Author’s Note: This is the conclusion of Part 2 of the prequel blog serial entitled “What is Needed”. Click on these links to read Part 1, Part 2 (first section), Part 2 (Conclusion) and Part 3. This series is a companion to The Bow of Destiny (Part 1 of The Bow of Hart Saga) as expanded writing samples for the current Indiegogo campaign for the novel. The events of the blog series pre-date those of The Bow of Destiny by several hundred years but include several long-lived characters who appear in the forthcoming novel. Please read this post and consider supporting the fundraiser. To learn more about The Bow of Destiny campaign click the provided link. This material is copyrighted and not intended for reproduction except at the author’s consent.
What is Needed (Part 4)
by P. H. Solomon
The hobgoblin’s needle-like fangs flashed yellow in torchlight. The blade pressed against Hastra’s throat. Kregen ran out of the darkness and flame that night. He is revealed out of darkness in the Hidden Dragon’s flame this night. Her face twitched and she clenched her teeth.
Kregen snapped gutteral words. The trolls snatched their captives’ hands and bound them with leather straps.
Zelma wept. “Kregen how could you?”
Hastra whirled toward the Rokan Withling. “You can stop this even now, Kregen.”
The Rokan’s grin flashed as the torchlight danced across his face. He flicked his wrist and spoke more trollish commands. Trolls cuffed the sisters. Hastra grunted as she fell on her backside. Zelma screamed her pain.
Hastra blinked and shook her head.
“No! Leave them alone!” Howart shouldered the trolls away even with bound hands.
A bugbear roared spittle into the gaunt Withling’s face and snatched his shirt. The bugbear punched Howart on the jaw with a fist like a mallet. Blood and a tooth flew flew out of Howart’s mouth. The troll bared short tusks and gut-punched the Withling. He grunted and doubled over. The others Withlings cowered.
“Enough of this.” Kregen rasied a hand and the beatings stopped. “Now you’ll follow along without a word. Time is short.” Their betrayer strode out the door. The trolls pushed and dragged their ten captives in Kregen’s path.
Hastra’s mouth pulsed pain as blood dribbled to her chin. I still have my teeth. She wiped her mouth with her sleeve but grimaced all the more even with the pain. Her hand trembled with prickling pain. They’ve lashed them so tight I’m losing feeling. She wiggled her fingers and groaned.
The trolls herded the captives out of the cellar complex. They shoved Hastra and her fellow captives or snarled if the Withlings dawdled. Vile creatures. If only Eloch revealed his wishes. No unction bloomed in Hastra. The lack is disquieting.
They entered the great hall where the remaining Withlings milled with more trolls on guard who brandished a variety of weapons. Kregen’s escort shoved Hastra and her band among the crowd. She dabbed her lip on her sleeve. Too many of these weapons are blood-covered. Tears distorted Hastra’s eyes. More of us are bruised and wounded. Where is Eloch? She wiped her cheeks on her sleeves.
Kregen strolled in front of the crowd. Zeld stood back with the three sisters from North Grendon.
Hastra’s eyes narrowed. Zeld I see aiding his brother but those three? She nudged Zelma. “Who are those sisters?”
Zelma shifted her gaze from Hastra’s pointed finger to the three women and then gasped. “Not the Beleesh sisters too!”
A hobgoblin snarled and prodded at Zelma with a spear. She and several other Withlings backed away in silence.
Kregen whipped a curved dagger from his side and brandished it over his head. Murmurs and even weeping fell silent.
“He has a Rokan blood-knife.” Howart’s voice echoed in the hushed hall.
“Yes, it is a blood-knife, cursed to scald the very soul, they say.” Kregen gazed at the blade as a sneer broadened under his hooked nose. “Now listen, Magdronu is magnanimous and has not sent me to kill you all.”
Whispers wove through the crowd of mystics as their fellow Withling spoke the name of the Hidden Dragon.
Kregen lifted his voice. “My master would have followers as he ascends the heavens as he should. He is merciful and will spare you. Only follow. Or…” Kregen brandished the knife.
Silence lingered among the Withlings. Feet shifted and mystics muttered their fear.
Hastra gaped. I can’t believe so many are actually considering this offer. She closed her mouth. Something must be done.
Elder Tokla stepped before Kregen and stood silent. The dwarf’s beard bore crusted blood from a smashed nose.
Kregen’s lip curled on one side as his brows rose. “Well, Chokkran devil, I never expected you to turn but I’ll take your oath and you can spread the Holy Dragon’s word among your puny kin and nations.”
“Who has succored you, traitor?” The dwarf’s voice rumbled like falling rocks.
A sweet smell filled Hastra’s nose and tension eased from her throat. The rustle of exhaled breath whispered through the crowd. He spoke prophecy. Let’s see what happens now. Hastra edged forward through the mystics while her sister and Howart shuffling behind her.
Kregen laughed. “Magdronu has taken care of me for years, Elder. But I’m no traitor. Here’s what was promised though.” The Rokan bent, stabbed Tokla in the heart and yanked the dagger free.
Gasps shuddered through the Withlings. The dwarf stood a moment, then twisted as his knees buckled and he dropped to the marble floor.
Hastra’s feet stopped and tears welled in her eyes.
Elder Soren of the trading fleets strode to Tokla’s corpse and stood in the pool of blood. Kregen opened his mouth but the wrinkled old man spoke first. “The false one begets betrayers but he shall not have his way.”
Hastra took a step forward again. He continues the prophecy. Her eyebrows arched.
Kregen stabbed the elder in the heart and Soren collapsed beside his old friend. His blood spread on the floor.
Peace stilled Hastra’s racing heart. It’s not my turn yet. She pushed through the frozen mystics. Zelma and Howart shouldered past. Not you as well, my sister.
Elder Margen strolled from the crowd.
Kregen’s blood-drenched grip tightened on the dagger.
The white-haired Shildran’s voice never faltered when she spoke. “The Hidden Dragon may usurp kingdoms with deceits but his ways shall not last and he will not ascend.”
Kregen bared his teeth and shouted. The knife smashed into Margen and she fell beside her fellow elders as more blood puddled the floor. “Any other-.”
Howart exited the crowd and stood close to Kregen with his hands still bound. “A bow shall be made in defense.”
The blade plunged into Howart. The gaunt Withling folded and fell on his back when the Rokan betrayer ripped the daggar free.
Tears spilled from Hastra’s eyes as Zelma squirmed from the crowd.
Zelma’s voice rang high with a note of defiance. “To break the binding curses.”
Hastra closed her eyes as Kregen stabbed her sister. Calm slowed her racing heart. Mine is not the last words of this. If only others will finish it. Tears streaked her face. She opened her eyes to Kregen’s grimace. Zelma’s body lay piled at the edge of her sight. “His prey shall be snatched from his fangs.”
The knife smashed into her chest. It seared Hastra’s flesh. Kregen’s glaring face faded to darkness.
She hovered near her body in a gray blur. Pain slid away as colors swirled around her. Calm and joy sustained Hastra as brighter light opened amid the ceiling.
“Any others want to finish that prophecy of Eloch?” Kregen’s voice echoed from her previous existence.
“Will you stay?” A voice whispered loudly.
Movement attracted her attention. Howart twitched, pushed himself into a seated position and the climbed to his feet. The risen Withling pressed closer to Kregen but he shouted when he spoke. “The bow shall be hidden from heart.”
Kregen stabbed the gaunt Withling.
Howart never flinched and did not fall again.
Kregen stabbed again. When nothing happened he stepped back and gaped.
“Will you finish what is started?” The voice thundered gently through Hastra’s essence.
“I will stay with Zelma.” Gray blur enveloped Hastra.
Her sister rose and took Kregen’s knife-hand and pulled the blade into her wound. “The eagle will guide the heir.”
As Zelma stepped back, darkness wrapped around Hastra. Her eyes fluttered and she inhaled. She stood and straightened her skirt. Hastra arched her eyebrows and craned her neck toward the gaping traitor. “The bow will be found at need.”
Silence covered the hall and even the trolls stood frozen on their feet.
Hastra took a breath with Zelma and Howart. The three of them spoke together. “And the arrow shall Eloch prepare.”
Kregen stood unmoving, his gaze shifting between the risen Withlings. His jaw worked and his voice whispered. “I killed you.”
Zeld snarled troll words. Hobgoblins grasped Hastra’s arms and dragged her away with Howart and Zelma.
As the trolls led them back to the cellar complex Hastra wobbled. None of this is real. I was dead. But we ended the prophecy. She touched her chest, found the rent in her flesh and her hand recoiled from it. Not even pain.
Their guards brought shackles after taking them to an empty storeroom, cut away their straps and locked their hands and feet. Their captors exited the room and barred the door but the risen Withlings heard a few growling outside in their crude tongue.
Zelma sighed. “So much just happened but I’m filled with joy even now.”
Hastra stirred. “I’m confused and awed, but yes, there is joy – no exhilaration – as well. We must be needed for something yet.”
Howart chuckled. “What is needed is given.”
End of Part 4 (Part 5 will be posted on 9/2)
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