PART 1 - HONOR : SONS OF ORACLES
Draft of the Prequel to the Relic of Time and Shadows Series
Now On Amazon New Release: A Huntsman’s Honor: The Huntsman of Adamos 1 (Relic Of Time and Shadows War Series)
Lord Yurieth was the firstborn of the House of Adamos. Birthed in the Pools of Destiny changed his fate and his magic. His only hope to gain honor would be to prove his destiny as a huntsman would be greater than any oracle, mage, or warrior. Destiny would take him from the forest his family’s holdings to the battlefields of another world. It would cost him his innocence, his friends, his marriage, his children, and almost his soul. Yet through it all, his honor will be his greatest burden
Part 1 - The Huntsman’s Honor
High Lord Adamos, the fourth in fifty thousand years to bear the name of his house, carried his beloved Yllumina as she struggled in childbirth. She was the last Oracle of the High House of Yophriel, and possibly the only surviving priestess oracle. The Temples of Light were falling to a stealth attack by their enemies, the Xelusian Umbracruor. Only the warriors of Adamos and Yophriel had answered the distress call of the temple, but the small houses and the token temple guards were no match for the savage Berserker warriors of the Umbracruor. The battle for the temple raged as the armies of the twin kingdoms waged a war for the ability to see the future.
Adamos’ uncle, the Guardian Ambros of the House of Adamos, and Yllumina’s brother, the Guardian Yuriah of Yophriel had ordered him to take Yllumina and flee through the Vault of Relics as they faced hopeless odds. The pair of Guardians fought to give Adamos and his allies, the Mage Lord Ouray of Odini and his nephew the Oracle Novice Odini the fifth of the House of Odini, the precious time to carry Adamos’ in-labor sealed one to safety. The Mage Ouray had cast a spell to blow up the entrance to the escape tunnel and the Vault of Ancients. The ceiling behind them thundered down and sealed them.
Suddenly Yllumina screamed, “No!” Sobbing, she choked out, “Yuriah is dead... forever dead... Berserkers and Umbracruor are taking his blood.”
Suddenly, she gritted her teeth and growled out in an animistic sound between her panted breaths. “They’re coming... Adamos! The twins, they’re coming... I have to push... I cannot wait any longer.”
“Adamos, come in here. There’s water for her to birth in,” Called their apprentice, the young Oracle Odini, who waved his hand, so oracle light appeared in the torch crystals. “Quickly, put her in.”
“The Pools of Destiny? Are you mad?” His father Ouray exclaimed, “It’s blasphemy.”
“We have no choice. The waters possess healing properties, and we cannot lose the last of the Yophriel Oracles,” Odini shouted at his father then he bowed his head, with tears dripping down his face. “I’m sorry, Father. I can feel... the other oracles are all dead.”
A rumble echoed from high above them. The cavern vibrated with the magic of war detonating on the surface.
“They’re trying to get in,” Ouray worried aloud, “We need to hurry.”
Adamos looked down at Yllumina, who was panting in his arms, “My beloved?”
She unclasped his cloak, letting it fall on the floor behind him. “My lord, I do not know what the waters will do to our sons, but Odini speaks the truth about the healing power. Our sons and I will live, however, the magic of the Pools of Destiny is unpredictable. It affects each person who bathes in it differently. What it will do... to a newborn... I can... I cannot... Say!” Her voice rose and fell, then she screamed out the last words as another contraction racked her body.
Without hesitation, Adamos carried his wife into the sacred waters, which began glowing and swirling in the colors of magic around them. Tendril wisps of white, blue, gold, red, and green curled around them. Yllumina sagged in relief as the birthing pain waned.
“He’s coming!” she gasped as she clung to Adamos. she bucked her feet out of his arms as her back arched impossibly, while Adamos struggled, kicking violently to keep them afloat after the floor of the pool dissolved from underneath his feet. He had no choice but to tread water as he held onto his beloved.
“Help us!” Adamos called out as the water swirled healing gold, oracle white, and brilliant green.
“Stop!” Ouray shouted too late to halt Odini, who rushed in to aid Adamos. “Odini! NO!”
A wave pushed the youth away from the struggling couple and sucked him under in a whirlpool of magical water. Lightning flashed through the water and suddenly Odini surfaced in a different pool, choking and coughing as he clawed at the edge. “Help! Father, I can’t get out.” The water held him like quicksand.
“Odini.” Ouray ran to aid his son. Kneeling on the edge, Ouray reached out to Odini but drew back when Odini looked up at his father through eyes that glowed with swirls of magic. “What is ... happening... to me?” the young Oracle gasped raggedly.
Ouray could do nothing to help him beyond holding the shoulder of his tunic. “Your magic is changing, don’t fight it. Just let it happen. Breathe, son.”
Suddenly, Odini was pulled under again and Ouray leaped into the water only to find that it had solidified into an invisible layer like ice between him and his son. The sacred waters swirled the white of the Oracles, but also the brilliant blue of Warriors and the molten red of Mages. As the father knelt on the top of the barrier, the son thrashed beneath.
Yllumina’s scream echoed through the cavern then she curled to pull her firstborn son from her heaving birth canal. A baby cried in answer. Tearing his eyes from his son, Ouray saw a baby floating on a swirl of green and white glowing water. The baby boy seemed content to let the water cradle him and cooed as he kicked his legs.
Beyond the child, Adamos and Yllumina struggled through the birth of their second son. A burst of blueish magical water lifted the baby into his mother’s arms, and she cried in relief as she stood up in waist-deep golden and white water. “Sons... we have sons, Adamos... Adamos?”
Suddenly, Adamos was gone and the water boiled with the white magic of the oracles, blue of the warriors, and blazed with molten red streaks of mage magic. Yllumina staggered to the edge. She laid her second son on the stone edging before wading to where her firstborn floated in the glowing green and white waters. The child cried when she lifted him from the water, only quieting when she laid him with his brother.
Turning back to the pools, she looked desperately for her husband. The water swirled around her and a single oracle stone floated to the surface in front of her. A finger of water flicked it out of the pool and onto her firstborn’s chest over his heart.
“Thank the Light!” She cried in relief that her eldest son’s destiny had not been taken from him.
“Yllumina, help us!” Ouray begged, drawing her attention from her newborns as she wrapped them in Adamos’ cloak.
She glowed more brilliantly than Ouray had ever seen any oracle glow. “Release them!” The power of her demand caused the pools to rush up and overflow. Adamos surfaced next to his wife and sons.
Ouray felt the strange surface crack like ice on a lake then he fell into the water with his son. He grabbed Odini, shocked to see his youngest child’s hair had changed from the family’s auburn color to raven black. Odini’s eyes still glowed like he was having a vision.
Pulling him from the water, Ouray demanded, “Odini, what is it? What did you see?”
Odini shook his head as he inhaled and coughed. “He... they... Everyone dies. Everyone everywhere... We have to stop it!” The one-hundred-eighty-year-old curled into a ball against his father’s chest and sobbed inconsolably.
Another concussion shook the chamber as rocks began falling into the pools. Several of the feathered serpents who lived in the caverns with the Sacred Pools, dropped into the waters from their burrows and began swimming as the waters drained away. Yllumina quickly wrapped the infants in Adamos’ abandoned cloak.
“We must go now!” Adamos shouted, lifting his wife and both his sons into his arms as Yllumina clutched the newborns to her chest.
He felt stronger than he ever had. His magic had been changed, he was no longer just an oracle. He could feel the strength and speed of Warrior’s magic flowing through his veins and the power of the Mages burning in his bones. He was the third born and could have been born a Guardian if his Uncle Ambros had not still lived, instead he had been born an oracle, but now he was neither and both and something else. He strode through the tunnels with new confidence and purpose.
The pools had shown him a vision. In a century more than a thousand years, his youngest son would be born to be the greatest guardian of many generations, a Guardian of Guardians, and a Light Bringer like his mother. At the end of the age, when the War Oracle with his grandson, the King of the Sacred Blue Flame, led the Remnant against all the powers of the Darkness, his youngest son would lead the Warriors of the Celestial Veil in the battle against the Devourer and all that was profane. But for now, Adamos needed to make sure his newborn sons survived long enough to aid their younger brother to be born after this war ended.
Yllumina looked up at him, Her golden-amber eyes reminded him of every beautiful dawn, as she studied him. “You saw?”
“For how long have you carried the burden of our family legacy?”
She looked at her sons. “Since my first vision at eighty-two, I have known our houses would be the last to stand against the Devourer with the grandsons of the Odini.”
“For almost two thousand years... You did not have to carry the burden alone,” Whispering, he pressed a kiss into her temple.
“It was not your vision or your burden to bear.”
“We will not fail them. We will give them all they need to correct our ancestors’ mistakes,” Adamos vowed.
Still carrying her, he walked out of the tunnel and into the forest of the Northlands. They were only a few fields from the territory of his family’s holdings and their escape ship. Adamos and his Uncle Ambros had already decided that they needed to hide for a time, the attack was the perfect excuse to disappear with their children. They worried the King would allow this attack as punishment for not turning over the ancient relics of the First People and they were right.
As he walked out into the afternoon sun filtering through the dense forest, Lord Adamos wondered if King Arxis would regret what he had done when he discovered the Xelusians had killed all the oracles rather than capture them.
Behind him there was a boom; he looked back to see Lord Ouray lowering his hand. The mage had cast a spell and the cavern exit collapsed in a cloud of dust, coating the thick canopy of giant cedars.
“Thank you, Ouray.”
“They won’t be able to follow us without much back-breaking labor or going over the mountains. Either will take days,” the Mage responded, then he put his arm around his young son. “We will be to safety soon, Odini. It will just take a little time.”
“Safety is an illusion, like time... Time allows for no one to trespass except her, it only helps her,” Odini muttered nonsensically.
Shaking his head in confusion at his son’s rambling, the House of Odini followed the oracles youngest son was apprenticed to. “Keep walking, Odini, everything will be fine.”
Hours later, they sheltered in a forester’s cottage in the dense woods of the northernmost territory of Adamos. Ouray and Odini slept in the loft. As Yllumina nursed her sons, Adamos laid an armful of wood by the fire and fed it a few more pieces. He resisted the the temptation to go to the Winter Castle of his ancestors. Yllumina handed him the eldest boy, and Adamos felt pride and worry bloom in his chest as he kissed the golden silk covering the baby’s head. He needed to ask her what he was afraid to speak of on the hours-long walk to this place.
“Yllumina, do you think the pools affected them the way they affected Odini and I?” His silver eyes held all his fears as he watched her rock the second-born infant.
“I do not know. I have never read of infants being placed in the Sacred Waters. It took my pain, it whispered to me not to fear for my children,” she insisted.
Adamos sighed, then revealed, “The Sacred Waters told me to name them after the sons of the founders of our houses.”
“Yurielth and Ariethos were heroes whose names are still remembered, we cannot use them. Those at the King’s Court would accuse us of posturing...” She started but he interrupted, “What if we called them Yurieth and Abrieth in honor of our ancestors but the names sound like we are honoring your brother Yuriah and my uncle Ambros? Unless your visions showed you something else?”
“I never heard their full names when... They will be called Yuri and Abri by in the time close to the end.” Falling silent, Yllumina contemplated, as she ran her hand over her younger son’s red curls. “Abrieth is a brave name for a warrior like his great-uncles... The Sacred Waters placed an Oracle Stone over Yurieth’s heart before they hid themselves. It seems tragic and miraculous that our firstborn received his Oracle Stone at birth instead of when he became an acolyte.” She pulled the smooth white stone out of her pocket and handed it to him. It glowed as he held it in his palm.
Yllumina interrupted his heart’s whispered prayer of thanks that his son would be an oracle too. “The Pools of Destiny recognized me as the High Oracle which can only mean...” She did not finish. They both knew the Oracles of Light were all dead, they felt them die. “Adamos, I... I am the last of my... my house. And... and so are you. My brother and cousins, your cousins and uncle... Some went into the Light and some... Their bodies were harvested for their blood after their souls passed the Veil.” Her tears were more than he could bear, and he pressed his forehead against hers with their sons between them.
“Not the last, my angel of light. Our children will not be the last either. We shall call them Yurieth of Yophriel and Abrieth of Adamos.”
“No, I want him called Yurieth of Adamos. I would not encumber my firstborn with the weight of my house’s name,” Yllumina insisted as tears ran down her cheeks. “Let me be the last to carry the burden.”
”But you will be the last of the Light Bearers of Yophriel.” Adamos grieved the loss of the name of her house, only ten of the High Houses remained and the king’s house was falling into shadow.
“Perhaps, perhaps not... Oh, Adamos, I knew today would come, but I still cannot believe the Umbracruor killed them all,” her voice cracked because none of their family or friends survived. Together they wept for all who had died, as they laid down on either side of their sons and slept.
One day later at the Temple of Light...
Lord Regulus, Guardian of the House of Rundas, led the counterassault to reclaim the City of Arinna and the battle was won, but Regulus was greatly disheartened. The Oracles of Light had been murdered en masse and their blood stolen for the abominable practices of the Umbracruor. Two of his fellow Guardians had died to protect the Vault of Relics which had been blown up from the inside.
King Arxis strode through the destruction, fuming. “Regulus, have any of the oracles survived?”
“Perhaps, my king, we have not found the bodies or the evidence of the deaths of one of the Oracle of Adamos, the youngest Oracle of Yophriel, or the Novice Oracle of Odini. The bodies or death traces of all the other Oracles of Light have been accounted for. We do not know if those three went into the Light or were taken captive,” answering, Regulus prayed they had not been taken to Xelusia. In his heart, he blamed his king for this catastrophe. “Half of the Acolyte Healers are unaccounted for.”
King Arxis had believed the Xelusians would not dare attack this place, which was sacred to both their peoples, but he was also angry with the Oracles for refusing to let him search through their ancient relics for weapons of war. When spies reported the Cruorlena, also known as the Blood Queen, desired to acquire the power of the Oracles, Regulus and his fellow Guardians believed the Xelusians would not respect the Temples of Light. Two Guardians volunteered to stay at the Temples or in the nearby city of waterways, Arinna, under the pretense of visiting family members who were oracles or healers at all times.
“Guardian Regulus, clean up this mess, have the relics brought to my castle for... for safekeeping and study. We will make the ruins of the temples a memorial to the lost. Then you may return to your widowed sister. I understand she is expecting a son soon.” King Arxas’s ability to dismiss the dead so quickly and focus on the wealth he just gained, almost had Regulus speaking against him, but instead, he bowed.
“As my king commands.”
After the king flew away, Regulus let his disgust twist his handsome face. His milky jade eyes hardened with his rage.
“Huntsmen,” he shouted and two from the House of Rundas approached him quickly. “There was an escape tunnel through this mountain, find where it came out and find me the survivors. Tell no one but myself or the Guardians. I believe we have a traitor in the King’s inner circle.”
“Really?” The Huntsmen were his cousin’s sons and loyal to their house above all.
“We will find them, Regulus.” They bowed and jogged into the charred, shattered forest, leaving Regulus to return to work.
“Guardsmen prepare a pyre for the dead who did not go into the light with the oracles. Gather every bit of information, written or crystal stored for return to the Kings’ City. Leave the personal belongings for the families to claim if they wish. We leave as soon as we retrieve the Relics of the Oracles.” Regulus hated how callous he sounded, but he couldn’t shake the feeling the King did not regret this attack as he gained more power and prestige to move forward in the war.
King Arxis of the House of Axlanxa was power-hungry and had several times rejected the recommendations of the Oracles to pursue peace with the Xelusians beyond the cessation-of-hostilities treaty. He wanted to be king of both worlds, he was willing to go to any length to make it happen, and that scared Regulus. He thought of what he knew of the sacred relics and made a mental list of those which would not be ‘found’ and turned over to the king. As a guardian, it was his duty to protect the kingdom, even from the King if he had to.
Hours later, the Huntsmen of the House of Rundas came to a forester’s cot on the edge of the Temple’s territory in the Northlands of Adamos. The fire in the hearth had burned the previous night but was cold and no one was there. They tracked the survivors to the river where they appeared to have gone into the water. There was no sign of them emerging from the water on either side. The Huntsmen assumed they must have gotten on a boat and traveled away.
When Regulus got word from his huntsmen, he sent them downriver to the sea. The Oracle Adamos, the young nephew of Ambros, was a clever young man, politically savvy, and wise beyond his two-thousand years. He was also an accomplished mariner. Rather than risk going to his family’s castle, he would hide his pregnant wife and friends at sea until he believed it was safe to reveal themselves. A thought Regulus would keep secret.
Regulus felt he needed to find and protect them as a debt of honor to the two Guardians who had stood alone in defense of the Temples. Berserker Warriors fueled by blood craving into madness were extremely difficult to kill. From the evidence of the battle, the two Guardians had taken down dozens of the bloodthirsty warriors before succumbing. They fought to the death, along with the entire warrior corps of the Temple of Light, and all the warriors of Adamos and Yophriel.
Regulus thought on all he knew of the Guardians of Adamos and Yophriel and their families. Walking through the rooms that belonged to the married oracles, an image caught his eye. Adamos and Yllumina on a sailboat looking at each other in love, but with Ambros, leaning on the rail beyond them with a smug smile. His hands appeared relaxed as they were folded together. Regulus almost laughed aloud, Ambros had left a clue only another Guardian would know. Ambros had sent his young nephew and bride to sea, to the exact place Regulus suspected. After studying the crystalline image, he put the image back among the others and ordered the room sealed. He would find them. He would help them with whatever they chose and turn over the most powerful of the relics to be hidden. Serving the Light was more important than serving his king.