valley.

“Saska?” Torrullin’s voice was behind her, close. “Is this why you didn’t come?”

He took her hand and ran his fingers up her arm, his breath in her neck. She snatched it back. He would want to heal the evidence away and she did not wish him to. She needed the motivation.

“What happened?” he asked. “Why could you not come to me for help?”

“It doesn’t matter, Torrullin. It is done.”

He moved away then and she turned to see him sit heavily on the bed. A troubled gaze speared her.

“The boys?”

No, one boy. One man. “I am fine, do not worry.”

If he knew which son, Saska doubted not the young man would beg for his life this night. It was in his eyes, the need to punish.

“How?” He undoubtedly realised her injuries lay behind the beating they inflicted on each other yesterday. “What did he use?”

“A whip.” She swallowed and went to him when he paled, kneeling on the carpet to take his hands. “My love, leave it.”

“He will kill you.” It was the first time he admitted it aloud. “I will send them away.” He meant it, but his expression was bleak.

“That will solve nothing.” Saska took a steadying breath and loaded it with all the courage and conviction she could muster. Tightening her grip on his hands, she said, “Torrullin, look at me.” His expression was distant, in retreat, but he focused. “shall be leaving.”

“I am accustomed to that now.”

A knife twisted in her heart. “I am leaving permanently.”

He yanked his hands free to clench them into fists. “Saska, no, I will not allow him to drive you from your home, from me. We can get past this.”

She placed her hand on his knee. “As we got past others? The next one may be my swansong.”

He inhaled. “They will be gone in two weeks.”

She stood with determination and returned to the window. “This marriage has suffered enough.” Silence answered that statement, causing the hairs on the back of her neck to rise. “I deserve never to look over my shoulder. Please understand.”

“You are not coming back … ever?”

She swung around, and froze. It was as if someone bled life and colour from him.

“I will fight this,” he whispered.

Her heart lurched, gladdened by his willingness, but it was now far beyond that. Her voice failed her, and she swallowed and tried again.

“I leave because I fear for us.” She crossed the space once more and drew him close. “I love you more than life, you know that.”

He held her to him, face hidden in her chest. “Don’t go.”

All his power, and yet this he could not change. That power was hers alone. “I must do this.”

Torrullin released her and stood. He paced, and each step brought anger closer. His eyes darkened with every step. She did not want him angry, but maybe that would make this parting easier.

“I cannot do this alone!” he blurted.

“You already are. No one can help you with those boys. They drive what is good away from you. Soon there will be no place for me.”

“Never!” He came to a halt.

“You’re lying to yourself. Do you want me to say I will return when you have dealt with the twins? Do you want an ultimatum? How long do I wait? I love you too much to ruin what is left.”

They faced each other, breathing hard.

“Just like that?” he demanded, disbelieving.

“No, not just like that. I thought long and delayed this moment many times.” She reached up to touch his face.

He flinched, and then hauled her into his arms. “When?”

“Now.”

A shudder passed through his entire body. “Goddess, not now. You have thought; I am shattered in moments. Please, my love, not this moment. One more night. You and me against the world.”

His hold tightened and his heart thudded against her cheek.

A minute longer made leaving harder. A whole night might undo her completely.

“Give us a chance to say good-bye. I am begging, by god.”

It would change nothing, except to hurt more, but she could accept added pain, yes, to say farewell. Tears coursed over her cheeks. It was all right now to let him see them. They had one more night.

“One more night,” she whispered into his ear.

He sagged with relief, in hope, and pulled her even closer.

SASKA LEFT AT dawn, leaving Torrullin in dreamless sleep, her last sight of him a man peaceful, the lines of strain smoothed over, a small smile on his lips. He thought to hold her longer, but the tenderness and connection of the night would change nothing in the days to come.

She abandoned the Keep for another life, somewhere else.

THE KALLANON SCALES

The Rising of Elianas

You’ve read (or listened to) Lore of Arcana and Lore of Reaume and know there are mentions of a mysterious Elianas throughout the 8 books. Who is he? How will he change the future? For it’s clear he will do exactly that, isn’t it? Well, in the first book of Lore of Sanctum, the Nemesis Blade, Elianas steps out from the shadows … and changes everything. His name doesn’t mean ‘Nemesis’ for no reason!

“Who are you?”

An author friend wrote this a while ago, and it resonated so much with me that I saved it. Having cleared out some of my files (had to de-clutter!), I found it again … and again, it resonated. I’m sharing it because I feel this is what happens when reading my lore – the reader begins to ask questions, and that is always a good state.

The Legend Mountains

From The Kinfire Tree:

DESPITE HIGH SUMMER elsewhere, it was bitterly cold in the far north.

Icy winds came off the towering Legend Mountains in the distance. The giant slopes were covered in snow almost to the point where rock met land, capped with dark, threatening clouds. A storm brewed there and it boded ill for the two travellers. They were not dressed for it.

In sharp contrast to the whiteness, the wasteland they crossed was ochre in colour. Loose dust puffed up with every step as if they walked in low gravity and it blew up into their faces with every gust of icy wind. Already they were barely distinguishable from their surroundings.

It was an empty land, abandoned, lonely, and frighteningly different. There were no trees. There was no water. The only tangible objects on that vast plain were edged, black pebbles hidden in powdery dust that served to trip.

Averroes could not believe she was born here, that someone took her across this to the south.

They had been walking for hours. Vannis said she would instinctively know where to go, but she felt nothing other than burning thirst. They had not brought enough water; she had one swallow left, as did Kylan.

Would this never end? The barren ochre plain stretched in every direction. Only the mountains to the north relieved the disheartening vista. Now that stirred something within her. Did it mean they needed to walk all that way?

She groaned aloud.

“Averroes?” Kylan said hoarsely behind her. He was a wonderful companion, ever uncomplaining.

“I’m fine; just wishing I knew where to go.” Her voice, she found, was equally gruff.

“Wait, Averroes, I see … what is that?”

Kylan, when she turned, pointed at a patch of black growing in size as they walked. It was on the ground directly ahead, and she had not even seen it.

“I don’t know.” Her heart commenced an uneven rhythm.

As they drew closer, the black patch materialised into a perfect circle, recessed, about three feet in diameter.

“It’s not natural. Do you recognise it?” Kylan queried as they halted at the edge of the sphere. It was smooth like stone eroded by the ceaseless movement of water.

She shook her head and knelt to touch. It was warm and there was a minor vibration under her fingers. She placed her hand flat on the surface, and it moved. Snatching her hand back, she stumbled away from the edge and pulled Kylan with her.

“It’s moving!”

A circular tube rose perpendicular to the ground and halted at about seven feet, still attached to the earth.

“What is that?” Kylan asked, passing a hand before his eyes to check his sight.

“No idea.”

They heard a whooshing sound. What appeared to be doors retracted into the sides of the cylinder.

“I have read something about this. I don’t know what you call it, but I think one travels in it, up and down. I think we’re supposed to get in.” Kylan was clearly uncertain.

“This is technology, then? Can we trust it?”

“Unless we want to walk to nowhere without water, we have no choice. Vannis did say the half-Valleur were underground. Come, take my hand, we will do it together.”

They linked hands and approached.

Tristan and Alusin

From EURUE: The Forgotten World:

KNEELING in the mud with tears streaking over bloodied cheeks, ignoring the body behind him, Tristan understood how it felt to finally lose hope.

What life was there without Caballa? Killing her murderer would not bring her back.

Pushing himself to his feet, he swayed drunkenly. He had no more to give. Throwing his head back, he screamed his grief.

He tossed Halon’s blade into the water. As it splashed in, other swords were revealed. Many. By all gods, how many had died in this place?

Tristan then convulsively fiddled at his waist.

When he had his sword belt loose, he gripped the whole, drew his arm back and threw it with all his might into the lake, screaming again. It splashed briefly as it landed and wallowed there in mute accusation, the depth too shallow for it to disappear.

For a long time Tristan stared at it, his blood dripping into his soaked tunic.

Finally he turned away, uncaring. He strode into the trees. Fuck everything. No one would ever again mistake him for Torrullin, his illustrious grandfather, not with the new scars he now wore upon his face.

For those he would never seek healing.

FROM beyond the shallow body of water a man stepped to the lapping edge. White hair lifted in the breeze and dark blue eyes tracked the form vanishing into the trees.

This image reminds me of Alusin

He sighed and waded into the water to retrieve the discarded sword and scabbard. Holding it, he wrapped the belt around it, and then unhurriedly set off after.

The forging of Tristan Skyler Valla was over.

It was time to introduce him to a different future.

The Lake of Swords vanished.