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What is Needed Part 6

Photo used in The Bow of Destiny book trailer

Photo used in The Bow of Destiny book trailer

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)Part 3Part 4 and Part 5. 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 6)

by P. H. Solomon

Troll-wolves howled and Hastra slipped into the shade between trees with Zelma and Howart. If only we can avoid the pursuit one last time. The Tower’s just ahead if I remember correctly. She pinched her lower lip and peek along the old road they followed.

The sun dangled between corona-rimmed clouds and the snow-capped peaks of the Grey Spires. Sunshine bathed the path ahead of the three furtive shapes with golden light.

Zelma’s breath puffed mist. “Is it still clear?”

Howart loomed in the shadow of the trees. “They aren’t as close as yesterday.”

“They make enough noise to scare everything for miles. But I don’t see any scouts so let’s go.” Hastra eased out of hiding onto the overgrown road and her two companions followed.

Her stomach rumbled but Hastra dared not call for a halt so she ate bread from her bag. Two weeks and the food’s still good though this is hard now. She kicked a root and stumbled but Zelma steadied her.

At the head of the long rise Hastra spied the pile of weathered stone named the Old Tower. Where Withlings used to go to see and hear instruction or speak rituals. Now it’s the dead end of the trap Kregen sprung on us. They staggered over the path against wind that snapped and swirled across the end of the headland that thrust into the booming sea.

Horns and Troll-wolves howled. Much closer now. “We must hurry now, sister.”

Zelma walked on with eyes wide and shivering.

Hastra brushed hair from her face. Is she cold or afraid? The edifice loomed out of the gloom of dusk in the east. Distant lightning flashed across the Bay of Storms from the east and lit the roofless tower-top. It defies wind and weather. Gusts tugged at the low scrub-trees scattered around its feet. This isolated end of nowhere may be the end of us. If only Eloch…

The travelers hurried into the shadow of the Old Tower and took refuge from the blasts in a shallow alcove. Snippets of howling and horns broke through the roar of wind. They’re coming now. There’s no escape. Hastra hugged herself but still shivered. “Now what?”

“I don’t know except go up.” Howart steadied himself with a trembling hand on the stone. He leaned against the wall, slid into a crouch and laid his head on scratched arms folded over his knees. A ragged sigh escaped from his thin lips. “Just need to rest a while.”

Hastra peered along the road. We’re all spent and bound to die. She touched the death wound from which she’d risen. “What is needed is given.”

Horn blasts floated on the wind. Zelma’s lips quivered and dark circles ringed her eyes above pale skin. Her hair reached from beneath her gray hood. “They’re coming now.”

Hastra nodded. Even her hair seems faded. “They’ve found our scent. We can’t stay here long. If we are needed atop the tower then let’s climb.”

Soft sobs escaped from Zelma. “Then what?”

Hastra embraced her sister. “We’ll pray, Zelma. All will be well in the end. We’re here for a reason just because we’re still breathing when we should be weeks dead.”

Zelma forced a thin smile through her tears. “It will never be the same as it was, but perhaps we see better atop the tower.”

Hastra stirred. “Trolls are near. It’s time.”

Zelma’s hair fell across her face as she touched Howart’s head. The Grendonese man remained still. “He’s fallen asleep.”

Hastra’s head whipped around at the close sound of horns. Zelma jumped and Howart started.

The gaunt man stood. “We must go and seek Eloch’s guidance.”

They scurried from the alcove and climbed the stairwell that wound around the tower’s girth. Wind flailed the surviving Withlings and the storm thundered in the bay as they fought for each ascending step. They ignored their weariness as horns sounded closer.

Hastra staggered. Surely there’s time for us. She thrust her hands before her and pulled for the next step as rain pattered the stone.

Horns sounded closer along with hounds baying, clear and constant, as the din of pursuit carried over the wind. They grappled their way to the top and knelt with their cloaks twisting in the violent wind.

Snarls announced the arrival of trolls. The troll-wolves howled. Kregen’s voice rose in the wind. “Quickly, take them.”

Hastra raised her eyebrows to Howart and Zelma. There’s fear on their faces. If only we can meditate in all this. “Pretend it’s the Hall of Silence.”

Hastra shut her eyes and raised her hands. What is needed is given and I need focus. She ignored the troll boots clamoring on the steps. She breathed and reached for practiced calm. Move in me, O Eloch. She exhaled. Welcome warmth bloomed at the edge of her awareness and she waited rather than reached for it in conscious thought. Warmth swallowed her fear and grief.

Hastra’s eyes blinked open and shut as her usual trembling at the presence of Eloch took hold. Her arms shook and her body quaked. Zelma and Howart undulated like grass in the wind in Hastra’s brief glimpses.

The clouds spun into a whirlwind that detached from main storm and churned toward the tower. Hastra closed her eyes. Calm as a sleeping babe. Indecipherable words erupted from her mouth.

The wind rumbled and drowned the clamor of troll horns and hounds. Hastra’s body stilled with the wind and her eyes opened. Light glowed in the spinning gust. We’re protected from our enemy. Her arms dropped to her sides and then she fell over and stared at the shape moving amid the light and whirlwind.

Beyond the silence with the whirlwind, Kregen cringed at the stairwell. He stretched out his arms and shouted unheard words. He shook his fist with a grimace and fled.

“You have come as children in need. Will you serve on?” The voice suffused Hastra with the rich whisper of peace and inexorable power.

Kregen’s offer rose with the flash of the knife. Hastra smiled as tears spilled from her eyes. “I will serve.” Zelma and Howart answered the same.

“Zelma Vorcinni, should you choose to follow, to you shall be given the task of protecting for long years that which shall come to you in time. You shall want for nothing, not even companionship in desolate places.”

“Howart Balto, should you choose to follow, to you shall be given the task of hiding against chaos what shall come to you after a while. No power of time or change shall pierce the bulwark about you in the midst of confusion.”

“Hastra Vorcinni, should you choose to go, to you shall be given the task of labor against innumerable foes, yet you shall find rest and plenty in the midst of want and danger.”

“And now, my children reach to me if you will come and be comforted and healed…”

At Eloch’s urging, the three Withlings stretched out their hands as one.

The whirlwind fell away.

Hastra rose on one elbow amid a grass covered field at dusk. “Zelma? Howart?” She sat alone with her bag that held her food and the Book of Prophecies.

End of Part 6

Comments are welcome so please leave them below. See my Contact page for information on how to connect with me or follow the blog by email. Visit my Indiegogo campaign for more information and help support the novel’s publication. The campaign ends tonight!

Thanks for reading!

PHS

What is Needed Pt. 4

Photo used in The Bow of Destiny book trailer

Photo used in The Bow of Destiny book trailer

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 3This 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.

Zelma stirred.

“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 that faded with the torchlight from under the door.

Darkness enshrouded them and silence followed with a cold embrace.

End of Part 4 (Part 5 will be posted on 9/2)

Comments are welcome so please leave them below. See my Contact page for information on how to connect with me or follow the blog by email. Visit my Indiegogo campaign for more information and help support the novel’s publication.

Thanks for reading!

PHS

Photo used in The Bow of Destiny book trailer

What is Needed Pt 2: Conclusion

Photo used in The Bow of Destiny book trailer

Photo used in The Bow of Destiny book trailer

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 and Part 2 (first section). 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 2: Conclusion)

by P. H. Solomon

Hastra’s lips puckered as the door to the Meditation Hall closed softer than falling snow.  Nothing again. No impression to share with anyone or write it in the Book of Prophecies. She pulled her thick shawl close and high-stepped through the snow with a sigh that billowed in her eyes. Thick clouds rolled over the Gray Spires. “Maybe I should just forget them.”

The Withling wandered to her room but didn’t find Zelma. She’s already at table. I could use an early dinner. Hastra sighed and trudged the route to the dining hall and served herself a bowl of steaming soup that smelled of onions and sausage. Hastra snagged brown bread with butter and shuffled between the trestle tables toward Zelma who sat alone and stirred her bowl of soup.

“This is different for you. Your crowd is busy, I see.” Hastra straddled the bench, sat and swung her leg over.

“Your visions trouble me. You’ve spent so much time in the Hall of Silence. Won’t you write them down for others to see? They consume you.” Zelma sniffed and wiped her nose while a tear gleamed in her green eyes.

“This is hardly the place to discuss my visions.”

Howart approached and sat across the table from Hastra and her sister. The tall Withling lowered his head in prayer. If he heard us… Hastra picked at her food and then took a hot spoonful of soup, smacked her lips, snatched a cup of water and sloshed the contents as she gulped.

“What visions are you talking about?” Howart tore bread and dipped it into the steaming soup.

Hastra choked and almost spewed her water. Now it will be out. She swallowed and wiped her face.

Zelma elbowed Hastra. “You should talk about it.”

Hastra scowled at Zelma who arched one eyebrow higher than the other and offered a faint smile. No chance for denial now. My, how that soup burned. Hastra drank again. She swallowed and opened her mouth.

The Grendonese sisters strode past giggling and whispering, their skirts twirling with their flouncing stride. Hastra clamped her mouth shut and followed the sisters with her eyes. Which one is which, I can never tell. They sat several tables away and shared a jest with Zeld and Kregen that set the Rokan brothers laughing.

Zelma cleared her throat. Howart paid Hastra’s reticence no mind as he dunked his bread again.

“Not here. Let’s eat first and find somewhere to speak.”

Howart shrugged and his sunken cheeks filled with his broad smile that exposed his crooked teeth. “A big secret, I see. Well enough, I’ve nothing to do after supper.”

Once they finished, Hastra led Zelma and Howart on a walk through empty corridors. She related the tale to Howart who bent close to hear Hastra’s whispers. She paused often and checked the passages for anyone following. They paused at a window overlooking the courtyard.

Howart gazed out the window at the late winter night beneath the early stars until his breath frosted the panes. “It’s almost like the vision is now since you have no unction about it.”

Hastra shifted her feet and cocked her head. “I don’t understand what you mean.”

The gaunt Withling turned from the window and his deep-set eyes shifted between Hastra and her sister. “The danger from these visions is here, now and not something in the future.” Howart swept his arms in an arc over Hastra’s head as he spoke.

Zelma hugged herself as she shivered. “But there’s no sign of trolls in this old keep. How can there be any danger?”

“The danger’s here though. That’s why there’s no interpretation, no instruction.” Howart wagged a long finger as he spoke.

Hastra turned to the window and found her murky reflection in the fogged pane. “But from where and whom is our danger? There may be trolls or not but there’s something else at work.” She turned back to her companions but neither answered. “We must watch for odd behavior and investigate if necessary. We have no proof of a betrayal or danger.”

Howart crossed his arms. “Except your dreams.”

Zelma chuckled and tossed her flaming tresses. “And oddity is common in this house.”

Hastra turned back to the window where the fog faded. Below, Kregen crossed the courtyard and entered the gatehouse. “You’re right, not odd, just activity that is out of place.” She watched her companions’ reflections nod.

“We’ll catch whoever endangers us.” Zelma patted Hastra’s shoulder.

Hastra drummed her cheek with her fingers. But this may not be about catching them. She shivered and pulled her shawl closer.

End of Part 2 (Part 3 will be posted on 8/17 or after)

Comments are welcome so please leave them below. See my Contact page for information on how to connect with me or follow the blog by email. Visit my Indiegogo campaign for more information and help support the novel’s publication.

Thanks for reading!

PHS