Preview the 1st Four Chapters of the Wind-Weaver’s Quest, the First in a series by Samuel Worley…
In the Valley of the Winds, young Alissia discovers her powers to channel the wind and has a powerful vision of the horrors devastating the land. Joined by her elven friend Dax, she sets out to discover and battle the ancient evil that threatens all she holds dear. In a land where her powers are thought to be acts of witchery and punishable by death, she must keep her secret safe, shared only with the few who believe in her gift and her destiny to fulfill her place in prophecy as the ”enchantress to the skies”.
Far across the Silver Sea, on foreign shores Alexia gathers her children of the night to fulfill the dark visions she receives from her evil lover Daemon who lies in a 500 year slumber. Now closer to waking, Daemon’s evil spreads like a plague, spawning deadly mythical creatures who are summoned to his will.
The Wind-Weaver’s Quest
Alissia stood upon a granite overhang, looking out over a vast green sea of fog-shrouded trees, stretching far to distant mountains and beyond that a wild untamed sky.
A cool breeze gently brushed her face, a lover longing to be held. Leaning out she embraced the wind and summoned its power and opened herself to the ever-changing tales in its song, for she was the Wind-Weaver, an enchantress to the skies.
She sensed it coming, soaring with the wind, an evil presence she’d never felt before. Leaning further to the point of falling to her death, she harnessed the wind, controlling its tainted flow and greeted its cool embrace, the smell of death and a whispered tale…
Far across the Silver Sea on foreign shores an ominous presence had begun to make itself known. It wasn’t the familiar smell of sulfur and gunpowder wafting over bloody battlefields. No she was expecting that. No, nor the blazing homes of innocent villagers raped of their land and possessions. No it, this evil, was something beneath it all, almost spiritual like the birth of a prophet. Yes, the birth or rebirth of something alien and yet a part of us all.
Somewhere a man is harvesting his wheat, preparing for an early winter. A child’s cry is heard, a birth, a new life. An old woman now crying softly lies over her son fallen in battle. Children are heard laughing as they chase each other through whistling fields and a dog in the distance yapping with glee. A preacher belts out his sermon. Men are heard screaming. Far across the sea on foreign shores, battlefields were piled with blood-soaked bodies while men fell from the skies and wings beating and burning on through endless nights.
The wind ripped from Alissia’s grasp and she fell. Trees like a hundred lances came rushing towards her. Her stomach leaped into her throat and her head spun with a blur of images and then a violent torrent rushed down the valley picking her up high into the air to leave her lying shaken on the ground where she had stood moments before.
This gift, this curse, was spawned through many generations of wind-weavers. Alissia was thirteen years of age when her gift was made known to her.
One storm-filled night she lay in bed reading stories by candlelight to her younger sister Juliette. At that age the tales were greatly exaggerated but well received with giggles and uncontrollable fits of laughter. That was when they heard the faint unwelcome footsteps at the bedroom door. Slowly the handle turned and they quickly blew out the light. The door swung open revealing the silhouette of a man backlit from the hallway behind. He raised a lantern. Shadows reached in all directions and they glimpsed the chiseled face of a huge unshaven man grinning back at them.
Alissia flew across the bed pulling Juliette off onto her feet and standing protectively in front of her began throwing anything within reach. First, her book and each of the two candleholders, then a heavy mug of spraying hot cocoa. That seemed to slow him down the most but he still advanced. They stared up at the man looming over them, their eyes wild with fear and their voices too terrified now to make a sound.
Outside lightning filled the sky.
The man grabbed Alissia by the throat and flung her to the bed. He turned his maniacal gaze to Juliette standing many feet below him, her back to a wall, her face snow white and her eyes fixed defiantly on his. He stepped within arm’s reach and she darted past him. His arms whirled as he spun and caught Juliette’s arm with such force she was flung to the ground.
Outside thunder shook the sky.
A surge of pure rage flowed through Alissia igniting every fiber of her being.
The man knelt down at Juliette’s still feet and ripped open her gown.
The energy coursed throughout Alissia, now a violent flood she could no longer contain. Thunder shook the heavens and the bedroom window burst open with a maddening howl throwing an assault of glass shards into his chest and like a rag doll he was hurtled at the bedroom door. A lantern exploded into flames and in its place above the door he hung lifeless, his head aflame and the iron hook that once held his lantern protruded from his neck.
Alissia picked herself up off the ledge she’d fallen from. Her knees shook profusely as she hobbled quickly to a patch of cool green grass where she threw herself down and lay curled up shaking in spasms while she wept.
The wind whispered soothingly, gently caressing her face. Minutes passed like hours as she relived the fleeting moments of her life’s story. Time slipped by and overhead the sky darkened as the clouds rolled in like the waves of a majestic sea. Alissia lifted her head off her folded arms to look up at the heavens.
A strange ring of dark clouds had formed directly above her and another encompassed the first and another like huge rings in a grey-brown pond stretching endlessly, each one larger than the next.
A shiver ran through her body. She stood gazing overhead, hugging herself and she turned around in wonder. This was like nothing she’d ever seen. It wasn’t possible. In the very center of the rings directly above were brilliant stars like a thousand candles flickering in a black sky. Something was happening. Some of the stars flickered brighter with every flicker then the others began to do the same, like thousands of fireflies attempting to light up the heavens. They flickered faster, brighter, until the hole in the sky became one white, blinding light shining directly on the very spot Alissia stood. She raised her arms to shield her eyes. The light softened, became like a sheet of glass. She lowered her arms, jaw dropped in amazement.
In the center an image appeared. It was herself, in a magnificent sky-mirror. Her jaw dropped further and so did her image looking back from the sky. She spun around and laughed with delight as her reflection in the sky spun with her. She threw out her arms spinning faster and her reflection did the same. Even faster they spun, then suddenly her image became smaller and the hill she stood on came into view, became smaller until she was looking down at the whole valley where she lived.
She stood there, head thrown back and her mouth wide open as she stared in awe of this miracle spinning from her dizziness. She stepped to regain her balance but could not help falling on her back where she still gazed at her valley in the sky spinning slower now. Tears formed in her eyes. Someone was watching over her. The spinning stopped and the image dimmed and brightened into a white light again, then flickered into hundreds then thousands of stars, evermore and through the clouds they shown, millions of flickering stars. And the clouds parted leaving a magnificent star-filled sky.
A cold wind nipped at her as she stood; her arms wrapped around herself for warmth. She’d tried to channel the wind around her but could not find the energy for such a simple task. In a slow dream-like state she walked down a path leading to her mountain home. What was this sky-mirror thing, she thought. How did it get there; was it I who put it there? Her mind was fluttering with questions she hoped her grandmother could answer.
She made her way to her house nestled between three huge oaks towering over it. The smell of burning pine welcomed her home. A gorgeous woman in her middle years with flowing blonde hair sat in a rocking chair by the fire with a book in her lap. She was fast asleep. Alissia sat across from her grandmother and soaked up warmth radiating from the hearth.
In all her life she’d never heard of this sky-mirror. Neither her grandmother, nor her mother had ever mentioned such a thing. When she was nearing adulthood, her mother had taught Alissia how to harness the wind and after her mother’s death she felt an over-powering responsibility for her sister and her gift she now kept hidden from the coldhearted world which misunderstood such rare talents as acts of witchery. Her grandmother Nora had taken her into hiding at the feet of the Mountains of Mist in the Valley of the Winds where she would further her training as a wind-weaver. As far as she knew the two of them were the only wind-weavers in existence. So, at the age of nineteen Alissia began the final stages as an apprentice, summoning the wind when there was none and learning how to listen to the soft, whispered stories of the wind’s journeys.
“You’re finally back! Why the serious face?” Alissia turned to see Juliette standing near the steps down to the gathering room.
“Umm…” she smoothed her skirts before replying. “I cannot quite explain it but I think I’ve found my calling.”
Juliette smiled and clasped her hands in delight. “Well, that is wonderful news! The three of us have been waiting years for it to come to you but…I can see you are not too excited about it.”
Alissia looked up from the floor and met her kid sister’s sparkling eyes. “No, it is an enigma to me. Usually the stories I gather from the wind make more sense. This time I felt more a sense of impending evil than anything else. It has never seemed so much like riddles before.”
Juliette frowned. “But you’ve found your calling?”
Alissia stared through her sister to a far off place where men fell from the skies and lay bleeding, dying among their brothers. “Yes,” she replied, “but I have many questions to ask of Grandmother.”
“And I have answers.”
The two turned their heads as if broken from a trance and saw Nora in her soft velvet robes looking straight at Alissia with a grin from cheek to cheek.
Alissia explained as best she could of the feelings she had had while the wind told its broken, ever-changing tale. She choked back tears when telling how she almost died.
“That,” Nora said, “tells me you have indeed met your calling!”
“But I was almost killed!” Alissia had a look of confusion mixed with anger.
“Yes, you were and that is why I am sure you’ve finally found it!”
“So you knew I could die and didn’t tell me!?” She was shocked, hurt.
“Please, listen to what I have to say.” Alissia sat back in a chair opposite her grandmother, folded her arms and did a poor job of trying not to pout.
“Every wind-weaver eventually finds her calling,” Nora continued, “but not all of them survive. In fact, very few survive. You see, in order to inherit this incredible gift one must give themselves over entirely to the wind, and not only trust it with their life but be able to hold on to the flow when it tries to break away for one last time. If I had told you of this, your training would have been in vain. You might have panicked and I would not be sitting here defending myself to my granddaughter.”
“I am sorry…I had no idea.” Alissia stood up and walked over to her grandmother, bent down and embraced her.
Nora smiled and patted her comfortingly. “There are many things we don’t understand my child. We must see them for what they are and except them; else we are no different than the ones who slew your mother.”
“There is one more thing I haven’t told you,” Alissia said over Nora’s delicate shoulder. “After I had calmed down from almost dying, I looked up and saw this sky-mirror thing with me in it.”
Nora’s eyes sprung wide open and she pushed Alissia off her and held her tight by each shoulder, their eyes as one. “You saw, a sky-mirror?”
“Yes, and I was reflected in it, then my image shrank as it showed more and more of the valley.”
“And what happened next?” Nora asked.
“Then it disappeared and the rings of clouds along with it…what?”
Nora had dropped her arms and folded them in her lap, a blank stare on her face. “The time has come, the legends are springing from the sky and I in my old age have been blind to them.”
“What legends? What are you talking about?” Alissia was clearly confused, but excited moreover.
“She shall gather her power over the winds and fell the children from her skies and only then will the one master, creator of life determine their fate.”
“What does that mean, the children and who is she?” Alissia was now sitting on the floor along with her sister at their grandmother’s feet, awaiting a fanciful tale perhaps.
“That was a quote from the book of Oracles. There is quite a long unfinished story tied in with that quote, but it is one you must hear.” Nora set her book aside and the girls positioned themselves on their stomachs and lay on the floor while their Grandmother began her story.
“Long ago, in the heavens of Azuria there was an angel. Daemon was his name and he guarded the land south of the mountain Amon Ra called Destinia. For many years there was peace and plentitude in the land. But one day there came a beggar who carried with him a pestilence that spread like wild-fire throughout Destinia. Thousands fell and many hundreds lay dying in their beds.
“The compassionate Daemon beseeched the god Amon Ra to visit Aridea and rid his people of this pestilence. He was given permission to visit but walk in secret, invisible to their eyes.
“For many days and nights he walked the streets unseen, touching the people with his power and curing them of the disease. Then one day he came upon a woman who held a dying child. Her beauty was beyond any he had ever seen. As he gazed upon her, the little child died in her arms and as tears streamed down her cheeks, Daemon revealed himself to the woman and he enchanted her with his beauty. The child slipped from her arms and she stood and he embraced her and made her his own. He was immediately enamored of her and delighted in the power he had over the woman. And, against the wishes of Amon Ra, he left the house with the woman at his side and walked the streets unveiled, revered as a god.
“In his wrath, Amon Ra stripped him of his wings and made Daemon walk in the light of the moons, never again able to feel the light of Azuria. His people too who had thought him a god, had the pestilence visited upon them yet again and this time Daemon had not the power to cure them. One by one, they fell to the plague and he and his queen watched as their people died around them. The ones that did survive began to doubt their chosen god.
“The loss of his follower’s faith in him brought out a dark and twisted side to him. The ‘mourners’ was his name for the living. He had said that god had cursed man and made him mortal. He would change all that. During the fall alignment of the sister moons, he denounced Amon Ra and the people who still revered him soon began to change. They too walked in the light of the moons and carried with them a semblance of Daemon’s power and feasted upon the blood of the living and became known as the Children of the Night. The beautiful city Destinia that he had so beloved was now a place of bloodshed and terror, known now as Gogotha.
“During the years of his reign, he was known as Daemon the Impaler because of his penchant for impalement as a means of punishing his enemies. He would routinely order a banquet table set up in front of his victims and enjoy a leisurely supper amid the dying while they slowly met their deaths through a slow, torturous impalement.”
Alissia and Juliette made noises of disgust and scrunched their faces. It was like being children again, sitting by the fire and listening to Nora’s stories.
“In addition to his title of ‘Impaler’,” Nora continued, “Daemon was also known as Hethraxim which means ‘son of death’ or ‘son of the Devourer’ and the Devourer he became. They say the same moment he denounced the gods he also made a pact with the Devourer and traded his soul for eternal life.
“Then was the first noted time of the curse. Four great cities Queen Illyena had ruled and all four fell under this curse; the people dwelling in the dark, for sunlight killed all who felt it. The Queen died on her throne they say; none left to the light to serve her in her dying need.
“The King Thames heard of this and drove the Children of the Night to their tombs. It is said he had tried to build huge underground roads to link all God’s houses, for the last battle would come and those would be the only place safe from the plague.
“In 1476 Daemon was slain by the hand of an assassin and his body was spirited away and buried with his followers in a secret tomb in order to contain their souls. What most have forgotten or chose to ignore is that Daemon had no soul, he’d traded it away and so he slept, healing his wounds, waiting for the night he would rise again and reunite with his love.
“The first publications of Daemon and his followers circulated like wild-fire throughout Illian. It seemed in the following years to be an exaggerated tale with fantastical creatures. Many forget the true story and the prophecy it foretells.”
“So what of the children in the book of Oracles and the women it tells of?” Juliette asked.
“I was coming to that,” Nora went on to say. “Some thirty years ago a prophet named Emanuel was discovered in North Haven’s very own asylum for the insane. At first the warden had thought his talk to be the ranting of a mad man but he soon began to see signs coinciding with Emanuel’s prophecy. One example is the unexplained slaughter of cattle throughout Illian and the lands abroad. In the prophecy it is said the Children of the Night would come again and feed upon cattle before they were strong again.”
“So the Children of the Night are Daemon’s followers?” Alissia asked.
“And the woman who has the power over the winds?” asked Juliette.
“The woman…” Nora took a deep breath. “…the woman my children, is you, Alissia.”
The girls gasped and stared blankly into the hearth. She shall gather her power over the winds and fell the children from her skies and only then will the one master, creator of life determine their fate.
Minutes passed until Alissia finally spoke: “So the children are the winged beasts I saw dropping men from the sky, some with wings on fire?”
“Yes, some have the power of flight,” Nora replied.
Juliette was now looking sideways at her older sister as if for the first time.
“But how do you know she means me? I mean it is obvious she must be a wind-weaver but it could be another.”
“It could be,” replied Nora, “but it spoke of a hole in the sky, much like your sky-mirror. I can’t remember it all now but I know you are the one that the Oracle speaks of. You are the enchantress to the skies and possibly the only being capable of preventing Daemon’s curse from destroying life as we know it.”
The Wind-Weaver’s Quest
Ian woke to a pitch-black world with a terrible taste in his mouth and an ungodly smell filling his nostrils. Whatever the reason for this mattered little, for he was in agonizing pain, as if he hadn’t eaten in weeks.
He raised his arms to feel his face and had barely lifted them above him before he touched something solid and smooth. It was a wall lined with velvet directly over him. Feeling all around he discovered it was the same. Like a lonely beggar lying under a collapsing bridge it hit him. He was in a coffin.
Ian panicked, both kicked and pushed upwards. Nothing happened. He was trapped. He began thrashing about with barely any room to move. Exhausted and terrified, he screamed and thrashed some more, then pushed upwards again with the last of his strength and heard a cracking of wood. Hope of escape gave him strength anew and he thrust open the lid breaking it into several pieces. He sprung from the coffin and welcomed a cold and musty air in a space still black as midnight.
Slowly he moved about, determined to find the answer to where he was. In his feeble condition he tripped over something and hit his head against another object. After lying a minute to recover, Ian discovered he was sprawled out between two more coffins. This is a tomb, he thought. “I am in a damn tomb!” he yelled into the dark. He picked himself up and began searching for a wall only to find more coffins.
Though he could not see, Ian’s sense of smell and hearing were alarmingly keen. The hollow sound of his boots scuffing a stone floor sounded almost deafening to his ears as he shuffled along searching row after row of coffins for what seemed like eternity until he almost tripped again over one lying directly in his path. The lid was missing. He hesitantly reached inside, afraid to find a cold, hard corpse only it was worse. The coffin was empty. Maybe this is the one I came out of, he thought. No, it couldn’t be; I’ve been walking steadily in one direction for what seems like hours.
It occurred to him that he may not be the only being alive in this place, that maybe he was not alone. “Hello!” he shouted. He could hear the echo of his weak, frightened voice off in the distance. “Is anyone here?” He could tell the walls to this place were still far off but he would find one. The thrill of escape helped him cling to a thread of energy and propelled Ian to push forwards until finally, he found a wall made of large stone slabs. He felt his way along it until he came upon several steps leading out of the burial chamber. Upon further examination Ian discovered he was standing in a hallway no wider than the length of a tall man. He meandered down the hallway with one hand always touching a wall. Every five paces or so he’d stumble to the other side and make sure he did not miss an opening.
In reality it had only been two and a half hours since his awakening but in the darkest shadows of the night his childhood fears began to haunt him while minutes passed like days and the hope of escape seemed less and less possible, whereas the idea of bumping into some walking corpse began manifesting into a very lucid paranoia.
Ian sat against a wall and tried to get a grip on his sanity. How did I get here, he thought? I’ve obviously been knocked unconscious and fell into some deep sleep and then was mistaken for a dead man. Yes, that has to be it but why have I been placed in a tomb with so many others? The plague! Yes, the plague has killed hundreds, maybe thousands of people and in order to contain it they’ve put all the victims in one place. This thought was very unsettling. Of course, I am still alive so I couldn’t possibly have it.
The one thing now hounding his mind was that he could not remember anything but his name…I must have been hit hard. Think Ian, think. You have a family, I must have a family. Where am I from? The name Alindra came to mind. That must be it! Yes, I am from a land called Alindra…Alindra…Alindra…
Scenes of a burning village flickered in his mind. The flickering stopped. A mob of men clad in priestly black robes with silver crescents hung around their necks walked hurriedly through the streets. In their hands they held flaming torches while others gripped the end of chains bore by huge wolf-like dogs of which at their master’s command would ravage the streets, thrashing on burning survivors and ripping off heads and limbs leaving only bloody torsos to mark their wrath.
On they walked, steady and remorselessly; compelled by a burning malevolence of the ones who in their minds carried the plague of Nosferatu, the curse of the vampires.
From under a carriage Ian watched as they drew closer, sure to find him. He started to slip out from under it when one of the wolf-hounds reared up on its hind legs and let out a blood-curdling howl. Its master let go of a chain, releasing the beast. Ian’s heart leapt into his throat as it came running towards him. He quickly slid back under and with little effort wedged himself into a recess in the carriage floor. A split-second later he heard a man screaming right next to the carriage. Ian pushed himself up further using all four limbs and tried to become one with the carriage. His muscles ached but he hardly noticed.
Only a few feet away there came the sound of ripping flesh and the screaming stopped followed by the clinking sound of a chain rattling on the cobblestone street as the hound shook its victim. Ian tried not to breathe. The street below blurred as tears formed in his eyes. A chain snaked across his vision and he braced even harder. The noise beside him suddenly stopped, as did his heart and the world around him. The chain below him slowly trailed off. Moments later the beast slammed into the carriage, tipping it to one side and it settled down again, throwing Ian out of the recess onto the street below. A foul, hot breath hit his face and he heard a low, guttural growl. Ian opened his eyes to find he was face to face with glowing yellow eyes and teeth like daggers glistening red with fresh blood. The beast was on its belly; its head now underneath the carriage. Ian scooted away. A raw, animalistic rage seared through him. Ian let out an inhuman yell and with all his strength tipped the carriage from underneath as he got to his feet. He could hear bones cracking when the side of the carriage pressed down on the beast now yelping in pain. Using some superhuman strength, Ian shoved the carriage to rest on the animal, its head sticking out from under it and the fierce, glowing eyes dimmed as it died.
The world came flooding back to him. He looked up the street and saw the men, three to a chain trying to pull two of the beasts off of a large corpse. Now was his chance. He fled up the burning street with hell on his heels.
Ian broke out of the nightmare with a start. Some distance up the hallway he heard the hollow clacking of someone’s footsteps. His childhood nightmares spun into reality and he stood stiff, backed up against a wall, wishing he had somewhere to hide from the unseen creature walking towards him. He held his breath afraid to make a sound and listened to the footsteps approaching ever closer. What if it is another person in the same situation I am? I should say something and find out. His fears got the best of him. He did not want to know but at the same time he was afraid of not knowing. Instinct told him to keep quiet and wait. The footsteps could not be more than twenty paces up the hall. Slowly, ever so slowly he let out a long breath then breathed in deep and held it. Ten paces, he imagined, seven and then five. The footsteps stopped right in front of him. He stood rigid, not moving a muscle. He could almost feel eyes on him. Clack, clack. He felt a presence within arm’s reach of him.
“Who-are-you,” asked a male voice?
He fainted to the sound of mocking laughter.
Ian sprinted down smoke-filled streets and not far behind came blood-thirsty howls and shouts of hatred followed by the shrieks and cries of tortured villagers as they were burned and ripped apart.
His heart raced and his lungs began to burn in pain the further he went into the black cloud of smoke. He began to choke and cough. He could not breathe so he dropped to the ground to find fresh air. Looking back underneath the black, poisonous cloud he saw his pursuers, no more than forty paces away. He caught his breath and jumped to his feet and sprinted through the smoke, eyes watering in a burning pain and slammed into a fence. He felt for handholds and found them and climbed over to drop on the other side where he fell and rolled down a rocky embankment, to lie motionless in a canal.
Ian lay in cool running water in a dream-like state of solitude with eyes closed and breathed in brisk, fresh air. The world was calm now, at peace. He let out a long, restful sigh and slowly opened his eyes. High above him loomed a tall iron fence crowning an embankment of jagged rocks leading down to him. His head was pounding and his lungs burned as did his eyes but he felt safe, no longer running from certain death. His neck felt strange though, with a sharp pressure of pain. He screamed. Something was in the water feeding on his neck.
Ian jumped up cursing at an unseen predator lingering in the dark. He put a hand to his neck and felt the slick wetness of blood; his blood. He flailed his arms about, screaming in rage. “Where are you, I’ll kill you, where are you, you bastard?! I’ll…” He had to catch his breath. His energy was draining from him as he bled. Reluctantly he leaned on the wall behind him and stared into blackness and waited.
“Kill me?” asked a voice. “How, for you are already dead. Just a few more precious minutes…wait, embrace death.”
Ian squinted, knowing there was no way to see the predator. “Who are you?” he asked in a tremulous voice.
“I am death, Ian and I am the keeper to the gate of eternal life.”
He reached blindly into the dark. “How do you know my name?”
“I know many things and I can see the fear in your eyes. Do you not want death?” asked the voice.
Ian lay against the wall staring blankly to a time and place where villages burned and men with their hell-hounds walked the streets.
“Those men…” said the voice. “They killed your family did they not?”
“Yes,” Ian replied softly. “Yes, I believe they did.”
“So I ask you again, Ian. Do you want death?”
“No,” Ian whispered. “Revenge…”
“Then drink.” He felt a warm, wet liquid drip into his mouth and tilted his head back and licked his lips tasting the wet tang of blood, then drank, for it quenched a thirst for blood, for revenge.
He could feel his life’s energy still draining from him while being replaced new for the old and he felt as if he were rising where he lay, floating ever higher, numb to the pain coursing through his body. He floated, wrapped in ecstasy and then dropped. Ian screamed in agonizing pain. He shut his eyes and clenched every throbbing muscle as he shook in spasms. Then it stopped. All was still.
“I have given you a new life. Now look with your vampire eyes my friend.”
Standing above him was a man in a long black jacket and dark, wavy brown hair spilling over broad shoulders with a mischievous grin on his pale shaven face. “So, my friend, you have left your mortal life. I welcome you to a new one. My name is Jason.” The man bent down and offered his huge hand and helped Ian to his feet, for all of Ian’s muscles were sore and weak.
Ian glanced back down the hall in awe as Jason walked him towards unexplored passages. He could see as if one of the moons had cast its light wherever he looked but beyond his vision was still pitch black.
“We are in a place called the Halls of Baradur,” Jason told him. “Its construction began two centuries ago as a means of escape beneath Borgo pass which leads through the Shadow Mountains. When the vampire Daemon, now more commonly known as Hethraxim, took the Alindrian throne, he would often travel through the pass to his castle in Gogotha. The Mienaran general knew of this and dispatched militia to intercept his conscripts and supply coaches. The few who learned of the halls laughed and the idea, for it would take over a century to build. Those of us who have found eternal life through the dark prince know that a century is just one of many. It has been completed under the supervision of James Baradur. He lives still, for he is one of us.”
The halls and rooms they walked were vast; some with cathedral ceilings and towering spires of gilt and carvings stretching high to other halls. In places the halls were furnished. “Some of us live here,” said Jason, encompassing the massive room with a gesture of his arm.
They came to a huge arched door. Before it stood statues of people made to look as if they were writhing in agony. “So we’ve come to one of the doors. Beyond it is the Valley of the Lost. We do not go that way, for you could find yourself walking aimlessly through its forests and gardens under the spell of the Enchantress with no place to hide from the terrible sun.”
Ian looked at the massive door with a curious wonder, then to the wicked statues at his feet. “Those are not statues,” said Jason. “They are the poor souls of newborn vampires who refused to live, refused to kill. This is what will happen to you if exposed to the sun before your first kill. It may take a while, each day being more painful than the last, all the while eating mortal food like you did in your past life and your skin becoming hard and taut, until one day you wake up to the sun and your skin sears in pain, your eyes burn and you become like them; a soul trapped in a motionless body for all of eternity.”
Ian shuddered and looked to Jason. “I am hungry, he said.
“Of course you are. Let’s feed, shall we?”
Ian woke in his coffin with a grin on his face. The lid was shut but he could see. The world was different now. An awesome power coursed through his veins. The beauty and wonders of the night were waiting for him. Ian was reborn, a child of the night.
The Wind-Weaver’s Quest
A fog rose from the Valley of the Winds; tendrils of vapor licking the feet of the Mountains of Mist, the mountain border that towered three thousand impassable feet to challenge the sky in a fiery brilliance; while far to the West the four teeth of the Anath-Hun drank up their shadows, unveiling the other in all its conquering majesty. It was along this northern divide Alissia’s errand led.
“Remember,” said her Grandmother. “Keep well your secret, for you will find few who love you for it.”
With her pack slung over her shoulder and a big loving embrace she said farewell to her sister and grandmother and set out into the valley with no particular destination but to seek the malice she now sensed with a terrible foreboding.
The path she took led down into a green forest of pine and fir. A thin veil of fog blanketed the forest floor. To her left she passed a granite cliff, ominous in its towering height and she shuddered at the thought of her fall just yesterday.
Further down around a bend she met the river Andier, snaking its way along the Mountains of Mist where it disappeared to be engulfed in an eternal fog. The swath of forest it cut glowed in a fiery orange, casting purple shadows along the riverbank. The morning she set out on could not have been more pleasant.
Her satchel she carried was packed with loving care. In it she had stowed enough candles and yards of wick combined with her metal casting to keep the constant candle lit. She also carried in it bags of dried fruit, sacks of beans and rice and her ancient map of the land of Arith now known as Illian.
And now she trod in and out of the trails they had created so many years ago. She was nine when they had delved deep into the magical place and carved out their home. Alissia though, longed for company outside of her hidden valley and she felt assured knowing her grandmother was well taken care of in their mountain home.
With the spring air in her lungs and a fantastical quest ahead of her, Alissia hastened towards the towering peaks off in the distance. She knew much of what lie on the other side of those mountains. The towns of North and South Haven surrounded Oyster Bay and in the middle of the Silver Sea there was the island Ellisar, a stop or safe anchor for the ships that came to port. With those ships came the goods and stories of some of the most ruthless sailors who ever sailed the Arith Ocean. Her first town though, was Crescent Lake; a kind of crossroads town that lay far to the east. It was said to be one of the largest logging towns of its kind. Her sister Juliette would constantly complain when the dark-elves and gypsy caravans would come through the valley and share tales of barren hillsides stripped of the massive trees that once stood. All in the name of a queen she had seen only once; a queen who demanded more than her fair share of taxes but Alissia paid them no mind. She was a woman of the land and those were her only laws. With her she carried the payment she needed to cross any lands. The stones she carried she would study by candlelight, awestruck at their fiery brilliance. Oh, she had the gold coins of Illian, poorly purchased if she had her way.
She thought back to her horse Breeze. She was forced to selling him actually. It was a show she had put on in the streets of South Haven at age of seven that had won her the Queen’s favor. Damn, how she had cried during nights of restless sleep. In her heart she knew Breeze was on the other side of those peaks waiting for her and probably maimed by the throes of war. Just thinking of it still brought out the worst in her.
Up ahead on the trail she spied a large, grey-brown cat sitting on its haunches, sniffing the morning air. Somehow she always knows, Alissia thought. “Of course you’re coming with me,” she greeted the spotted lynx.
No wild creatures to worry about here, she heard in the back of her mind.
Hmm…she was doing it again, Alissia thought to herself. Lately both Alissia and Samir had somehow established some kind of a telepathic link. She just knew Samir was one of her spirit animals, ones who had a kind of connection that was like a brother or sisterhood of some kind. I wonder how many spirit animals I really have, she’d think to herself. Was Samir the only one? There was the white owl she had tamed as a child with the call her grandmother had taught her. “Just blow into your hands like this,” she’d say. And she would, and tried and tried again until one day she did it. She had even made up a sort of song, which the elves named White Majesty. She loved the name and wrote words to it. Of course, others would most likely change the words but she didn’t mind. It was fun and here it went:
Above the Mountains of Mist the white owl flew
With dust under wings and droplets of dew
It came with the wind and tidings of joy
For the places it traveled were filled with boys
With the heavens above, Aridea below
It flew through the trees and came back for the fellow
Who called it too
The song rings true
With the white Owl’s song
Your skies are blue
Here he flies
For who knows who
Here he flies
Bearing your news.
It would too. She’d sound the call and sing her song and soon enough, Crow’s Foot would arrive bearing a missive that he had mysteriously picked up. Most often it was the elves saying hi. She’d always write back to them in little poems of her travels.
Some of the parchment she now carried was of the thinnest sort; the kind of thing she one day would make into a book of her travels and poems.
“Well, cat, there I go again.” Samir sat looking up at her. “Dagnabbit, I forgot my book!” She always forgot something. So, right back around she went, stomping for home. “You know, Samir, if I hadn’t forgotten something, it wouldn’t be the beginning of a great adventure. And, I wouldn’t get to have one last hug.”
Alissia left the sun-dappled forest trail and stepped onto the green grassy hillside where sat her home. “I’m back!”
“Forgot something did you?” It was her sister Juliette out in the yard replanting trees and flowers as usual for this time of year.
“Of course, it wouldn’t be an adventure if I hadn’t,” she echoed her earlier thought.
“Well,” replied Juliette, “it’s a good thing too because grandmother has something more to tell you; a message the owl dropped off.”
“Oh,” replied a distant voice. “Just in time,” said Nora. “Crow’s Foot just stopped by bearing something of value to your journey. It is said there’s some sort of underground passageway the elves haven’t told us about.”
“Really?” Alissia replied inquisitively.
Juliette’s grin widened from cheek to cheek. “It’s quite the tale! Let us go sit under the spruce while we fill you in. Juliette picked up the pace hoping to make the other two run but they weren’t having it. Alissia and Nora followed behind her, chatting cheerfully.
Their usual blanket was nestled beneath the bows of an enormous tree and against the trunk was a sort of shelving system where they’d put things like their favorite books. “I’ve got some insight into the whole thing,” continued Juliette while they all gathered themselves together on the blanket. She waited until they were all settled, took a deep breath and began: “Picture a winding tunnel connected with caverns and more tunnels. Delving Pass they call it. Only the elves know of it. As we all know the gypsy caravans come some 300 miles around to reach our land. Anyway, they say the entrance is all of wood. In other words, you climb into these hollowed out trees and go straight down. Once you’re in, you are in; if ya know what I mean.”
She studied their faces and watched the expressions change from curious to wonderment. Hmm…I can’t wait to tell them about the Trolls, she thought, watching their interested expressions. “It’s where you land that’s the fun part,” she continued. “Because all the wood chips from making the hole are lying right below you in a big pile! It’s quite safe.”
“I can’t wait!” exclaimed Alissia. “I’ll bet the Trolls made them!”
There it goes…thought Juliette…I let her talk. “So,” she cut back in. “The funniest thing about the trolls is?” She waited some more. “THEIR CLOTHES! I heard they wear jackets and some, it’s very rare though but some wear even shoes. Actually, I believe most wear shoes and some don’t. Anyway, I’m not too sure about that part, though their clothes I’ve heard are quite exotic you know?”
“Are you saying the Trolls have fashion sense?” Nora asked in her cute voice. “My Trollie is handsomer than your Trollie.” It was all needling from there.
“You know for a Grandma of fifty five, you still show well,” said Alissia with a smile.
After the “trollie” talk and the goofing around the girls decided it was time to stretch. Nora had already left for home and Juliette and Alissia came filing out of the branches doing the weird twist you had to do. It was almost a dance and they loved it.
When they emerged from beneath the overhanging boughs Juliette became somber. “I still can’t believe you are leaving,” she said.
“It is still hard for me to believe too,” Alissia replied, looking about the grassy hillside. “I will miss this place,” she said distantly. “And you and grandmother most of all.”
“I could come with you,” Juliette suggested but Alissia shook her head.
“No, dear sister. Grandmother needs you here. I need you here to look after the place and keep it beautiful for when I do come back home. And besides, you wouldn’t last a minute in the city. The boys there would scoop you up before you could even blink.”
Juliette smiled back at her and then gave her a playful punch. “Hey! I know how to handle myself, Alissia.” And then she tried tickling her older sister but Alissia soon had her arm around Juliette’s head.
“Stop that foolishness and come get something to eat,” yelled Nora.
The girls gave each other a quick hug and went running up to the cabin. There inside were four steaming plates of food. “Who’s the fourth plate for?” Alissia asked.
“It must be a secret,” whispered Juliette.
As if summoned, a hooded figure appeared within the back hallway and unveiled himself. “DAX!” cried the girls together. Dax was a male dark-elf, tall and slender in his hooded garb. His narrow nose and squinty purple eyes marked him as a low-lander or forester as he’d have been called.
“Hey my spirited friends!” he greeted them. They both ran up and embraced their friend. “It has been a long while.” He added.
“So, what have you been up to?” asked Juliette who stood on her toes, looking up at him, eager for his attention.
“Now, now” said Nora. “Let the man settle in, he’s had a long journey.”
Dax took off his robes and neatly draped them over a chair. He then embraced each in turn. Nora gestured to a seat at the large wooden table and Dax sat down with a sigh.
“The world of men; that is what I have been up to and at the moment the world is in turmoil.”
“I have seen visions,” said Nora. “As you know we wind-weavers hear the whispers and thoughts of many great men. Many have fallen these days past. These times are a great turning in the wheel of time. Every spoke has its place and I fear that Alissia is one of the strong spokes, or perhaps the bump in the road, so to speak.”
As one the three women took their seats around the polished oak table and attended to their plates. “This tea is strong,” said Dax over a steaming cup and then he added: “I greatly appreciate every story you have to share Nora, my dear.”
“I was about to say that Alissia has had some very strong visions as well. I wonder if she could put them into a story for us.” Nora sat back in her chair and turned her gaze to her eldest grand-daughter.
Alissia looked up from her bite of soup and met their eager stares. She slurped the last down and took a sip of tea and then began her story. “I saw the world before my eyes. The battle was the most ruthless known to man. The skies were filled with arrows and creatures with wings, dropping men to their deaths. I heard the cries of our churches ringing out in prayer. It was a song of battle, a song of grief. I have already written most of it down.” She paused and took another sip. “Here is the song I got out of it as the vision played out before my eyes.” She took in a slow breath: “Ooh, hey grip the pain. You know they’re wasting away. Will you feed the fire, or will you break the chains.” Then she added: “There might have been more to it, I’m not sure.”
Dax folded his arms, took in a breath and said: “You are quite the poet, Alissia. I believe the book you are writing will be something of magic and beauty, though the song is quite sad and terrible, is it not? Hmm…how many poems do I have of yours?”
“I don’t know, I’m guessing three perhaps?” Alissia sat back in her chair and looked to Nora and Juliette who were sitting attentively, taking in the conversation.
“I have got a song for you,” said Dax with a smile. “But it is one of those songs I would have to sing only to you.” He was flushing red now while Alissia bit her lip and then picked up her tea to cover her smile.
“Well, so much for stories and songs then,” interjected Nora. “I believe Alissia’s errand is what she’s about now. It is something we all are worried about. She is only nineteen you know.”
“Are you suggesting I tag along?” Dax was leaning back with a smile, turning an amorous eye to Alissia.
“I can take care of myself,” she paused and her eye quickly darted to Dax and then back to her cup, color rising in her cheeks. As an afterthought she added: “Though more company would be quite enjoyable.”
“I know well the ways of a forest. The entrance of the troll-caves is a place I have heard often enough.” Dax had everyone’s attention. “The places below are of incredible design with turns and twists…it is very easy to get lost. Fortunately enough I have come up with a small map, not very easy to come by. It may be worth your while to take a gander at it.”
Dax got up and grabbed his blue-grey forest-colored cloak that shimmered in his hand and produced the folded map that seemed to magically appear from a pocket inside. “Here it is. I will lay it out once we have finished our meal.”
For a moment, all went silent. “Tea time,” exclaimed Juliette, rising from the table with her bowl. She grabbed Alissia’s too on the way over to Dax who was finishing off a few bites. She waited with her hand on her hips then grabbed Nora’s. Then she snatched Dax’s bowl and left singing and dancing into the kitchen.
Dax arose behind her, carrying the untouched bowl of rolls. Nora and Alissia followed them into the kitchen. The cupboards were of elven design made by the three of them. Carved vines decorated the edges while the centers were of a knot work of weaving curves and spirals. Nora’s kitchen was the talk of many a traveler. Off to the south end of the house was her huge tile inlayed table crafted to match the cupboards. The map was already spread upon it when the rest of them entered.
Dax stood at the edge with his finger on the center-most spot of the ancient looking map. “This…this is the entrance to the city of the trolls; or at least to the labyrinth surrounding it. It is under ground and the only way in is through a secret door in a large tree. I have spent some time in those woods and I believe I know where that tree is.”
Alissia was sitting at the far end of the table studying the map while Juliette stood attentively watching Dax.
He continued: “The entrance to the troll city is out of our way by some miles of underground tunnels. Though we’ll steer away from it that is not to say we will not see any trolls on the way.”
“I’d give anything for a chance to meet a troll,” exclaimed Juliette, leaning over Dax’s shoulder. She then casually trailed her fingers up his arm and gave it a squeeze.
Dax stood up straight, color rising in his cheeks. Juliette slinked over to the chair next to him and propped her elbow upon the table staring at him with a curious gleam in her big brown eyes.
“I suppose you have some errands to tend to and some packing before we go on our trek,” Alissia cut into the silence, eager to separate her sister from the most interesting elf she knew.
“Yes, I must be on my way. I will leave the map for you to study, Alissia. I very much enjoyed the meal. I will return ere noon. We should be near the entrance to the troll caves when the day is up.”
Nora, quick to respond, held his robe out to him and said: “Alissia will be waiting for your return.” As Dax slid into the shimmering cloak, he gave Alissia a smile and a wink. Nora followed him out while the other two stood in the entrance grinning as they watched him depart.
The Wind-Weaver’s Quest
Alexia looked out through the ornate arched window of her palace room, gazing into the star-filled night. It was the same window she had looked out the day she was made a vampire many hundreds of years ago.
The wind had died, leaving a thick fog that trailed through the forest below and beyond that, in the distance she spied the river Anun, like a silvery ribbon, snaking its way from the mountains of Amon-Ra.
The eerie quiet of this gloomy night was unsettling. Even her children, the self-indulging blood-suckers were quiet this night. The soothing howls of her wolf-packs had also subsided, leaving a lingering sense of dread in her bones.
She turned her gaze to the Silver Sea and spied distant sailing vessels with her ageless green eyes. The night was her abode, the moons her goddesses and all the night creatures her children, for she was Alexia, queen of all vampires.
A steady, chill wind embraced her and she wrapped her slender pale arms around her body. She needed to feed. Hot, fresh blood coursing through her veins would warm her flesh.
She closed the tall windows to her chambers where she had last felt the sun’s warm touch before her love had finally found her and wrapped her in his dark embrace and welcomed her to the eternal realm of the night. And now he slumbered in an endless dream…or was it; for he was a part of her and his visions hers. They were becoming clearer to her. Every night the dreams came closer to an end and sometimes he’d alter them, slightly playing with the outcome. Soon…very soon he’d wake. Until that time she did his bidding but right now she needed blood.
Alexia made her way through the winding passageway of her central feeding chamber. Up and up it went until finally she was in a grand circular room. In the very center of the floor was a crude dragon made up of magnificent red tile, her symbol, the magic emblem of her domain. It represented her power and every one of her children wore it as a token of service.
Alexia walked her slow, sensuous walk towards the center, her hips swaying from side to side. She drove men wild, mad with lust. That seemed to be all they wanted from her was her beauty. So, she gave it to them, played with them, toying with their human desires.
She looked up to the grand cathedral ceiling and willed herself up through a hole in the center, shooting up through the roof and into the sky to land beside a terrified man lashed to an alter on the roof.
“So my pet,” Alexia said in a husky, seductive voice. “Are you ready to dine with me?” She gave a chilling laugh and began circling the alter, her cat-like demeanor belying her true intent while the man thrashed in his chains, screaming, unable to escape his obvious demise. “Yesss,” she whispered as she caressed his neck, simultaneously willing him to stillness. “You want me don’t you?”
He forced out the reply: “Yyyess.”
Alexia began toying with his every emotion, beguiling his human senses. She started with his neck, kissing it with tender caress then she moved down, down into his male counterpart of her ancient womanly design. She studied every wanton moan as she played with his human desires. Then she slowly circled around him, a tigress toying with her prey, her index finger trailing over his body, arousing every part as she slowly stopped at his neck, bent down and whispered: “You are mine, my pet.” Then she trailed her tongue from his ear to his neck, which she began kissing with tender veracity. His moan turned to a whimper as she went from licking to a voracious suck and then he let out a blood-curdling scream and she bit into his neck with such savage force she feared she had killed him. She wanted to play some more.
“So, my pet, do you want me now or would you like me to end your miserable, worthless life-right-now!” This last she expressed with such force, his body jolted up in the restraints and he began whimpering, trying to curl up but restrained by the chains. “I think you like being my pet,” she said. “Would you like to stay my little pet? I think you do.” She bit into her wrist and with a tender squeeze she dripped her own blood over his gaping neck-wound. The man yelled and thrashed while the hot liquid seared his skin, causing it to smoke and bubble, sealing his wound. “Don’t you like playing with me?” She stilled his mind, blocking his obvious reply. “Now, here comes the fun part. You get to be my little pet for all of eternity!” Her haunting laugh filled the night sky. “And now, it begins.” Alexia grabbed the man by the throat, her fingers wrapped around the back of his neck as she squeezed and forced out his tongue. She thrust her mouth on his and bit down, pressing harder, stifling his scream as his blood gushed into her mouth. “There,” she said, pulling away, wiping her blood-soaked mouth with the back of her porcelain like hand. “Now look what you’ve done! You spoiled my nice clothes! Since I am such a kind master I shall punish you only a little.” She re-opened her wrist and squeezed it until her blood dripped into the man’s mouth. “Now drink!” The man spat the mouthful of blood, spraying her face. Alexia became enraged. “YOU-SHALL-PAY!” With in-human force she plunged her fist through his chest and pulled out his still beating heart. His eyes dimmed as she shared his last vision of sight; an angel wrapped in white descending from the heavens. “So it begins,” Alexia said. “The battle has begun.”
Thanks for reading- S.W.
Let me know what you think in the comments below: