Chapter 1: The Master Mechanism

A new Timekeeper steps forth.

Wearing a familiar face, an aspirant Timekeeper seeks to destroy all who stand in his path, including Torrullin Valla and Elianas Danae. With the master clock under his aegis, he will control Time and all who move within its confines.

The scramble commences to find the Master Mechanism first. From planets abandoned to worlds renewed, from ancient spaces to sterile realms, the chase is on.

What does the device look like? Who created it? Where is it hiding?

Weaving through all the chaos is the mighty Valla family, fractured and almost beyond repair. It is time to find unity once more. It is time to stand together or fall forever. It is time to be noble, even when such nobility requires sacrifice.

Time itself demands redress.

Join Torrullin and Elianas, support Tianoman and Tristan, and sympathise with Teroux, on this, the conclusion to the epic LORE series!

Chapter 1

Listen with ears and heart and then take the time to dissect the new information. Do this whether confronted by a family secret, a friend’s confidence, a stranger’s unwitting slip. Do this especially thoroughly when you are surrounded by your enemies. All has meaning; your task is to find the straight in the twist. Only then might you act in a manner to solve an issue.

~ Book of Sages ~

Somewhere

SEVEN CHILDREN PERCHED ON a mottled granite slab, cross-legged, hands relaxed on knees, entirely unmoving and expressionless. As if formed from waxen rock. All wore scarlet, silken tunics that shivered, folded and snapped in the breeze, the only movement. Also the only sound.

Unnerving indeed. Torrullin crouched before them, scrutinising each in turn. All were blonde and blue-eyed, all boys. Flawless skin. Angelic perfection. Uncanny.

Where was this? Moments ago he sat on a log under a canopy of trees with Elianas and Teighlar, about to have a picnic lunch, and now he was here. How? Why was he alone? Where was Elianas?

“You must activate them.”

Torrullin glanced up as the birdman stepped in beside him seemingly from the ether, and he frowned. How had Quilla suddenly appeared?

“Activate? I do not understand,” Torrullin murmured. “Where is this and why are you here?”

He noted how he and Quilla, like to the living statues, threw no shadows. A sun glared from on high, and thus there should be definitive marks on the ground, but he could not now deal with that strangeness as well. He faced the children again.

“Deal with the matter at hand, Torrullin. Activate them.”

His heart thudded once. Fine. The matter at hand. This matter then. Elianas and Teighlar, perforce, needed to wait. “Activate them, you say. Are you suggesting they are manufactured?”

“Manifestations.”

Torrullin rose and stretched. “I hesitate to ask, birdman.”

Quilla smiled. “And yet we shall not leave without solving this mystery.”

“Leave from where, Quilla?”

The birdman lifted his chin. “Here.”

“Fine, my feathered friend, keep your secrets, but tell me this. Manifestations of what or who, and how is this perfection even possible?” Torrullin waved in the general direction of the statues. “I have never seen a real child this unflawed.”

“It is unnatural, isn’t it?”

“Quilla.”

A shrug shook the birdman’s tiny form. “I do not quite grasp the how, but as to what? For it is what.” Quilla looked up at him, squinting in the bright light. “These are voices trapped in form, unheard voices – more correctly, unheard messages.”

“Which implies thought, people …”

“People long passed on, having left behind messages so important they have manifested in the guise of youthful angels. Before you ask why the angelic state, because even a man dead to every feeling will pause before this perfection, and thus there is a chance he will stay long enough for these voices to be heard.”

Torrullin stepped closer to the children. Reaching out tentatively, he touched the hand of the central boy and, when nothing happened, rested his fingers there, closing his eyes. “Faint resonance,” he murmured moments later, and removed his hand and opened his eyes. “Not alive, but not dead either. How do I activate them?”

“I assume Elixir needs to listen.”

A baleful stare speared the feathered being. “I hate it when you do that.”

“I know,” Quilla laughed.

“Listen,” Torrullin muttered, “and hear. Important messages? Damn it, you know how paths alter when something untold is made tangible.”

“Yes. And yet here we are.”

“And we shall not leave without solving the mystery, as you say. Curiosity gets us into trouble every time, and still we grab the cathron by that tail.”

Quilla quirked an eyebrow.

Swearing under his breath, Torrullin folded down to sit in a cross-legged manner to mirror the boys’. He did not say more and Quilla did not interrupt the process either. Absolute silence descended, broken only by faint breath, and the only movement was sweat tracking lazily over cheeks.

Both were spooked when the seven angelic manifestations abruptly slapped palms against chests. Their hands froze in that lifted position.

“Oh, my,” Quilla breathed out. He cleared his throat. “They are activated.”

Torrullin stared at the central figure. “I have not done anything yet.”

The feathered being closed in. “Perhaps it is proximity.”

“And perhaps it is dumb luck,” Torrullin countered. “Whatever it is …” He paused and the skin of his face pulled tight. “I hear something.” He stopped again, before glancing up at the birdman. “You are right. They whisper of words needing sharing, a set from each.” He laughed under his breath, a forced sound. “In order, left to right.”

“Then you need listen; I shall wait without interruption.”

Torrullin sent him a glare and faced forward.

MY NAME IS UNIMPORTANT, listener; I am a vessel placed and no more. Please do not speak; your task is to listen. We begin.

Before Time was measured there was chaos. All was random and nothing was known. Naught was fixed and the laws of science possessed no bearing. Or thus you of the present believe. Understand this; there is still chaos, and all remains random, for such is the way of immensity. Science, in your age, proves the need for unpredictability. If all was measured and fixed and explainable, this realm and others would not long survive. This immensity of time, energy, matter and vacuum requires chaos to survive. Do you understand? Chaos is the spark of life.

You seek a way to live with it and thus you measure and investigate and record and hope for solutions in unpredictability. It is not wrong. Your questions engender chaos and thus life is sparked. Challenge is a spark. Answers lead to more questions.

Always question, listener, but listen also to the silence. Many answers lie in silence. Silence, in all time and realms, is the one true beat of perfection. Tick, tick, time moves to the beat. To end Time, scream into silence.

I am done.

WHAT IN THE NETHERWORLD does that mean? Torrullin thought as the boy on the far left abruptly slumped forward. Stone slumping? Nothing in this scenario followed the laws of science.

He understood about all existence needing chaos, but sensed also there was a larger message on offer.

MY NAME IS UNIMPORTANT, listener; I am a vessel placed and no more. Please do not speak; your task is to listen. We begin.

I am here to remind you of the singing stones. Because you hear me, you have heard also the tales stones are able to tell, their secrets and their prophecies. Have you listened well, man of time? The true measure of sentience lies in the building blocks of mountains, in the smooth orbs in ancient watercourses, within the mighty boulders that defy all wind and water to remain ever steadfast upon the plains of worlds. Yet, in all that randomness, there is one stone that was, is and will be. It came first and it will be last. Find it if you seek peace.

I am done.

GODSThe second boy folded and Torrullin was unmoving. This was a morass of information – where were they leading him? Was it for him or would any listener have sufficed?

MY NAME IS UNIMPORTANT, listener; I am a vessel placed and no more. Please do not speak; your task is to listen. We begin.

Long ages have we waited here in this space residing only in the sorcery of the true undead. You must be the product of a life undimmed eternally by death, or you would not hear us. There will be few of your kind and always you will be drawn together. Like to like, for immortality requires witnesses and only others of your kind have the ability to be there.

Long ages ago another undead understood the need for a witness. You have now become the witness for it that placed us as vessels in this space. There was nothing and no one in the time of the Original and now the words and ideas of that time are no longer lost.

The Original fashioned the first stone, became the beginning and therefore also the end. Do not mistake it for godhood. The Original was not God in any form of the faiths of past and present and can never claim to be Mother Universe. The Mother is omnipresent, was then and will be after breath has fled in all spaces. Yet, by virtue of measurement, the Original stands in Time akin to a god. To know it, to undo its presence, hark to the words of the companions here. Be wary, however, of your point of origin; be certain of your expectations.

I am done.

IT IS MINE TO DO, then. A life undimmed eternally by death.

Torrullin did not blink as the third boy fell face first into the dust. He shifted his gaze to the central figure of perfection. Inside, resonance shuddered his every atom.

MY NAME IS UNIMPORTANT, listener; I am a vessel placed and no more. Please do not speak; your task is to listen. We begin.

A timedancer is one able to bridge the flows. A timedancer cannot die; he, she or it simply becomes something hard to hold and view … and hear. They will name our kind as Timekeepers in the fullness of the ages and perhaps the term describes us to a greater extent than dancer is able to.

Yet dancer is what we are. We shuffle on the boards, and we pirouette on the points. We leap into space and return with a flourish to sweep into grace or stillness. We do this upon the beats of silence, and we do so upon the thumps of cacophony, the music of realms. The first beat was silent; the second so thunderous worlds shuddered into being.

How, you ask, and I, Original, employing this mouthpiece of silent words, shall answer. I created the means to dance; I fashioned a clock. I commenced the measuring of chaos and thus forged the path for those who would come after. For you, listener. Do you understand? At this point in your long ages others whisper you are akin to a timekeeper and you shake your head in denial. You are such. The choice lies before you whether to take up the mantle. It is a lonely road, know that.

I am done.

TORRULLIN PINCHED THE BRIDGE of his nose. Every word, he now understood, was relevant. Had not a man claiming to be the new Timekeeper stepped from a crucible only days ago? A man claiming also to be his grandson, Tannil Valla?

The central boy flipped backwards, and his heart thundered as he shifted his attention to the next form of angelic perfection.

MY NAME IS UNIMPORTANT, listener; I am a vessel placed and no more. Please do not speak; your task is to listen. We begin.

Blood flows sluggish when metabolism is curtailed, and stones possess no metabolism. Place your ear against a rock, however, and if you know how to listen well, you hear blood race within the confines of particles so dense it requires extremity to break it apart. Have you seen a stone shatter, listener? It would be a remarkable lack on your part if your answer is negative. Assumption, therefore, informs you have viewed the phenomenon.

Have you, however, seen the stone’s life force bleed away swiftly? A river of death. Have you heard it scream as its blood vanishes into the dust of destruction? Assumption informs in this you may still be lacking. Return to the stones of your birth, aspirant keeper of time, and shatter the rock. Watch. Listen. And discover the miracle. Discover also the horror of nightmare.

I am done.

TORRULLIN FROWNED. STONES OF his birth? Valaris? Or Akhavar? Why? What was the grand ideal these messages attempted to impart?

The fifth boy stiffened into rigidity, hands clenched into fists.

MY NAME IS UNIMPORTANT, listener; I am a vessel placed and no more. Please do not speak; your task is to listen. We begin.

When realms harked to the advantages in measurement, a means to instil order from chaos, others followed the Original and became known as Timekeepers. Always there is a Timekeeper. Every Timekeeper possesses a name unique to set the ages of that name’s mastery apart from others. It is rule, listener, true royalty. Perceived as both royal and godliness by those far lesser.

Some rulers are benign and gift peace and prosperity, and others are cruel and bring forth war and suffering. A Timekeeper is no different. Some are benign, others not. Understand this – chaos requires both. Chaos permits all. Yet order is there also, hand in hand with a good man and a bad one, a great ruler and a tyrant. Order resides in a name. Control resides in a name. When a Timekeeper freely divulges a name, control passes to the one it is gifted to, but when a Timekeeper forces his true name from another, control remains his. Here is the codicil; control may remain with the Timekeeper, but freedom is yours.

I am done.

THIS BOY, SECOND FROM last, slumped forward as well. These were the insights to aid in foiling a monster, he realised, and no doubt it would become clearer with due thought. Ha, he hoped so. He hoped as well that Tannil was not a monster because … no, now was not the time to delve there.

One message left. Torrullin moved his head to view Quilla to see the birdman studying the boys with a thoughtful expression. Inhaling, he faced the final child.

MY NAME IS UNIMPORTANT, listener; I am a vessel placed and no more. Please do not speak; your task is to listen. We begin.

Mine is a message of hope. Mine is a message of despair. In hope there is despair, and in despair hope. A witness is imperative for the telling of events into future time and yet a witness can remove the ability to act freely. Your witness is your equal, is he not? Your witness curtails you, does he not?

True destiny lies only in separation, listener. True destiny is personal, without witnesses. The Original knows this. Can you state his destiny was the creation of a clock? That is not a secret, after all, for here you are, the witness. What, therefore, was his true destiny, the event no one anywhere across all time is aware of?

Friend, is it not perhaps your fate to find that same anonymity? Hope is attaining it; despair is leaving your witness behind. Hope is striding through time with your companion; despair is your failure to attain destiny. Choose well. I am … no, I am not done. A final prompt; hark to sacred space. It is denser than the strongest stone, it bleeds profusely. It reveals only truth.

And now I am done.

TORRULLIN’S HAND LIFTED TO his chest. Sacred space. The heart. Seat of all emotion. As the final boy crumpled, he bent his head to stare at the bright earth. Elianas. Sacred space. Witness. Hope or despair?

He looked up when Quilla cleared his throat.

“Can you tell me, Enchanter?”

A shake of his head ensued. Not yet. Maybe never.

An explosive breath erupted from the birdman, and then an arresting arm wave followed. “Look, Torrullin, at how they lie. They collapsed in such a way as to form a word. Do you see it?”

He could not care, for too much roiled in his mind, but he rose to stand beside the birdman and studied the forms. Yes, he supposed one could read their twists as glyphs, but why be bothered? Only an anal mind would seek such depth of nuance … and one could not call Quilla anal. The birdman noticed portents because it was his speciality; because he could see, he thus did.

“What word do you perceive?”

Quilla frowned up at him. “You do not see it?”

“I have not the energy for unravelling, Quilla. Just tell me.”

“It says Rivalen.”

Torrullin stared at the forms anew. Yes, that was what their twists suggested. “What does it mean?”

“The Square of Round.”

A laugh erupted from his dry throat. “Nonsensical.”

“Unless a Timekeeper seeks a name.”

Torrullin’s head jerked downward.

The birdman smiled up. “Sounds a bit like the mathematics of an ancient clock, does it not? Rivalen, the round square.”

Torrullin’s attention snapped back to the row of inanimate boys. Gods, there was the true message. Was that it? If he named the one calling himself Timekeeper, freedom would be his. Did that mean freedom from Elianas also?

He stared down at Quilla again. “You should not have told me. I do not want this information.”

A frown flitted across those innocent features. “I do not understand.”

“Never mind.”

“Torrullin, do you not see? This is why I was summoned here. To read the name.”

“If name it is,” Torrullin muttered. “Where are we exactly?”

“Here,” and Quilla waved and vanished.

THE MASTER MECHANISM

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 Echolone Mine

Step over the threshold at your peril!

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

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

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

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

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

It will also shatter sacred space.

Chapter 1

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

~ From Le Matt Dalrish’s diary

Somewhere

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

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

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

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

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

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

“It is time to go,” Torrullin said.

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Bugger off, will you?”

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

“You are playing with me.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“And they say women are vain.”

“Yours needs the whole treatment,” Elianas grinned.

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

“Good. You lead, I follow.”

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

Fortani

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

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

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

“Literally ages,” Elianas replied.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Torrullin lifted an eyebrow, prepared to be amused.

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

“A giant city-world?”

“Right. First impression, only impression.”

“Your point?”

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

“Instead, we landed up in paradise together.”

Elianas’ eyelids flickered, but he said nothing.

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Ten tension free days meant nothing?”

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

A smile acknowledged that. “I guess not.”

“Why not start with Beacon?”

Torrullin pulled a face. “I hate Beacon.”

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

“I doubt it, but I get your point.”

“Fine. You lead, I follow.”

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

THE ECHOLONE MINE

Chapter 1: The Nemesis Blade

His name is Elianas.

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

It is time for the Animated Spirit to stand forth.

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

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

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

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

Chapter 1

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

~ Arun, Druid

Sanctuary

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

Help me!”

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

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

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

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

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

Help me!”

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

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

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

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

Luvanor

Grinwallin

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

“Torrullin?”

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

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

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

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

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

“Ah. Bad?”

“Yes. This is excellent wine.”

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

“I did not realise it was day.”

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

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

“Why come to me? I am no expert.”

“You are a friend.”

“You want a sounding board.”

“Maybe.” Torrullin lifted a shoulder.

“That bad.”

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

“Heard who?”

Torrullin pulled a face. “Lowen.”

“Ah. Erotic dreams?”

“I do not have erotic dreams, Emperor.”

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

“Dreams do not do justice to reality.”

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

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

Teighlar sobered. “A premonition?”

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

“You hope so?”

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

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

“No.”

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

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

Torrullin stared at him, but was not really looking.

“Torrullin?”

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

“I am afraid you have lost me.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Torrullin lifted an eyebrow.

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

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

“The more reason to find her.”

Torrullin grimaced. “Where is she?”

“I do not know.”

“Or will not say?”

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

Torrullin nodded. “How is Grinwallin?”

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

“How is he?”

“Hurting.”

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

“Curin passed away.”

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

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

Uninterrupted silence arrived in answer.

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

“Teighlar …”

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

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

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

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

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

Torrullin blanched.

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

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

Sanctuary

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

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

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

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

THE NEMESIS BLADE

Chapter 1: Song of the Spaces

Read Song of the Spaces as either a teaser … or because you’re a huge fan and simply must know more about the LORE Series. Every great story has hidden depths. Discover in this OMNIBUS EDITION the insights and the fantastical woven from the Lore of Arcana/Reaume/Sanctum Series. From natural rainbows to portals into other realms, from worlds off the track to giant planets swerving in space, these are the extras compiled into one volume:

The Rainbows of Pilan

The Life-Wheels of Pendulim

The History of Ardosia

The Arcana Myth

A World without Light

The Wolves of Valaris

The Tower of Stairs

The Glittering Darkness

The Beyond for Vannis

Flatland

Ancient Luvanor

Avior’s Doors

Song of the Spaces

Into the Forbidden Zone

The Rainbows of PILAN

FOREWORD

IN THE INTEREST of telling a story without too much distraction, this interlude on the Pilan Homeworld still exists in The Dragon Circle (Lore of Arcana 4) but has been edited to give only the bare bones there. It wasn’t integral to the main tale, but you may wish to know a bit more … and here it is.

A wee bit of scene setting …

TORRULLIN VALLA of the Valleur has been a bad boy. Having committed and spoken words of love to Saska of the Sylmer, he then breaks her trust when he sleeps with Lycea, the Changeling. That union results in Lycea’s pregnancy.

The fall-out sees Torrullin vanish offworld for a while on a mission. When he returns to Valaris, Saska witnesses him with Lycea, kneeling in the snow to greet his son in her womb (the Valleur recognition of the unborn) and, believing she has lost him, without hope, Saska leaves in turn.

As the final confrontation with Margus, the Darak Or, approaches, given The Dragon Circle is the final Lore of Arcana volume, her absence is marked, and her life may be in danger. The Darak Or, after all, seeks leverage to employ with effect against Torrullin.

Torrullin thus sets out to find Saska …

SOMETIMES ONE NEEDS to disappear. Saska’s psyche needs soothing, her soul requires difference and her heart desperately seeks distraction. Betrayal forces her into leaving. Amid the rainbows of Pilan she hopes for peace … but, on the eighth day, he comes …

1

THE UNIVERSE WAS vast, an infinite eternity. Logic dictated that in such vastness many worlds could sustain life, sentient or otherwise, for the precedent already existed.

And, indeed, so it is and was. Some knew they were not alone in the greatness and used magic or star-travel to traverse it, while others understood it intellectually, and some, such as Valaris, although isolated, knew their ancestors were from elsewhere. And yet others came to know the state from varied visitors to their worlds.

Then there were those who did in fact believe they were utterly alone in the universe. They simply could not comprehend the vastness, or they were unwilling to believe the coldness of immensity was able to duplicate their uniqueness. Some of those suffered from superiority disease – arrogance – while others were the true innocents of the universe.

The latter belief was held by the people of Pilan.

They did believe themselves alone, and perhaps they could be forgiven their mistaken views, for they were isolated in a tiny solar system in the very corner of a far-flung galaxy, and the periodic visitors they had received over eons of existence had been too few to alter that belief. In fact, the visitors were regarded as the embodiments of their gods and goddesses.

Thus it was for Saska of the Sylmer; a visitor from outer space seen as a goddess, her lithe female form, and long tresses of blue hair and bright emerald eyes, exactly matching the description of Leath, Goddess of Water.

This was her third visit to Pilan; a place chosen because of its isolation. Her psyche required soothing, her soul needed difference and her heart, well, her heart desperately sought distraction.

The previous occasion had been a hundred and fifty years ago and, therefore, in living memory, not one Pilanese would have seen her before, which was why she felt able to visit without upsetting their integrated belief system. The tale of the blue-haired woman who had walked with ordinary folk, of course, continued to be told and sang; no one remembered, but they had not forgotten either.

SONG OF THE SPACES