Defenders of Lord Havom

You may read chapter by chapter the christian fantasy novels I am currently writing/editing:  Defenders of Lord Havom #2 Cave of Tears, Defenders #3 Island of Hope,  Defenders #4 Forest of Bones, and Defenders #5 Forge of Traitors. Share feedback in the comments below!

I have just self-published Defenders of Lord Havom #1 Lake of Fire, so I will start adding chapters from book 2! You can find book 1 on amazon.ca if you wish to read it.

Defenders of Lord Havom #2 Cave of Tears

The Beginning

You could feel the wetness in the air.  You could taste it. You could almost see it in the growing mist.  Gray clouds, boring gray, loomed overhead, threatening to block the sun’s rays forever.  Trees bent under the force of the powerful wind, and leaves raced to the ground, creating a carpet for the hard stone ground.  When the water began to descend from it’s home in the sky, drop after drop, it happened.

The stakes were high and the chances low, risks were taken that shouldn’t’ve been taken.  One castle. One mission; and one success.

The thief pressed themself close to the basement wall of the Seaskri castle.  The rock was slick from a leak, due to recent flooding, and the thief’s entire right side was soaked and slimey.  They cautiously peeked around the corner and breathed a sigh of relief. The nineteen guards were trooping around the corner, leaving the twentieth, the drowsiest of the lot, on guard alone.  The thief darted to the opposite wall, breathing hard. The door was right beside them. And on that door rested the lock of legend. The thief sucked in an excited gulp of musty air. A quiet scraping sound interrupted them, but it was so faint that the thief barely acknowledged it and turned back to examine the lock with gloved hands.  

Six digit code.  Heat detector. Two closed eyes.

The thief did a double take.  The lock was asleep.

Silently the thief turned the face of the lock so the little turned up nose pointed to the fourth tick.  She felt a jab of satisfaction as the lock clicked and snored on. One wrong letter and it wakes up, she thought nervously.  The thief narrowed her violet eyes.  She’d made it this far. No turning back now.  She tilted the face and the nose to land on the letter ‘r’.

Loud footsteps neared, and the thief crouched, hoping her black clothing would melt into the shadows.  A weary-eyed guard with a spear in one hand and a lantern in the other walked towards her. The intruder held her breath as the guard lumbered up like a sleepwalking pegasus.  She hesitated, then aimed a dagger through his chest. His eyes closed and he slumped to the ground, motionless. The thief bit her tongue, knowing that the death of the man was for a worthy cause.  Then that low scraping sounded again.

The third letter snapped into place.  Now the partial word showing in the lock’s mouth when it snored was ‘dra’.  The thief restrained a snort. Was the code really that obvious? G, then o, ended off with the letter n.  Dragon.

Another commotion interrupted the thief’s work.  Lanxdulas howled . . . some kind of message?

No, the thief realized with a shock of fear.  An alarm.  I’ve been found.  She flung the door open, no longer afraid if the lock awoke, and grabbed the small scarlet egg inside.  The thief tucked the egg into her satchel and ran, but everywhere she looked were walls, surrounding, walls, all blocking the exits.  All she heard was her beating heart, thundering footsteps, and the snips of sentences.

“If the thief even survives tonight—”

“Wonder what he was after?”

“I do so hope we won’t have to fight too much, it has a horribly poor effect on my appearance—”

“My best sword!”

“Too peculiar!”

They all think I’m male, flashed through the thief’s mind so fast they could hardly process what they were thinking.  Typical.

The rival brings power.  The rival makes you weak.  Run or serpents devour. For not here is what you seek.

The poem stung the thoughts of the thief and began to infect her with wonders like poison.  Where have I heard that voice before?

Then the scraping sound was back, louder than it had been before, and the floor underneath her feet gave way with an animalistic groan, and suddenly the thief’s feet were in danger of dragging her down into the clutches of creatures the thief could not see or hear but could smell and touch, and all was dark.

A long talon found her ankle and pulled.  The thief couldn’t scream as she tumbled into the darkness for her voice was caught in her throat.  She landed with a thud, not daring to move.

Two large white circles appeared from the gloom, sending a spotlight on the thief’s exhausted body.  “Is it dead? Algae wants his supper,” hissed a voice in a low tone.

“N-n-no,” the thief stammered, trembling.  “Not f-food.”

“Hmm,” the voice mused with a squeak.  “Algae thinks he’s found a new pal then.  A not-food. Tell Algae, not-food, tell Algae your name.”

“I have to go,” the thief choked out nervously, struck with the realization that the two pale circles hovering before her were indeed the blind eyes of a grimfoetivee.

“What a pity, Algae likes new things.  Algae doesn’t want you to leave just yet.”

“No!” the thief cried, sending her conscious back to where she was also, squeezing her white pendant for its power to transfix her.  The Seaskri forest, she thought. Irtaa Kertgo.

Suddenly she was running through puddles of water in the forest, her robes and cape soaked thoroughly and clinging nervously to them.  

Five words repeated themselves rapidly in her mind.  I have to get back I have to get back I have to get back.  

“Don’t move! I’m armed!”

The thief froze, panting for breath and turned her masked face to the ground.

“Heh, smart choice.” Footsteps from the pursuer rushed closer.  “You know what I want. I strongly suggest you give it to me.” There was a pause.  “Did you not hear me?”

A shadow of darkness, hardly visible in the night, burst forth from the ground and struck the pursuer, and they fell over, lying in the gathering water, as the light flew off into the night.

The thief did not hesitate.  She continued running, the rain urging her on.

“Rilqua!”

Although the figure flinched, they did not stop their stride, even after hearing their name called out.  

“Wait! Where are you going?  Do you have it?”

Sorry my friend, the figure thought sadly.  You can’t come with me this time.  I have to go.

“Rilqua!”

Stop yelling out.  You’re just drawing me unwanted attention.

“Where are you?”

The thief turned to glance at the dripping female elf, met her eyes, she closed hers, then used her pendant to send her to another place once more, and vanished.  Qasdre, she thought, her eyes pressed shut.  Take me to Qasdre.

When she opened her eyes she was in a cave.  On the ledge was a massive four-winged cheetah, looking down with interest.  Peering through the entrance, she saw that she was in a mountain. Below her, a boy of about twelve years desperately tried to free a griffin from a net.  It was raining here too, and Rilqua ducked back inside as more black lightning — shadow-lightning — rocketed from the ground. The griffin finally escaped from the net, and it flew away, the boy on it’s back.

Rilqua frowned at it’s departing back.  “Difelt,” she muttered under her breath, watching the retreating fadiths.  “Cass. You can’t run for long. Farcut will find you both, so I’ll raise the two chosen ones from the beloved prophecy myself.” Rilqua pulled the scarlet egg from her satchel and watched as the blurry shape inside moved slightly.  Rilqua patted the cheetah’s paw. “After all, it doesn’t take much to help a prophecy, or to help a friend. What do you say, Philaes?” she asked the raingburre.

Philaes narrowed her eyes.  “Yse,” she growled in a language she knew Rilqua could comprehend.  “Em sya yse.

Chapter One

One Year After the Heist, Two Months After the Lake .  . .

The two swords clanged against each other.  Syrene Pectar’s feet slid, and she fought to maintain her balance.  Her opponent swung his sword down, and she just dodged it and leapt back, pausing only to wipe a bead of sweat off her brow.  She thrust her sword toward her attacker. His sword met hers and they grinded against each other for a moment before Syrene pulled her away and smashed it at his legs instead.  He stepped back, holding his sword at an angle to defend himself. Syrene charged, hurling her sword down on her opponent’s, bringing it down to the floor. She held him as long as she could, gritting her teeth from the strain.  She released his weapon, stepped back, and swung her sword at her opponent. Now was her chance. Now was the time. As Syrene’s sword struck his, a loud bang echoed throughout the base, ringing in her ears. The two swords felt heavy, and Syrene groaned when she saw the blades were welded together.

“Delta!” she snapped, letting her sword fall from her grasp, sending her opponent stumbling as the weight of both weapons fell into his grip.  “I told you to keep your miracle experiments away from my training exercises!”

“Sorry,” Delta replied with a twinkle in her eye.  “I thought I’d even out the odds and help.”

“Help who?” Syrene asked.  “Don’t answer that.” She turned away from the thirteen year old FadithRider to face her opponent.  “Good match Winter. I have to find my glits, I’m going glittre driftign with Ari. We’ll talk later?”

“Sure,” he agreed.  “What’s glitter drifting?”

“A sport for elves,” she replied, searching through the equipment room in the FadithRiders’ training center.  “You wear the warmest clothes you have, tie a plank of wood to each foot, those are called glits, and you have two branches in each hand, then slide down the mountain.”

“Which mountain?”

“Qasdre Mountain, of course.”

“Shouldn’t you stay with us to help decipher the code from the book?” Winter asked, his blue-green eyes locking with her ice blue ones.

“I’m sure you and the team can figure it out.”

Winter tilted his head.  “Syrene, you don’t have to leave right now, we all know Willow is the fastest dragon fadith here; in the FadithRiders base.  That means something.”

“She is amazing,” Syrene agreed, “but I already have plans for today.”  

“We need you here.” The FadithRider glanced at his feet.  “You’re one of the best Riders we have.”

She sighed.  “Alright, I’ll stay and help if next time you come glitter drifting with me and Ari,” she said, her mind drifting to the elf who helped her on her quest to stop the Lake of Fire.

“Alright,” he agreed with a sigh.  “Come on.”

The two walked beside each other silently before arriving at a door.  Syrene turned the handle and entered.

Three people glanced her way.

“Good afternoon Blade and Scythe.  Winter, can you get me a syl? I need to write Ari to tell her today doesn’t work.  And . . . where’s Jaclyn?”

“She went back to Efousiam as a spy, undercover of course,”  blurted Scythe, hurrying to answer the question. “She was a little bit ‘lot’ nervous about it, but she’ll be fine,” he ended, trying to add a touch of reassurance.

“Aye, she’ll do good,” Blade added, looking up at his sister.  His brown-black hair, different from his sister’s blue, looked as though it hadn’t been cared for yet that morning. His pale blue eyes hovered curiously on Syrene.  He glanced from her to Winter, then back again. “What did he say to convince you this time?” the former Efousiam knight asked with a hint of amusement, trying a sailor accent to work on voice disguise (or so he said).

Syrene ignored him.  “Where’s the book? The sooner we solve the code, the sooner we find the last hidden rival.” Her hand darted to the locket that hung from her neck on a thin silver chain.  Recently, Ari had given it to her, knowing Syrene was meant to protect the three hidden rivals: The Locket of Appearance, the Sword of Light, and one more that remained unknown.  Bumping against the locket was a dashing green jewel, one she had stolen right off Queen Emerald’s crown. She wore it because she was proud . . . and it did have a habit of carving poems onto itself, which were both helpful and unhelpful at the same time.

“Yes, and before my father finds it first!  He almost awakened the Lake of Fire with the first rival, the Sword!” Scythe nearly shouted, his brown hair whipping around his face.  His choice of clothing, the most elf-like in the group, began with a forest colored tunic, a dark red sash, and a quiver of arrows held on his back.

“We know,” Syrene answered with a hint of amused annoyance.  “We were there.”

“Oh right .  . . you were,” the Efousiam prince replied, his expression thoughtful, as if he was just putting pieces together.  “That makes sense.”

Syrene sighed.

Delta tossed her shoulder length brown hair over her shoulder.  “Here’s the code,” she said, pointing to the book.

Syrene squinted at the paper.  “It faded.”

“It’s been two months since it appeared, of course it faded,” Scythe reminded her.

“Seze,” Syrene whistled, calling her friend, a little water dragon.  Seze flew through a high window and landed on his fadith’s shoulder, shaking himself happily as if he had just received a bath.  

Syrene concentrated, all focus and thought on her power, then opened her hand.  Fire appeared in her grasp but didn’t burn her. She scattered sparks on the page and Seze immediately breathed water droplets on it afterward.  Syrene held the page up to the sunlight pouring through the roof.

The words on the page grew darker.

 

Vice ice

Naturall nature

Yepp pep

Look lok

Off of

Chat chaea

Rat sat

 

“Look for anything.  Patterns, words spelled backwards, anything,” Syrene said.

The friends studied the page for a moment.

“All I see is ‘no sense,’ ‘random,’ and ‘what’?” Scythe complained.

“A few lines rhyme!” Blade exclaimed.  “Vice ice, yepp pep, and rat sat.”

“Right, I knew that,” Scythe quickly corrected himself, nodding heartily.

“And look,” Syrene added, “vice has the word ice in it.” She thought for a minute.  “Yepp has pep in it, rat and sat both have at in them.”

“So .  . . what does that mean?” Scythe asked, his brow furled in confusion.

“It means don’t move!” a voice barked from the doorway.  Maloster, the King of Efousiam, entered the room. In one swift motion he drew an arrow, had his eight winged green-fire keep dragon breathe a plume of fire to light the arrowhead, and loaded the crossbow.  “I recommend you tell me where the rival is,” he said menacingly, aiming the crossbow directly at Syrene’s head.

No one dared to move for a long moment.

“How did you find us?” Scythe whimpered boldly, melting in the presence of his father.

“My fadith, Clodu here, tracked you down.  It did take a couple months, but here we are.” Maloster’s eyes gleamed.  “In the middle of something very  important, I assume?” He smirked when Scythe looked at his feet.  His rage returned quickly. You know how I got here, now give me what I came for!  Tell me where the last hidden rivals is!” he bellowed, lunging forward and grabbing Syrene’s collar to lift her off the ground.  

She gasped, clawing at his hands, desperate for air.  This was no training match. This was real. The hands on her throat were real.  She felt her eyes widen as she continued to struggle against him.

“Very well,” he said, the ice dripping from his command.  Before anyone could do anything, he grabbed what looked like a handful of jet black lightning from his pocket and struck Syrene with it.  

She felt a zap bolt through her, and she fell limp.  Winter lunged forward and caught her as she collapsed.  Syrene could see him in a blur, but soon all she could see was darkness.  She could, however, still hear.

“By the kingdoms, argh!”  Maloster swore. “What is happening?”  

Something small hit the floor, like a shard of a jewel, and by the King’s outrageous tone, Syrene wondered if it had vanished in thin air.

“It vanished into thin air!” he continued.

Syrene tried to smile, but found she couldn’t.

“What did you do to her!?  How did you control lightning!?” Winter demanded.

“Simply made her less of a problem, Mr. Rivkibe.  A handy bargaining chip, if you could call her that.  As for the lightning,” he paused, “I had something assist me in harnessing it.” His voice snarled, cracking through the air like a whip.  “Don’t worry, Winter,” Maloster purred, “she’ll be fine with me.”

“You can’t take her!” Delta cried, pushing her chair back, and leaving it as it fell with a thunder clap of noise, instead taking a stand beside her brother.

“She’ll be returned as soon as she tells me what I want to know,” Maloster explained.

“She doesn’t know! None of us do!” Blade declared, rising as well.

Maloster seemed uninterested by their attempts and Syrene suspected that he waved off their mini rebellion with a hand.  “Now now,” he began. “Let’s compromise! You tell me the location of the last hidden rival, I let your friend go! It’s easy!  All you have to do is tell me. What will it be?”

“We don’t know where it is!” Delta told him calmly, her voice cracking as she tried to hold back her shocked anger.

“You’ve made your choice,” he decreed, his feet moving around on the stone floor.  “Although I did expect more from you, Scythe.” He shook his head. “I suppose the worst disappointment for a father is an unworthy son.”

“Wait!” a voice called out.  “I’ll go with her! I’ll come too.  Take us both.”

“No, Blade, don’t!” Delta — at least, Syrene thought it was Delta — cried.

“I have to.  I can’t just let him take her without doing anything to prevent it.”

“Why?” Winter whispered.

The reply came back, softer than any whisper could be spoken.  “We can get the remaining jewels of tears from Quemy’s crown,” Blade breathed.  “Don’t worry. I can take care of her.”

“Very well,” came the haunting voice.  “The twins are coming with me.” There was a flash of purple light, enough for Syrene to see through her closed eyes.  After a sound like a crack, she heard no more.

A voice that reached no ear formed words.  A voice as old and as young as time, a rumbling noise, which made this speaker sound like it was muttering from a distance.

“Tukamong hunt .  . . Tukamog find .  . .”

Chapter Two

The Prophecy and the Song

Difelt fell sideways onto his bed, one hand under his head and one pressed underneath him, he reached over to his bedside table for a book to get lost in.  Desolate sat down beside him and gently pried it from his hand. “Talk to,” she said in her thick Lyred accent, her green eyes resting on his face.

He sat up.  “He has no idea!” he burst out, frustrated.  “I don’t want to trap power-wielding creatures or learn how to bargain or even know how to close a cage.  I want my fadith back! It’s not fair that I had to lock Cass up!”

“You had do that?” the elf asked, her eyes widening.

Difelt closed his eyes and didn’t reply.

“Yes?  We friends since I followed DragonCager Captain and stopped him from locking up you.”

Difelt collapsed back down, staring at the ceiling.  “Yes, my dear Uncle Farcut.” he glanced over at the elf.  Desolate, you’re my closest friend here besides Cass my griffin fadith.  I’ll tell you.” He took a deep breath. “But no one else can know about this.  Not your friend Ari, nor any of my Uncle’s friends, just you and me.”

Just then, Venmo, Desolate’s shadehunter fadith stalked into the room proudly.  

“Venmo?”  Desolate asked, scratching him behind the ears as he delivered a dead mouse at her feet.

“Alright, you, Venmo, and Blazetricks,” Difelt said, motioning to another shadehunter at the foot of his bed who followed him constantly ever since he arrived at the base.  The two shadehunters sniffed each other, then leapt into Difelt and Desolate’s laps, staring at each other. “I want to be a FadithRi—”

“What’s going on here?!” a deep voice boomed.

“Uncle!” Difelt exclaimed with a hint of guilt.  “Uh, I-I can explain.”

“Really?  So tell me then, why the logs are cutting themselves?”

Difelt turned away and felt Desolate’s breath on the back of his neck.  “I wanted a rest so I used power to make the axe to cut the logs by itself.”

“You what?”

“I was given the power to do that.”

“Miracles produced by humans?  No such thing! You lie! Only elves are capable of such feats!  No supper for you!” His uncle glared around the room and his gaze landed on the two shadehunters.  “What are those things doing here?” he whispered, pointing a fat accusing finger at the shadehunters.  Blazetricks arched his back and flexed his poisonous claw, Venmo hissing beside him.

“Don’t you dare take us!”

Difelt blinked.  Who just said that?  He looked down where Venmo was still hissing.  Did I just hear him?  “Please, Uncle Farcut,” he said, trying to meet the DragonCager captain in the eye.  “Let them stay with us. They aren’t hurting anyone.”

The captain wasn’t paying attention because he was too busy glaring furiously at Desolate, his piercing eye studying her black hair, masked face, tall strong frame, and casual tunic.  “An elf!” he grumbled, his frown changing into a sneer. “Who are you and why are you here?” he snarled.

Desolate shot Difelt a ‘is he serious?’ face before replying.  “Ym naem si Desolate.  Em ma na friedn fo hsi.

Uncle Farcut glanced quizzically at Difelt.  He repeated his question.

Desolate repeated her answer.

Uncle Farshot tilted his head, anger burning.  He asked her again who she was.

Soryr, em dot’n haev teh Four Shad worsd ot answre yuo.  Difelt? Cna yuo tell hmi?

Although Difelt could hardly understand a word his friend was saying, when he heard her say his name he guessed what she wanted him to do.  “Her name is Desolate, she’s from Qasdre, and—”

“A QASDRE SPY!  YOU’VE BEEN SHELTERING A SPY IN OUR MIDST!  SEIZE THEM! SEIZE THEM BOTH!” Uncle exploded, red with rage.  He hurled himself forward.

“No!  Uncle!  Stop this and let me have my say!” Difelt screamed, beating back the sudden crowd of DragonCagers pouring into his room like a waterfall after winter.

“YOUR SAY?” he thundered.  “YOU’LL HAVE YOUR SAY IN COURT!”

“Please,” he begged.  “You see—”

“I SEE A TRAITOR!”  Farcut practically screamed.  

Difelt’s terrified gray eyes met Desolate’s calm green ones.  The masked elf winked. She motioned with one hand to the ground beneath them, and something in the air seemed amiss, before the ground vanished from under Difelt’s feet.  He screamed, as any normal person should in this situation, and felt his body sliding down a long slanted tunnel. Desolate held her hands in front of her, and water appeared from the very air, assisting the companions in their escape.  

They landed with a dull thud on the ground after what seemed like a few shorts seconds.

Desolate’s pointed elf ears twitched as she scanned the area, on high alert.  “Elves know the prophecy. I last in family hear it. I tell you case we’re caught.” She took a deep breath, then turned to him.  Her green eyes were locked with his, never blinking, and seemed to be shifting color. Then she began to speak in a low wavering voice.  “There are hidden gates and realms, places that stay unseen; creatures different and powerful, some friendly but others mean.   Defenders shall rise to sway the King of the north, then all the other kingdoms will see a new Leader with more worth. The twelve defenders of the King will return, and stop the evil that overthrows; two are not elves, nor human, here is how you’ll know.  The creature of pain will be revealed by death, and only under two full moons; a grim foe will breathe her very first breath, guided by fiery plumes. Off to the west a cub will be found, his tale a flurry of sparks; try to escape but will be bound, and known by the four birthmarks.

“WHERE ARE THEY?” Farcut’s angry voice boomed from behind them.  “FIND THEM! AND LEAVE NO STONE UNTURNED! I WON’T GIVE A GRIFFIN’S CLAW FOR FOOLS CRAWLING BACK EMPTY HANDED!  FIND ME THAT SPY! FIND ME MY NEPHEW!”

There were a few cries of ‘Aye sir’ closely followed by an army of stomping feet.

Desolate’s eyes were still changing colors, and she grabbed Difelt’s arm, snapping him into focus.  “In the shadows of the night, a curse is murmured softly; some evil trying to end the light, brewing a song in moth tea.

 

* * *

 

“You won’t know when I’m done with you, cause you won’t know a thi-ing; in the darkness all around you, I-I-I will softly sing .  . . Your thoughts will fog and your source of speak will fade, bravery melts, fear inva-a-ades . . . Yo-oo-ou cannot fight back, you can only li-sten; look and watch my eyes, you shall not feel surprise .  . . The last thing I may sing, you cannot hear me now; my song has been lie full, the rival in my cla-a-a-a-a-aws . . .”

Plasmacid clapped enthusiastically for the grimfoetivee singer, applauding with his four feathered wings as well.  He was small, for a raingburre, mainly because he was only four seasons old. (However he was still taller than his guardian.  She was only as tall as his shoulder, which he was quite pleased about.) Plasmacid’s paws were large and white with sharp claws, and his tail tip was jet black.  “Very nice, lovely, they’ll die of awe,” he said.

Gemuna sighed, fiddling with her talons.  “Well, do you really think so?” she asked, curling her long snake-like body around herself.

“It’s beautiful,” said a voice.

The raingburre and the grimfoetivee turned to see their guardian, an elf who went by the name Rilqua.  “Perfect. Good practicing.” Rilqua was wearing a soft shirt, a skirt forest colors down to her knees, black leggings, and tall brown boots.  “Although I don’t see the meaning of the last line. You weren’t lying about what you were doing, nor was one of the precious hidden rivals now yours.  Work on that.” She spun to face Plasmacid. “And you? How is your flight coming along?”

“Uh,” the massive four-winged cheetah muttered hesitantly.  “I haven’t, exactly, done anything.”

“Do you want to be defenders or not?”

Gemuna ruffled her wing-ears, annoyed.  “Well, of course, by the kingdoms, but why do we need hidden rivals?  And some kind of treasure?”

Rilqua sat down.  “Listen, you two are more important than you think.” The elf was interrupted by a loud clanging.  

“Open this door!  We know you’re in here, rebel!  Where are the two from the prophecy?” Then the voice added more quietly, “do you think that was scary enough, Sir Joe?”

“It was fine,” Joe assured him.  “Rilqua Risksleet! Open this door!” Sir Joe demanded.  “Unless you want it to be removed and burned!” Laughter erupted, ruining the whole menacing effect.

Rilqua narrowed her violet eyes and drew a sword from the scabbard at her side.  “Quick, Plasmacid, Gemuna, go downstairs into the room-to-never-be-opened and take the pendant.  There should be a kind of mist coming off of it. Then, go to Seaskri. FadithRiders can help you.  Nine defenders are there and I can’t protect you anymore. Fopa Island is no longer a safe place for you.  The knights must have an entire fleet, or they wouldn’t be taunting us.”

The two young creatures hesitated, glancing at each other.

“Go!” Rilqua shouted as the door erupted into flames.

Plasmacid pushed Gemuna in front of him and he shut the door and drew the bolt before they hurried down the slippery wooden stairs to the basement.  The stairs were tattered and rickety, and the two companions raced down, as quickly as they could. Gemuna flicked her tongue in and out to detect corners and walls.  The bottom of the descent met a narrow hallway, and the grimfoetivee slithered ahead into the darkness, Plasmacid close behind her.

It’s so creepy down here, no wonder we’ve never been allowed here before, Plasmacid thought, carefully checking where he was putting his paws.  Dead spiders littered the floor like grains of sand, and a few small mouse homes were scattered here and there like dice.  Plasmacid couldn’t see a thing except for Gemuna’s white eyes, steadily moving forwards. Her breathing was so quiet, he wondered if she even was breathing.  Her tail was draped over one of his front paws, guiding him through an endless labyrinth, much like Minute’s Pass.  It was cooler down here, and Plasmacid was soon glad for his fur.  

Suddenly, the raingburre stepped into a large puddle of water, and he jumped back, hissing and shaking his soaked paw.  I hate water!  It weakens my fire!  He growled again, but he knew there wasn’t time to lose.  The precious minutes were already slipping out of his grasp like drops of water, if anyone would want to have it in their grasp in the first place.

Gemuna slipped into a room for a moment, then immediately returned to the path.  “Well, I got it,” she murmured.

Plasmacid had just begun to walk again when he ran into her, since she stopped abruptly.  

“Well, dead end,” she muttered.

Plasmacid felt his hope sink to the bottom of his chest and die.  “This can’t be it,” he said, shoving at the stones around them.

Gemuna’s wing-ears stood up straight, then began to swing wildly all over the place.

Plasmacid heard footsteps echo dimly behind him.  “We’ve been followed,” he growled grimly. “I’ll hold them off, you find the way out.” Then he bolted back the way he’d come as fast as he could into piercing darkness without his friend’s eyes to light the way.  The raingburre collided with a man waving a torch and wielding a spear. Plasmacid jerked the weapon from the man’s grasp and broke it between his teeth. The fire was quickly absorbed by his tail tip. The darkness was overpowering, cheering for the fight to start.  Plasmacid slammed his paw forward and felt someone slap against the wall. He spread his wings as far as they would go, which wasn’t very far, and pressed two men against the wall, until they ran out of air. The raingburre used his wings to crush a few more men like playing an accordion.  He quickly lunged forward, scratching anything that moved, until Plasmacid couldn’t fight anymore. He was worn out, and some of the men — DragonCagers, he assumed — were awakening.

Plasmacid spun and fled up the tunnel.  Two spotlights found him, and he slowed until he fell at the grimfoetivee’s talons.  “Well, no use,” she hissed. “Hardly any room to tunnel out.”

Shouts sounded from behind them.

“Are you sure?” Plasmacid asked, panting.

“Well, yes,” Gemuna replied, her ears drooping.  “We’re surrounded.”

The DragonCagers noisily advanced towards the power-wielding creatures.  “This ‘ay men, the raingburre’ll trade for ‘is damage. Well, someone’ll trade for him; his fur made coat!”

“Ha ha, good one boss,” chuckled a low dumb voice.

“Fighting’s no good, they outnumber us,” Plasmacid added as Gemuna drew herself up.

“Ah, there ‘e is!”

“Get ‘em!”

“Stupid cat!”

The Cagers marched forward with muzzles and chains and rope.

Plasmacid clawed the rock, then shoved his shoulder into the stone, but both efforts were wasted.

“Awww, is the ‘ittle pussy scared?”

Gemuna seemed to be making a split-second decision, then she pushed herself up and burrowed through the ceiling.  Plasmacid had seconds to spare as he followed her up, leaping from one side of the horizontal tunnel to the other, digging his claws into the rock.  He saw the light above him, he was going to make it out!

Then he slipped.

He slashed a wound on his forepaw as he tumbled down, landing on three or four Cagers below.  He shook himself, determined to climb into the hole. They weighed down his legs with bolas, but he still fought, roaring like crazy.  

“Good try, kitty.”

Plasmacid lay down, watching the spider-web like rope fixed firmly around him.  No no no, he thought, closing his eyes.  None of this makes sense.  Help me, he thought desperately.  Someone.  Anyone. One DragonCager thrust the pommel of a large hunting knife around, probably to knock the raingburre unconsious, but missed and hit Plasmacid’s front left wing instead.  The weapon cut into his wing, stinging and stinging and deeper and faster. He roared in anger and pain, but he was so tied up there was nothing he could do. Yet he was hit by an idea.  He was a raingburre. He lit his tail tip on fire, and burned the nets away in a heartbeat. He forced himself to his feet, and made a dash for the hole.

“You’re not going anywh—” started one DragonCager, but was cut off as Plasmacid smacked him in the side of the head with a strong wing.  

Sore as he was, he climbed up the tunnel into the warm sunlight of early spring, dragging his injured wing crookedly behind him, and gingerly placing weight on his forepaw.

Gemuna let out a sigh of relief.  “You’re well!” she cried, flinging her talons around his neck.  “If you can’t see, the truth of your life, actions may be, beware a knife,” she said in to the tune of her song.

Plasmacid looked her in the eye.  Her eyes, they weren’t white anymore, they were jet black, midnight black, blacker than shadow-lightning, and they were coming towards him.

“No!” he shouted, leaping away from her as the scene before him melted away into a large puddle of darkness, coming to drag him into sleep by his tail.  “Gemuna! I won’t, won’t, won’t, why . . .”

Suddenly, all his memory was gone.

Chapter Three

A Tight Rope and a Cryptic Warning

Syrene flew on Willow’s back, the sunlight splashing over her, and sighed happily.  Alive and free, the two best things in all of Irtaa Kertgo. Dreamy-minded, Syrene guided her fadith into a dive, laughing at the top of her lungs.  Wind raced past her face, and Syrene spread her arms wide on either side of her as her dragon plummeted below the big white clouds. Water came into sight.  At the last possible second, Willow shifted her wings to pull up and shoot back towards the sky, endless blue, calm, and safe.

“If you won’t join us, you can join your sister instead,” threatened a deep low voice, interrupting Syrene’s dream.

“May Lord Havom be with me.  Do to me what you wish. Don’t harm her,” a second voice said bravely, without a hint of fear.

“She has too much to trade for, by the kingdoms,” argued the first voice.  “You are useful. You know this is the right choice. You know what awaits her.”

Stop talking, Syrene thought back to the speakers.  Let me sleep.  Leave me to my joy.

“I beg of you to spare her!” pleaded the second voice, desperation edging in.

The first voice barged in again to answer.  “It is not my say to release her, and I wouldn’t if I could.  Pectar is a fugitive and a rebel; she escaped the castle after her trial, and escaped it again.  She is getting exactly what she deserves.”

The voices faded for a moment, and Syrene was tangled in a different dream.  Watching from a side view, she saw Mira Trel in the Valley of Tears. The cherub wore ivy green robes, and two white bracelets on either wrist.  She had long hair and a sandy yellow gemstone around her neck. She seemed to be able to see Syrene, for she walked up to her and smiled. She took one of her bracelets and set it on Syrene’s left wrist.

“Just in case,” she murmured.

Syrene tried to thank her, but her mouth would not open.  Her eyes refused to blink, and her body went tense. Air flooded through her even though she was not breathing.  She altered her eyes, which was difficult, and glanced down at the white bracelet. It was plain; just a white cloth tied around her wrist, but it was glowing slightly as it allowed her to breathe.

Mira turned away to face someone approaching.

Syrene forced her eyes back up.  She felt alarm bolt through her whole body, for the person approaching was Maloster Wolfzere.  Mira had once told her that Maloster actually worked for another, the ‘Dark Ruler’. All Syrene knew about Maloster’s master was his name: Vatyn.

“Mira Trel,” hissed Maloster, “I believe we have some unfinished business.”

“Indeed,” she replied steadily.  

Neither carried a weapon, as far as Syrene could tell.

“You know of the last hidden rival and the missing Jewel of Nature.  Give both to me or suffer the consequences.”

“I would rather die than give you either,”  Mira said without hesitation.

Maloster actually appeared surprised, as if he wasn’t expecting this reply at all.  He quickly corrected his expression. “You have chosen,” he said calmly. He turned around, and Syrene half suspected he was really leaving.

But faster than a lanxdula pouncing, the  Efousiam King flashed around and drew a sword hidden behind his cape.

Syrene would’ve gasped if she could speak, for it was her sword, the first hidden rival, the Sword of Light.

“You leave me no choice!”

“No,” said Mira.  “I will never betray Lord Havom.”

“Such loyalty,” Maloster mocked.  “But don’t you know? You are betraying Him, by giving me your necklace!” The Sword of Light shone blue, and fire roared from the blade.  

Mira screamed, and Syrene willed herself to leap forward, to shield her friend from the flames.  Syrene had no control. She could only watch. Fire engulfed her vision, and a soft voice hissed a few final words in a faint raspy voice as the fire raged higher.  A voice brimmed with evil.

“The girl is coming .  . . She must not succeed.”

Then another voice joined, an ancient voice with dust in the speaker’s lungs, a voice of one trapped and alone.  “Tukamog kill . . . Tukamog kill . . . Tukamog guard them, so Tukamog kill . . . Syrene Pectar . . .”

She woke with a start.  “Mira!” she gasped.

Blade’s face appeared in her sight.  “Are you okay? You’ve been out for awhile.”

“What?” she asked before remembering.  Maloster. The shadow-lightning. “I know how he did it,” the words tumbled out.  “He used the Jewel of Nature, and he might have killed Mira, we have to find her!” Syrene tried to stand, but the effort was too much and she collapsed back on her pile of blankets.

“Slow down.  You’ve had a shock.  The lightning needs to wear off,” Blade coaxed.

“No, Mira, I have to help her!” Syrene argued, trying to sit up.

“I’m not Mira, I’m Blade.  Your brother.”

“But Mira—”

“Just rest.”

“I’m afraid there’s no time for that,” jeered a voice from the entrance.  The Captain of the Royal Guard blocked the doorway with a fleet of knights.  He marched towards them, and grabbed Syrene harshly by the collar as Maloster had done.  “You’re coming with me!”

Syrene choked, and glanced down.  There was a piece of white cloth tied to her wrist.  This must be from Lord Havom, she thought.  He sent me the dream.  

A small rock flew through the jagged barred window, smashed the dirty mud-smeared glass, and hit the wall.  Blade tore a note tied to the rock away from the knights as they rushed into the room, swords, spears, and javelins and the ready.  Two knights grabbed Blade and threw him into the wall. He crumpled, and landed on the stone floor, groaning.

“Blade!” Syrene yelled, lunging towards him.

A knight caught her legs and hurled her to the floor.

Syrene raised her head sorrowfully, tasting salty blood in her mouth.  He can’t be dead, she thought in a panicked blaze of worry and anger.

The note had fallen from her brother’s grasp as he was knocked out, and now lie just out of reach.

Syrene struggled to inch forward, she stretched out her arm, fluttered her fingers, almost, barely, just—

A knight’s armored foot smashed down on her hand.

Syrene yelped, and pulled her arm back abruptly.

“Ahem,” the knight said, clearing his throat.  The knight snatched the note up with selfishness and greed flashing firmly through his eyes.  He unrolled the note, held it up, squinted, and read aloud. “Prepare to play dead.” He paused.  “The bracelet will give you air. The—” he puzzled over a word for a moment, muttering something about scribbled writing, and rushed on, wanting to be important.  “‘Something’ is safe for you.”

“Who sent it to you, Pectar?” one knight demanded.  “Who’s your contact?”

“I don’t know,” she spat, frustrated, meanwhile slipping the cloth bracelet off her wrist as she spoke.

“It doesn’t matter anyways,” another knight replied earnestly.  “She don’t got no bracelet.”

The Captain of the Royal Guard glared at them.  “You fools! Find whoever delivered that note!”

“Aye, sir!” chorused the knights in unison.

“But don’t leave me alone with them!” he screeched down the hall.  

Three bewildered knights hurried back, quite obviously confused.  Two took hold of Syrene’s arms and hauled her off the ground.

She forced her legs to hold her as she was lead out of the room.  Syrene kept her fists clenched, hiding the bracelet in one hand. She was being shown towards a large platform in the middle of town.  A very familiar platform. Syrene recalled watching from her window at the orphanage as prisoners were often brought to the gallows alive, and carried away dead by morning.

She was to be hanged.

 

* * *

 

Beware a knife.  Those were the first words in Plasmacid’s train of thought when he finally beat back unconsciousness.  His amber eyes snapped open, and he sprang to his paws, claws unsheathed. It was evening, the moon barely starting to climb a ladder of clouds higher into the sky and the sun vanishing over the horizon.  Then another thought came to him; a single, dim, memory. Gemuna.   

“Gemuna!” he called as loudly as he dared.  “Gemuna where are you? Who are you?” Plasmacid exploded in a panic.  “What is happening to me?”

“Your grimfoe friend is not here,” a voice said in Four Shad, the only language Plasmacid had ever learned.  

What does he know about me?  The raingburre thought frantically to himself.  

“She went to find,” continued the voice, a voice that was brimmed with evil.  “To find, find . . . find the guardian of the Pass.”

 

* * *

 

“Did you tell our Master?”  Tom asked, straightening his belt and securing the sword by his side.  

“I’ve told him everything,” Maloster replied.  “Things are looking dark.”

“She escaped? Again?”  the scribe said in wonder, his astonishment spilling out instead of keeping concealed behind a blank expression as he was trained to do.   Luckily, the Efousiam King didn’t notice.

“No,” Maloster said sternly, stroking his chin with one hand.  “She is scheduled to hang tonight, actually.” He chuckled softly.  “So that’s one of our problems out of the way. We still need the repairs done on the castle.  Those FadithRiders will trade for the damage they’ve caused.”

“The new shield is ready?”

“The grimfoetivee venom has been extracted and is being moved here now.  Let us hope the blacksmith slave is cooperative. For when the seven jewels of the seven tears are master’s, no one will stand in the way.  Those who do . . .” Maloster snatched an arrow from a quiver at his feet and flung it at a target on the back of his door, so that the arrowhead burst through the wood and was revealed on the other side to any passerbys in the hallway.  

A wooden shield appeared suddenly in Tom’s grasp.  Tom cleared his throat and glanced down at his feet, lowering the shield to the ground, keeping Maloster’s eyes from it, hiding his confusion of how it arrived in his hands out of thin air.  “Have you considered that the elf might be telling the truth?”

“Who, Lefa Grene?” Maloster shook his head.  “He’s been muttering nonstop in I’ve lost count of how many different languages, Lyred mostly.  When he does speak in Four Shad it has all been in riddles and half formed phrases that make no sense.”

“Like what, sir?” Tom inquired, perking up with interest.  “I’m intrigued.”

“‘I Am with you’, ‘Never stop hiding fadith’, ‘eat don’t think plants’, ‘why palans have to do’, or my personal favorite: ‘sleepy smacking pellets bounce up rain.’ ” Maloster snickered.  “Nonsense!”

Tom laughed too, though more half-heartedly.  “Why is he still here?”

“Other than entertainment?”  Maloster thought a moment, then shook his head again.  “Master has his reasons. But you’re right. Whatever the matter, I’m sure Master will be just as pleased with the prisoner dead, unless he personally wants to hold an interrogation.”

Tom blinked in shock.  “He’s coming here?!

Maloster glanced at him, puzzled.  “Why so alarmed?”

Tom shook his head, afraid to respond.

Maloster stared behind Tom, gesturing some unknown presence forward.  

A man with purple pupils, muddy black torn clothes, and a scowled expression materialized in the doorway.  He radiated darkness. Covering his feet were boots of hard melted metal, dripping with scarlet blood, which snaked along the floor as he lumbered forward.  He didn’t so much as glance at Tom before bowing slightly to Maloster, who waved at him to stand.

“I will get whom you need,” Maloster said in a calm voice.  He left the room for a few minutes, leaving Tom and the creature alone.  He returned dragging chains behind him. Bound in the chains, fury and peace mingled in his expression, was a tall, adult male elf, struggling madly and thrashing despite the weight on his arms and legs.  

Tom felt his heart drop in his chest and burn.  This wasn’t right.

Maloster lifted his chin and nodded at the man-like creature.

The man-like thing opened his mouth and screeched at top volume like a hurricane, spinning curses and anger and evil.  Tom thought he would turn to stone from the force and loudness of it. He fell to his knees and clasped his hands over his ears, his eyes shut, as if they would block the sound.

Help, Tom thought.  Make it stop.  Just like that, the creature was quiet.

“Translation,” hissed Maloster, twitching the chain to jerk the elf to his feet.

Tom received better look at him.  The elf, Lefa, he guessed, was no older than fifty and no younger than forty.  His eyes were hazelnut brown and his long moon silver hair reflected his authoritative eyes.  He wore a brown tunic and a belt of branch, and pants pale blue and shadowy. Tom knew instantly that this elf was someone important.

Lefa locked eyes with Tom for a moment, and the scribe was the first to turn away.  He knows who I really am, Tom thought.

“He said,” the elf hesitated.  “He said that Master Vaytn decrees to kill all Lord Havom’s Defenders, especially the ones from the prophecy.” He paused once again, but for a second too long, and Maloster tugged harshly at the chain circling Lefa’s neck.  The elf choked for a moment, then winced and hurriedly continued. “And not to stop . . . until you do.”

Maloster gazed at him for a long moment.  Then he reached out and stroked Lefa’s head.  “Thank you. I knew you wouldn’t be a disappointment.”

Dont’n touhc em!”  the elf hissed at him.

Maloster stopped; but then tweaked Lefa’s pointed ears. Hard.  The elf fell to the ground, still as stone, unblinking.

“I knew you would be useful,” Maloster repeated.  “But your time to serve is over. Farewell, my old friend.” Maloster uncorked a vial of violet liquid, Portal Potion, and sprayed it around Lefa.  “It just so happens that I know a certain fire-sea serpent who’s hungry,” the King said as the elf disappeared.

The creature faded away, collapsing into a gray mist.

Maloster turned to face Tom, who was staring terrified at the spot where the elf had fallen.  “Come, there is much work to do.”

 

* * *

 

“Listen to,” Desolate said, staring into Difelt’s eyes, deadly serious.  “You have find Rhuvear. He you trust. Not trust any other. Promise?”

Difelt blinked.  “Find who?” he asked, still confused by the prophecy.

“Rhuvear.  He a cherub.  Find him.” Desolate’s ears perked up.  “Bad people come. Good to split.”

“Split up?” Difelt ran a hand through his blond hair.  “What’s that danger, Desolate?”

Em sense ti,” she replied, in half Four Shad and half Lyred.  “Remember . . .” she trailed off, closing her green eyes.  “Grene in danger. Fire.” The elf opened her eyes. “Go! Fast!  Lord Havom be with you! Hurry!”

Next chapter coming sometime in October 2018