Bard's Tale

All Rights Reserved ©

Summary

“Is it a coincidence, or pure luck when people meet, or are there greater powers at work than blind fate, and are we all merely actors on this stage of the God’s?”

Genre:
Drama
Author:
GabrielSilverback
Status:
Complete
Chapters:
36
Rating:
n/a
Age Rating:
16+

Chapter One Coincidence?

“Is it a coincidence, or pure luck when people meet, or are there greater powers at work than blind fate, and are we all merely actors on this stage of the God’s?”

Owen’s head nodded with fatigue as he plodded on through the gathering gloom that permeated the forest. His feet ached; as did those of his faithful friend, and Margaret had four of them. He smiled to himself at this thought, as he gently rubbed her ear and mane in an absent minded fashion. He needed to find a glade where he could make camp for the night, before it got to dark to gather wood for a fire. He would push on to the castle in the morning; he’d be a little late, but still well in time for the spring festivities.

As he wiped the sleep from his eyes a strange shape lurched out of the woods on to the path ahead. Owen tensed and loosened the sword in its scabbard, as he assessed the creature ahead. Its gate was unsure, slow and clumsy, the leg’s appeared bowed, as if almost unable to bear the weight of its misshapen torso and tall pointed head. Owen was puzzled, his own heart rate had soared and his mouth had dried, but Margaret showed no sign of concern at all. Then suddenly, as the creature lurched in to the rays of the setting sun, all became clear. The shape resolved itself in to that of a slim young woman, carrying a large bundle of wood strapped to her back. As Owen allow himself to breathe again and relaxed his taught muscles, he pondered whether to help. Caution won out, for where there is one there may be others, especially as he had caught the whiff of smoke on the air.

He now could see the flickering light of a campfire glinting through the trees and decided on a more cautious approach. He remounted Margaret and carefully circled the camp until he found a place, under a large oak tree, where he could spy on the clearing. Both man and beast became as statues, only their gentle breathing showing any semblance of life. He watched as the young woman lowered awkwardly the load of logs onto an already sizable pile. Not far from where she stood, stretching to ease her obviously cramped muscles, was a strange steaming dome of what appeared to be mud, leaves and branches, the fact it was very hot and made the air shimmer gave him the answer he was looking for, they were Charcoal burners. The mound contains logs that where slowly being reduced down to the black powder that was to become the writer’s mainstay, charcoal. He could even see a young boy on the charcoal burner’s strange one-legged stool, his head was nodding and he soon found out the reason for the strange arrangement as he hit the floor with an audible thump. With bleary eyes and a sheepish expression the boy, with a surreptitious glance around to see if anyone had noticed his tumble, remounted his precarious seat. But Owens attention by this time was diverted by the third figure in the flickering light; the woman was older than the first and dressed in simple homespun rough clothes and a white hood affair that hid all her hair giving her a rather strange bald look. The clothes were certainly of a peasant but seemed at odds with her graceful movements and almost regal body language. The puzzle intrigued Owen greatly. He waited a few minutes more to confirm to himself that the three were all there were before hailing the camp.

“’Ware the camp!” He called cupping his hands around his mouth. His voice was calm and carried easily on the still smoky air.

The elder of the two women glanced across to the younger and made a quick series of finger movements before answering in a clear light accented voice.

“Who calls the camp?”

“A weary traveller, my lady, one who would cherish the warmth of the fire to warm his frozen bones. I have a brace of rabbits to add to the nights fare if you would permit me.” Owen voice exuded friendliness and warmth.

The elder woman seemed to mutter something under her breath and made a curious shape with her fingers as if warding of evil that made a shiver run down Owens spine.

“Come show yourself traveller so we can judge if the trade of fire for food is fair.” The voice echoed her trepidation.

Owen dismounted and rubbed Margaret’s nose gently.

“Come on old girl lets see if I’ve judged aright.” He looped her reins through his fingers and with his hands at shoulder height, palms out would, in the symbol of peace, entered the glades flickering fire light. “Thank you my lady, I enter your camp with hands open in the hope that yours are the same.”

With a steady pace he moved further into the light watching the younger woman sheath her knife at her mothers nod.

“You are welcome traveller to the meagre warmth and fair we can offer.” The young boy joined them with open curiosity. Owen quickly appraised the situation as he carefully unhooked the two rabbits off his saddlebow.

“My Lady. My Lady. Young Master.” he acknowledged each in turn as he proffered the animals to the mother. “I am Owen Dorr, Bard of the Oaken Isle, I hope these meagre gifts are enough in your sight my Lady.”

She took them into her slim neatly manicured hands and examined them closely.

“They would be a welcome addition to the pot sir; I confess it’s been a long time since either I or my family have eaten meat.” Her smile seemed genuine and her voice more relaxed, which could be more than could be said about the daughter who scowled and muttered under her breath.

“I am Erin and this is my daughter Aron and my son Brin.” She continued.

Owen bowed once more as each name was mentioned. His sharp hearing heard Aron mutter.

“He stinks.”

“Yes my Lady Aron I do, alas neither Margaret nor I have had an opportunity to freshen this seven days passed. But I spied a large pond at the end of the camp as I entered. With your permission my Lady Erin, Margaret and I will freshen ourselves while the food is cooked.” Aron gave a sniff of disapproval before stomping away to stare moodily at the kiln.

“Forgive my daughter Owen she has little reason to trust strangers of late.” Erin was obviously irritated with Arons hostile reactions.

“And you my Lady Erin?” Owen was very aware of her use of his first name.

“I try to judge by who you are, not what you are Owen.” She smiled warmly. “Now go prepare yourself while I cook your offering and perhaps you would do us the honour after the meal of a song. Yes?”

“Sing for my supper you mean? Yes I would love to.” He laughed before bowing and taking her cool hand lightly in his, gently brushing it with his lips. “My Lady.”

Taking his horses reins in his hands he lead her to the furthest part of the glade, near to where two brooks entered a small pond before cascading down rocks to the valley below.

Margaret breathed warm air into his ear.

“Yes I know old girl, but at least we will be warm.”

As Owen took off the saddle he mentally assessed what he had seen. Owen himself was quite short, at about five foot six, but neither of the two women came near his height, being in his judgement approximately five foot. Both, in fact all three though it was harder to see in the young lads plump face, had high cheek bones and slightly slanting eyes with a fine slightly pointed chin.

Owen took a small bag off his belt and removed a viscous curved blade with a hooked end, which he studied intently for a moment.

“Come on Margaret, up.” She dutifully lifted her hoof into his cupped hands. Owen bent and examined it carefully, even sniffing it, as he used the knife to clear away the mud. Margaret gave a sigh and settled on to his shoulder almost bowling him over in doing so. Owen tapped her hard in the belly.

“Get up you lazy bugger I’m not your leaning post!” He chastised her and was relived to feel the weight lift a little.

Owen was a still a little puzzled over the fact that both women were wearing white wimple hoods, which had gone out of fashion long since, and for that matter why the boy was wearing such a large hat? He slowly began working his way around Margaret, hoof-by-hoof, cleaning and checking. It was at the last hoof that he became aware of being watched. Brin was standing a little way off watching intently.

“Hello Brin.” He said convivially. “Do you like horses?”

The boy nodded dumbly.

“I see you’ve got one yourself.” Pointing at a pale grey carthorse that was tethered near their strange barrel shaped caravan. “What’s she called?”

The boy shrugged.

I’m going to have fun getting anything out of this one Owen thought.

“Well.” He said as he run a probing hand over Margaret’s neck and legs. “I’ve just cleaned out Margaret’s hooves of muck and checked for foul foot, and now I’m checking to make sure she hasn’t any sprains and cuts. Do you check yours Brin?” Owen asked, half expecting a mute nod again but to his surprise and pleasure the boy replied in a lilting musical soprano voice.

“No, my sister looks after her. She doesn’t have a name. Can I help please?”

“Of course you can young Master. In that bag are two brushes could you fetch them for me. Thank you.” Together for the next few minutes they brushed a now dozing Margaret, teasing the knots out of her tail and mane, as Owen gave a humorous chat on Horse husbandry. Even being rewarded with a laugh from the boy as he described how he had been thrown into cow dung on his first attempt to ride. It was his laugh that brought a comment from the lad’s sister.

“Don’t disturb the man Brin, come away now.”

“He’s not disturbing me my Lady, far from it he’s helping me. Aren’t you lad?”

He nodded enthusiastically his hat sliding all over his head, threatening to fall off at one point, exposing his fine white blond hair and delicate ears.

“Still I think.” Said his mother, walking up to join them. “It’s time to freshen up and help me with the final vegetables for the stew.”

He looked up at Owen a mute appeal in his eyes.

“Sorry young Master only a fool disobeys a mother. But can I ask one more task of him?” Owen took a strange collapsible leather bucket from the pack roll. “If I collect some water could he warm it by the fire for Margaret? I fear the pools water is to cold and would give her colic.”

“I have some already warming which I was going to wash the utensils in, she is welcome to that.”

“Thank you my lady, I would be obliged.”

The boy took the bucket from his hand and dashed back to the distant fire. Erin, Owen noticed, was watching proudly if a little sadly.

“Will your husband be joining us my Lady?” Owen asked a little curious as to the obvious absence of any man.

“No. He has been dead this past year.” Though she said it in a matter of fact tone of voice her face showed the pain that was still there.

“Forgive me my Lady for my clumsiness, I intended no hurt.” She nodded acceptance.

The boy soon returned with the water allowing Owen to finish bedding Margaret down for the night, finally giving her a feed of oats out of the depleted bag that had been lashed across her rump.

Owen then took himself off with a change of clothes and what he called his essentials, hair shears, shaving blade and a scented soapstone, across to the pool. Once there he unselfconsciously stripped off and slid into the cold water, apparently unaware of the eyes that were on him.

Owen was of medium height, with a well-muscled frame; his hair was jet black as was that that grew on his face and body, of which there was copious amounts. To put it plainly he was hairy. He had what some of his lady friends call a rugged appearance, a lived in face, especially for one so young. It was always a surprise to his conquests to find out that he was only twenty four, at least as much as it was to him to find out that they were much younger than he expected.

A little later as Owen was collecting his two guitars in their soft doe skin cases and his eating utensils; he once again became aware of Brin watching avidly. The boy seemed genuinely interested in everything Owen did, which was a little unnerving.

“Yes young Master?”

“Mother asked me to tell you that the meal is almost ready.” The boy said breathlessly.

Owen smiled and pulled the lads overlarge hat over his eyes much to Brin’s amusement. What Owen saw then confirmed his suspicions.

“Tell your mother I’ll come directly. Oh and Brin.” He paused and placed his hands palms together, touching the middle fingers to his lips. “‘Cerim dia colara du prim.’” The boy’s eyes widened and his mouth fell open before he hesitantly replied.

“Colara kia prim cerim pea.” He touched his hands in a copy of Owen to his lips before dashing of to his mother’s side.

Owen sauntered down to the fire, whistling gently. His three hosts had collected together on the other side of the fire looking very uneasy.

“Blessings on the mother and the house my Lady.” Owen repeated the gesture he had used to the boy as he spoke the same words: now in the common tongue.

“The Mother and house bless you.” Erin replied. “Why do you use such an old greeting Owen? My name is Erin, Owen, and I am let me assure you no Lady.”

Owen laughed gently.

“My Lady you are all of the long lived, what my people would call the elfin race.” He saw out of the corner of his eye Arons hand descend to her sheathed knife. “I offer no hurt or danger.” He watched as Erin waved Arons hand away.

“It was all of you that gave me the clues, but mainly Brin. Sorry my lad. The first thing that puzzled me was why did you need such large logs Lady Aron? They were far too big for the kiln and you had plenty for the fire anyway so I could only conclude that you somehow knew I was coming and was trying to divert my attention. Secondly Brin had never sat on a charcoal burners stool in his life, though it should have been second nature to him. The idea of hiding your hair and ears was masterful my Lady Erin but you made Brin’s cap to large, it kept moving exposing his special features especially his clan tattoo on his neck.” Through all this Erin listened intently, neither confirming nor denying Owens words.

Owen now delivered what he hoped would be his co de gra, wondering how Erin would react.

“Then there was your good self Lady Erin.” She raised a quizzical eyebrow but didn’t stop Owen as he gently took her hands in his, and turned them palm upwards. “I’m sure that many of your people have tilled the soil my lady but these hands have never done so. The bruises are masterful but in the wrong place and at odds with those long very clean fingernails.” He emphasised the word clean to show that the time for falsehoods was over. Once again he became aware of Arons hostility.

Erin laughed much to Owens relief; he had risked much in exposing them.

“Yes your right. So it was my vanity that trapped me, I just couldn’t bear the thought of dirty nails.” She laughed again before waving away her daughters hand from the knife once more. “Enough daughter mine Owen offers no danger.”

She made a pass with her hand and muttered under her breath a convoluted stream of words. Owen always expected magic to be accompanied by a flash and a puff of smoke but had always been disappointed and from that point of view this was no exception. But having said that he was still amazed, for now stood before him an Elvin lady in all her finery. Her hair , clean and startlingly white, was neatly coiffure on her head with ringlets down each side of her face. The homespun had gone to be replaced by a pale green silk dress and robe over fine linked Mithril mail armour that took nothing away from her femininity. Owen was in no doubt he was in the company of nobility of some sort.

Smiling she gently touched Owens cheek before saying kindly. “Shut your mouth Owen or you’ll add flies to the nights fair.” Owen actually blushed much to his chagrin. “Come let us sit and eat and you can tell us news of the world. It is long time since we had heard anything of the world. But first I think I will return to my first attire.”

Owen didn’t know if what he had seen had been an illusion or not but he couldn’t help but be impressed.

Over the meal Owen told them of the war being fought in the northlands against the Trolls as well as news from her kin’s land of the Elder Forests. As they sat resting after the meal Owen bent forward to Brin and asked if he’d like to hear a story, acting like a child himself he soon had Brin whispering and giggling.

Owen began the ghost story of Lillian Dill his voice taking on a doom-laden quality, chilling the air. His ability to mimic other voices soon had all three totally enthralled. As the story moved to its chilling climax he noticed that Brin was now huddled wide eyed on his sisters lap. He glanced across at Erin and saw the concerned look upon her face and without braking verbal stride turned the story around into a slapstick comedy with the most inept ghost possible. He was relieved as Brin began laughing heartily and the two women began to smile. Even Aron seemed to have unfrozen a little. Soon the story was at an end and a parched bard could take a well-earned rest.

“Right young man time to clear up and go to your rest.” Erin told Brin with mock severity.

“Oh mother Owen hasn’t sung for his supper yet!” The boy protested.

“Yes mother I’d like to hear him sing too.” Aron said much to Owens surprise.

“Ah well.” Erin blushed a little as she turned to the minstrel. “I did say you should sing for your supper.”

Owen smiled deeply and bowed to the woman. “It would be a pleasure. How about a simple Dwarven drinking song, but you’ll have to help with the chorus Brin.”

“We all will Owen I’m sure.” Erin lent forward with expectation as Owen began beating a simple driving rhythm on his thighs. As his voice, now deep and gruff, took up the simple refrain his audience began stamping their feet in time to the beat. On the second chorus their fine voices had joined his own making the glade ring with sound, a sound he knew somehow did not travel beyond its confines. Their faces where beaming and adrenalin high as the song concluded, so excited was Brin that it was obvious that the boy would not settle for sleep.

“If I might suggest, my Lady, a more soothing song to take us to our Rest?”

“Agreed Owen.” Was Erin’s breathless reply.

She watched as Owen took a beautiful guitar from a fine stitched doe skin case covered with geometric beaded symbols. Its deep Rose Wood surface was cover with fine lines, like magical symbols, and two fiery red swirls coiled each side of the sound holes. Much to Erin surprise Owen, with infinite care, placed it on a frame beside him before taking a more workman like instrument from the other case and took up position to play. He drew his thumb across the second guitars strings and nodded his satisfaction at the clear sounds.

“What shall I sing?” He mused. “I know, what about a song from your own people? The Lay of Crith Tryon how would that appeal? I can sing it in either the common tongue or your own if you’d prefer?”

Erin had gone quite white and her breathing had become stuttering gasps.

“My Lady whatever is wrong, are you unwell?” Owen’s voice was full of concern.

“It was my father’s song. He always sung it at the eighth day feast.” Aron said sadly putting comforting arms around both her mother and brother.

“Oh my Lady, forgive me I meant no offence. I will choose another.”

“No Owen please sing it, it is so long since I have heard it. Sing in our tongue please so I can remember him?”

“My Ladies and young Master I hope I can do it justice, for the sake of your lost ones memory.” Owen bowed his head over the guitar and gently began to play. The music began to fill the glade with an incredible feeling of peace, an almost palpable sense of calm. Then Owen lifted his head and began to sing, oblivious to all around him. His clear tenor voice weaving its way through the music with is sad rolling elfin words.

Erin settled back and allowed herself to drift back to the last time her husband had sung that song, remembering everything about his face and his eyes, the timber of his voice. Her eyes misted over and a single tear ran down her face and she began to sing, her light voice harmonising so well with Owens. Soon Aron joined in with a lower harmony as she wrapped her arms around her brother and gently rocked him.

Erin felt at peace as the sound wrapped around her like a warm blanket easing her fears and soothing her sorrows. She was not even concerned as she spied a pair of ghostly woman’s hands delicately plucking the other guitars strings. The fingers were long and slim, the skin fine and unlined. The hands of a young woman played a counter melody on the fine instrument. As the song came to its end she watched with mild curiosity the hands fade away into the ether, its silver wooden Oak leaf ring glinting in the firelight.

Owen looked at his three hosts with pleasure. They were rested and unworried. Brin was asleep on Arons lap as she fought to stay awake. Erin gently kissed their foreheads as Owen packed away his instruments, and collected up the eating irons and pewter plates.

Erin nodded her thanks as he signalled his intention to wash them in the pool down by his saddlebags and Margaret.

Laying the guitars carefully down by his blanket roll he watched a Vixen come out of the trees to drink. He smiled to himself and called across to the fox as he sat and began washing the utensils.

“Ho little one had good hunting?”

The vixen raised her head and cocked it over to one side, her dark eyes glinting in the dappled light.

Owen stopped what he was doing and sniffed the air, a frown creasing his forehead.

“So they are here.” He murmured to himself before bowing to the now seated fox. “Look after your cubs little one, they’re predators about.”

The vixen yawned mightily before getting up and sashaying away into the undergrowth with out a backward glance.

As Owen returned, a little unsteadily, to Margaret’s side he studied the tableau around the fire. Brin was fast asleep in Arons lap as she nodded drowsily in the fires heat; Erin was by the charcoal stove staring dreamily into its depths. Remembering her husband no doubt mused Owen, as he unsheathed his bastard sword and long knife. He picked up a whetstone and surreptitiously undid his horse’s reigns from around the tree where he had tied it from there could see the others were completely unprepared for what was to come. He’d allayed their fears well.

“Be ready.” He whispered into the dozing mare’s ear.

Even unsteadier on his feet he made his way to the fire where he made a great show of carefully laying the whetstone onto the grass. Lifting the sword in his left hand he carefully removed the clip that held the slim deadly throwing knife that was hidden in the leather bracer around his right forearm.

“It would be so easy,” He thought to himself, “my sword could kill them both with one stroke and the knife would silence the mother before she was aware of what was happening. It would be so very, very, easy.”

He lifted the sword and brought it round to…;

Lay flat against Aron’s arm, its coldness rousing her.

“We have visitors!” He hissed between gritted teeth.

“Impossible!” Aron said warily, eyeing the blade now so close to her neck.

“Don’t argue! Just take Brin to the cart and prepare to get out of here. Follow my lead.”

He smacked her not unkindly on the arm and lurched drunkenly to his feet.

“Get to your bed you ungrateful cur and take that brat with you.” His voice was slurred his face seemed to be red as if from too much drink. “It’s time for your mother to lay with me.”

Erin looked across to her daughter puzzled by the kafuffle but seemed reassured by her daughters flying fingers. By the time she had signalled her reply, Owen had lurched in front of her bellowing coarsely of his desires.

“I bought you from the slave market to service me and service me you shall. Let me kiss you my beauty”

He brought his lips close to her ear as if to kiss her but whispered hoarsely, soberly his warning.

“We’ve guests, four at a guess.”

“Impossible the wards would have alarmed me.”

“I felt them when I arrived, so they are after you then not me. I’ll hold them off as long as I can, just get the children away from here and don’t look back. Play up to me.”

Owen saw her begin to move her fingers in the dance of magic and quickly grabbed her hand to still her and brought them up to her chest.

Owen grabbed her breast with her own hand and appeared to squeeze it.

“Those luscious plums are ready to be tasted.” His voice was full of lascivious drunkenness.

“My Lord no!”

“No!!!”

“I must go to our bed to prepare for you!” Erin reply was halting as if in fear. Her hand was raised as if to ward of a blow, and for a moment Owen felt a strange tingle run down his spine. The drama was set ready to be played out to its conclusion.

“Then go and prepare for your Lord and master, and take those mewling brats with you!”

Owen felt a hot breath down his neck turned and flung his arms around Margaret’s own as if it was his only means of support, his sword hanging from his right wrist by its leather lanyard, as did the dagger from his left.

“Protect Erin my old friend.” He whispered as he watched over her neck four figures enter the clearing, each wearing identical amulets around there necks. “So that’s how they bypassed the wards. Let’s greet our guests shall we?”

Making sure that his clothes where astray and dirty he staggered around Margaret to face the new comers. They all looked mean and wary as they watched Owens drunken fumbling. They where arranged line abreast with the heaviest armoured on the out sides of the group; all had their swords unsheathed ready to deal death to the occupants of the glade. The centre two had the look of twins, both fair haired and dressed in hardened leather breastplates, whilst wielding curve bladed short swords held low against their leather kirtles. The one on their left, Owens right, was taller and slighter built than the twins, his armour slightly stronger than theirs by being covered with metal studs. Owen was sure they were sell swords willing to fight for anyone who could afford their fees. The last intruder was a warrior clad in chain mail that hung to his knees, a professional, and no hired hand was he. His long sword was held expertly but loosely in his hand, his eyes stern and brooding as he watched Owen lurch closer.

“Be gone demons, I did not invite you here! Be gone to the dark places of hell!” Owen belched and wiped his drooling mouth with the back of his hand.

“Shut up you drunken fool. Or you shall die as well.” One of the twins growled. “We’re no devil from the bottle you sot”

“You’re not? Then what businesses have you with Baron Hardly?” As Owen spoke he moved closer to the quartet feeling very naked in his soft doeskin trousers and silk entertaining shirt. He had no illusions of surviving the battle to come he could only hope that he would buy the others enough time to get away.

“You’re a Baron?” Three of them had relaxed considerably with his drunken act, which Owen hoped to use to his advantage. The centre pair’s leather greaves, that protected their thighs and shins from the front, left their legs exposed from behind, if only he could get behind them.

“Yes.” Owen drew himself up to his full height, now holding both sword and dagger, albeit apparently clumsily, in his hands and tried to look dignified. “Cruel fate has made a pauper of me of late but I’ll recoup my losses at the tables then you’ll see.”

“Enough you drunkard!” The mailed figure spoke impatiently “Where is the Elf bitch!”

“That’s it isn’t it. Tell that fool Morgan that I won her and her brood fair and square and would have won my lands back if we’d played another hand.”

The younger men cat called him hurling insults, dropping their guard still further. Then Owen saw his chance. He seemed to stumble and in trying to regain his balance blundered straight through the centre pair.

As soon as he was passed them Owen lashed out, his sword taking the leg off one of them at the knee with a single blow, whilst simultaneously crippling the other by plunging his dagger through the leg hamstringing him. As that twin fell he ripped the knife out of Owens hand. Owen had no time to recover it having to parry blows from first his left then his right. As he smashed the studded leathers assailants sword away a ball of incandescent flame enveloped the mans head, setting light to his hair causing him to drop his weapon and clutch his singed face with a scream, but Owen could not take advantage as he swiftly turned to defend himself from the most murderous of the group. Just managing to dance out of the way in time from a slash across his stomach, which if it had hit would have disembowelled him he aim a blow at the mans head only to have it parried.

The two men circled each other, both looking for an advantage. Then suddenly Owen was defending for his life as the warrior set forth with a flurry of blows that sent Owen lurching backward, straight into the dead body of the twin. Unable to keep his balance Owen fell backward with a crash to the ground with such force it drove every bit of air from his lungs. As he lay there gasping for breath unable to move the warrior loomed over him slashing down with a killing blow. As if in slow motion Owen watched the blade tip plunge down to his heart and stop with a metallic clang just above his skin. Just for a split second Owen seemed to be encased in translucent chain mail. Both Owen and his assailant where stunned, but his foe recovered quicker reversing his grip on his blade, leaning on it to force it through the magical armour, which was starting to fade and crack. Owens eyes suddenly opened in amazement as a narrow blades tip burst through the throat of the killer. Owen glanced over the falling warriors shoulder to see the ashen face of Aron her hand shakily withdrawing the blade.

“Thank you Aron.” He wheezed rolling the corpse off his body. He touched his chest where the sword should have pierced and raised a questioning eyebrow.

“Mage armour.” She replied, “Mother cast it and the plasma ball. But she hadn’t stored enough energy and it has exhausted her or I would have been here sooner.”

But Owen wasn’t really listening as he recovered his sword.

“Where are the other two?” He swung round rapidly looking for clues before, with his heart in his mouth, he reached his fearful conclusion.

“Erin!!”

“Mother!!”

The two of them turned and rapidly retraced their steps back to the fire, just in time to see Erin stagger out of the gloom cast by the trees, wearily trying to defend herself from the sword blows of an equally impaired assailant. The threat came from the man that had been hit by the fireball; one side of his face had been melted and looked as if his features had run down his face to hang beneath his chin. His whole left side was charred, and in other circumstances Owen would have been amazed that he could stand, no matter fight. The pain must have been excruciating. But this was not other circumstances and Owens only thought was to get to Erin. Margaret got in his way impeding him as she forced her way between Owen, Erin and the assailant. She reared and flashed out with a hoof smashing it into the burnt shoulder of the attacker, shattering it and dashing him to the ground.

“Leave him Margaret.” Owen commanded. But before he could strike the killing blow a simpering voice stopped him in his tracks.

“Go on do it, I never did like him.”

Owen turned to face the new threat to find the twin he had hamstrung holding Brin, Owens own dagger to his throat.

“Release the boy and I’ll give you three hours start before I come for you.” Owen put all the force of his personality behind his words, hoping with all his heart that they would be heeded.

“How do I know you won’t kill me as soon as I’ve release him?”

Owen waved to the two women to drop their weapons. Aron glared at him as she dropped her knife but Erin just threw her blade aside in desperation.

“Don’t hurt him please. Give him back to me and you have my word you will have your three hours.” Her voice was cracked with barely suppressed tears.

The twin nodded toward Owen.

“Now you big man?” He sneered bringing the knife closer to the boy’s neck.

Owen slowly lifted the sword over his head and when at full stretch dropped it behind him. At that moment he looked deep into the man’s eyes and read clearly his intentions. Without stopping the motion of his arm he sprung the mechanism in the bracer around his wrist. The stiletto-throwing knife flew into his closing fingers momentarily before being released at the kidnapper as his arm swept down to his side.

But as the knife buried itself into the twin’s forehead it was too late, what Owen had read in his eyes had already taken place. Owens own knife had been used to open the boy’s throat like an obscene second mouth, gaping red and vomiting blood. As the man toppled backward in death Owen swept Brin up, wailing incoherently he tried to close the wound with his fingers, trying vainly to stem the flow of the lads’ lifeblood.

Owen was oblivious to melted face staggering to his feet behind him, knife in hand. Oblivious to Margaret staving the burnt figures head in as Aron and Erin sent a steam of eldritch energy into his damaged body sucking out every drop of moisture to leave a desiccated corpse.

All Owen saw; all he knew was that another innocent’s blood was on his hands, another ravaged child in his arms, another boy’s blood staining his Oak leaf ring.

Continue Reading Next Chapter
Further Recommendations

Noshi: Perfect end with a new twist with Cassie and Noah's kids in the next books !! Excited!! 🤗 🤗

Cyndi Richardson: Loved this story ' Loved the Plotwriting could have been better But overallIt was Very Good

MistyBlu: I love stories I can read and enjoy in just a couple short hours. This is one of the best yet! Thank you author for capturing a wonderful romance and the difficult memories that helped build up to their amazing romance. Beautiful, believable, caring, and lovely. You won't regret reading this! Wel...

Cypress McCarta: Awesome book loved'it. 🤗👍😋

monicamcurry: I love the story but we are just left hanging. Where is the rest of the story?

Liezel: Was an excellent book thank you for your time to entertain us.

Mini: Sweet novel, with the childish innocence

aaparnapandey: Such a roller-coaster ride..but amazing I cried my heart out such an emotional journey Very good

More Recommendations

Imma: It was great. The best novel I have seen here so far.👍👍

adrianamartinez088: Good plot that was face paced but still allowed for character development. Can’t go wrong with anything written by this author!

Megan: Good plot. Good characters. Could use maybe a little more background story and a little more depth. A few grammar errors but hey no one is perfect.

Inga: I like everything about this novel. I’d recommend it to my friends it is really nice.

g0dDesZ0LiT3: I absolutely love, love, LOVE, this story!!! It had me laughing, raging, tearing up and saying “aaaawww!” …. Did I mention that I LOVE THIS STORY?!! Goodness me, the author, Kristifer Ann deserves more recognition for her work!!!This is an ingenious script of hope, brutality, survival, struggle, ...

About Us

Inkitt is the world’s first reader-powered publisher, providing a platform to discover hidden talents and turn them into globally successful authors. Write captivating stories, read enchanting novels, and we’ll publish the books our readers love most on our sister app, GALATEA and other formats.