The trail that Dorien followed was beginning to grow cold. Portheas’s Marachet was far too fast a steed for his old mare to keep up with. Resolutely he plodded on. He had to presume that Portheas was heading to the Palace of Den, and so that was the direction he reluctantly took. At least there he may be able to work out who else served The Master and get word back regarding the theft of his stone. Then again, perhaps he would do better to keep that quiet for now. His mood ranged between satisfaction at being completely alone, and fear and dread for his Father who was, for now, unreachable. He was realistically in quite a predicament. He could contact the Master via mind speak but, he deemed it best to leave that as a last resort. He had no idea what The Masters intentions were or which piece Dorien was in this game. For now all he could do was gather all the information possible. And, of course, hope.
The Suns last rays slanted through the study windows, illuminating the seated men. Shadows darkened in the corners of the room but no one hurried to light the lamps. The mood was sombre and pensive.
Portheas’ thoughts rested with Karayana. Since Marti’s demise he had felt free to love her again, duty bound to make sure that she was happy and safe, as much for his friend as for himself. He relived the few hours alone with her in the cell, holding her, the scent of her hair. He remembered her smile that morning outside Brack’s cottage. It re-lit the passion in his heart.
“I can’t sit here any longer,” he burst out.
“You are free to go and get some rest, Portheas,” Morden said heavily.
“That’s not what I mean.” He clenched and unclenched his fists, trying to find the words. “I need to do something.”
“And we are sitting here trying to figure out what to do my son,”
He looked towards his father.
“Exactly. And it is still nothing but a bunch of riddles. Where are the Knights? We don’t know. When will the demon hoards arrive? We don’t know. Why is all this happening? We don’t know. Where is Karayana…we don’t know? Sitting here racking our brains is useless. I say we get out there and find out.”
“I would agree with you,” Morden rumbled, “Except I must stay here and guard these borders.” He looked accusingly at Zonta as he spoke.
“I too must stay son,” his father added. “There is a lot of area to cover. Our troops are arriving as we speak.”
“I was going to ride to the borders to bring people back this way and keep watch for the enemy. You can accompany me if you wish.” Zonta spoke quietly from the shadows.
Portheas nodded. “I will.”
“How will he keep up with your horse?” Matheas asked the Knight, “I thought no normal horses could?”
“Your son rides no normal horse my Lord Matheas. His steed is a Marachet.”
“Now where did you acquire one of those?” Everyone lent forward, eager to hear something other than doom and gloom.
“ I bought him with Grandfathers ring,” Portheas said slowly, “ I needed a mount,” he apologised.
Matheas waved the apology away.
“ What is so special about him?”
Zonta spoke up first. “The Marachet are a most ancient race of horses. Prized for their speed, stamina and courage, as well as their wonderful colouring. They are not native to this land but come from a desert country far to the East. I have never seen one with my own eyes before, and I have been around for a number of years now. They are a legend.”
“Well I would prefer it if all these legends would stay on the pages of a book where they belong,” Morden said, standing suddenly and staring hard in Zonta’s direction. “If we all are in agreement that we still have no idea what is wrong and no real plan other than the old one then I say we should get some rest.”
There was a mumbled assent and Portheas, sighing heavily made for the door.
“We will ride at first light,” Zonta spoke quietly a hand on his shoulder.
“I thought you might say that. I best rest then, after I have seen to my prize possession.”
“Good luck with that. His mood earlier was not good.”
Portheas grimaced. “Do those legends mention anything of the god awful manners of the Golden Marachet?”
Zonta laughed. “Now you come to mention it, I think they may.”
Portheas gave a resigned nod.
“Anything beautiful comes at a price my lad,” Zonta chuckled.
Portheas laughed aloud, the sound verging on hysterical.
“Those are the truest words ever spoken.”
A strange sound pierced the fog in Karayana’s head. A soft lapping accompanied by a background ebb and flow of something immensely powerful. Confused she prised open her eyes and squinted up at bright sunshine. A sudden screech of a bird chased all the misty strands of sleep away and she sat up a little too quickly.
Her body ached from head to toe. She was sitting on sand staring at an ocean. She had never seen the sea other than as illustrations in books. The sharp tang of salt filled her lungs and on licking her parched lips she found they also tasted salty. There was another shrill birdcall and she looked up at the circling gulls. A cliff to her left was covered in the white birds. She smiled softly as the new energies swirled around and through her.
“Awake at last.”
She had to shade her eyes to see the speaker. He crouched next to her a bald man in a long wool cloak, a smile lighting up his face.
“It is so,” he said softly sitting beside her. Relief spread through Karayana. She stared at her teacher.
“How are you feeling?”
“I’m aching all over.”
“You took the full brunt of the energy. You will ache for awhile.”
Karayana nodded remembering the fight in the wood.
“When I arrived you were laying unconscious and the man was dragging Mica towards you.”
“She fooled me into thinking she was backing me up but instead she was trying to dispense of me,” Karayana said venomously. Ral chuckled.
“I think she did the right thing. There was no sense in you both getting injured.”
Karayana looked at her teacher, hurt evident on her face but he only smiled. She decided to change the subject.
“So Marti found you then. But where are we now? I’ve never seen the sea before.”
“Marti?” He looked at her, puzzled.
“My friend. Remember me telling you about him?”
“I do, but I have not met him.”
Concern washed over Karayana. Before she could question Ral further another figure approached. She squinted again trying to make out the slight form.
“Karayana. Did you enjoy your sleep?”
The voice was strangely subdued, but the touch of sarcasm was still there.
“Mica,” She stated coldly.
“Please to see you too.”
A chuckle made them both stare at the old man.
“You are very alike,” he said getting to his feet, brushing the sand from his knees.
“Mica what happened to Marti?”
The girl frowned. “No idea. Why are you asking me?”
Ral passed Karayana a water skin, which she accepted gratefully.
“What about Portheas?”
“We left quickly. I had no time to wait for his return,” Mica stated coldly.
“So it’s just you me and Ral?”
“The boys have no idea what happened to us?”
“No idea at all.”
Mica’s nonchalance was irritating.
“Where have you brought us?”
“A mile or so that way is the Ebrocian border.” Mica pointed.
Karayana did a quick calculation.
“You brought us to Brem? How could you?” Karayana looked at the smirk on Mica’s face and anger built inside her.
“This is not the time for arguments,” Ral spoke with a hint of humour in his voice. “We should go from here.”
“Go where?” Mica enquired.
“No way. Ebrocia fine, but I’m not going to Torlund. They will know my powers instantly. I won’t stand a chance.”
“You really have no choice,” Ral’s tone was still gentle, but an edge of steel lay beneath.
“Because you are needed to fulfil a prophecy, both of you.”
Mica crossed her arms defiantly.
“So I am a prisoner?”
“Only if you wish it to be that way.”
Karayana watched the stand off. This is what she had expected from the encounter between these two.
“Why me? Why am I needed for your stupid prophecy?
Ral grinned openly. “Because three sisters are needed to form the trident of power. And you are one of them.”
With that he stood up and sauntered off down the beach, once again chuckling to himself.
“What is he talking about?” Mica demanded angrily.
“I am as much in the dark as you.” Karayana got slowly to her feet feeling like she was missing something.
“I have no sisters, no family at all,” Mica snarled, “He’s crazy. And I am not going to Torlund.”
The truth hit them both like a bolt of lightning.
“Oh no,” Karayana whispered staring at Mica’s shocked expression.
“You can’t be….”
They both turned to look at the old man who was now halfway down the beach. Mica broke into a run, Karayana at her heels.
“Ral.” They shouted at the retreating figure but he kept on going. By the time they reached him Karayana was in pain and Mica’s limp, that had remarkably disappeared, had now returned. Ral turned to face them a smile lighting his face.
“If I tell you your story will you come to Tor,” he asked of Mica.
“I…I don’t…. Oh just tell me it all,” she snapped.
“Let us walk then as we talk. We have a long way to go.”
Morden sat alone in Liasna’s favourite chair, a wad of papers bearing her elegant script in one hand, a glass of red wine in the other. The news she had sent was brief and to the point, she would now be with the seeress finding answers to her questions. She had given a clinical description of the birth and apparent death of her first child, and he could almost believe that it pertained to some one else. The under tone to the letter though was one of life and energy. Yes she wrote she was missing him, and the worry for her family was great, but he sensed that this was a Liasna that he had never let come to the surface, the real Liasna and not just ‘Morden’s wife’. How had he been so blind to this woman that he had lived with for so long?
The night outside the window was black, no moon shone, no stars. The tension led him to believe that a storm was brewing and he laughed sadly at the analogy. Indeed many storms were brewing, many struggles were coming and his family had a large role to play. But they weren’t here. Morden had never felt so much longing. Putting the wine glass down he went through to the bedroom and lay down fully dressed. He was exhausted. Cradling the letter to his heart he turned on his side. Sleep was a long time coming.
Relentless pounding accompanied dreams of what was once possible but now was only a distant and vague memory. Covering his ears with the soft pillow did nothing to dim the noise that seemed perhaps to come from too deep a place to ever silence. A mind numbing pain flowed along nerve threads, reaching to all his extremities, every finger, every toe, every hair follicle, escorted along by a cool, almost soothing breeze. His body shook with spasms at irregular intervals and he had given up trying to control them long ago. People came and went, he could feel their presence, but lacked the knowledge to open his eyes and see them. At one time he felt sure that he had known how, felt sure that he had beheld many things. He remembered her the most strongly. He could envisage her face in his mind, and smell the scent of her body. It almost seemed he could hear her laugh. But these memories caused such an ache of anguish and desolation that he found it physically exhausting to hold them for long.
Long ago, it seemed he had fought for the knowledge of where he was, who he was and mostly why. Now he existed, drifting between pain and sleep, dreams with no explanations, and that rhythmic pounding.
Eternity has no meaning when time no longer exists. So he could not place himself, could not fathom himself. He knew that things had changed. The pain, at times, eased so that he almost felt at peace. Some times he could smell scents that he could not name and hear people talking from a vast distance, so that nothing was comprehensible but the soft droning was calming. At other times he sank away into nothing, only to be pulled back to existence once more. Once he had felt anger at such intrusion, now anger was just another thing that he had once possessed.
Gradually the pain grew less important, merging into the background. A tingling replaced it in his legs, bringing with it more violent spasms. The tingling spread in small patches until he experienced it throughout his body. When it vacated any area it brought vague discomforts, intense itching that he could do nothing to satiate, the urge to move muscles but without the energy to comply. These were themselves replaced by warm relief. With the warmth came feelings. He knew he lay naked on a soft mattress, covered by a light but equally soft blanket. He experienced a hollow emptiness in his stomach, and on hearing a deep rumble he knew he needed to eat. Without knowing how he opened his eyes and stared at a high vaulted ceiling of grey stone. The relentless pounding became the beating of his heart.
He existed no longer. Now Marti was alive.
End Of Part One of The Trident Of Power.
If you have enjoyed this book I would love to hear from you. I am in the process of rewriting sections, adding to them and trying to attract the right people to publish it. Book two is yet to be written.