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 3, Part 4 and Part 5. This series is a companion to The Bow of Destiny (Part 1 of The Bow of Hart Saga). 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. This material is copyrighted and not intended for reproduction except at the author’s consent.
What is Needed (Part 6)
by P. H. Solomon
The sun dangled between corona-rimmed clouds and the snow-capped peaks of the Grey Spires. Golden light bathed the path ahead of the three furtive shapes.
Troll-wolves howled and Hastra slipped into the shade between trees with Zelma and Howart. If only they could avoid the pursuit one last time. The Tower was just ahead if she remembered correctly. She pinched her lower lip and peeked along the old road.
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 it was hard. 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 was the dead end of the trap Kregen sprung around them. 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 shivered as she walked, her eyes wide.
Hastra brushed hair from her face. Was 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 defied wind and weather. Gusts tugged at the low scrub-trees scattered around its feet. This isolated end of nowhere might be the end of them. 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. Their pursuers were coming now. There was 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. They were 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. Sprigs of her hair waved from beneath her gray hood. “They’re coming now.”
Hastra nodded. Even Zelma’s hair seemed 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’ll see better atop the tower.”
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. “Trolls are near. It’s time.”
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 they had time. 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 was fear on their faces. If only they could meditate in all the din. “Pretend it’s the Hall of Silence.”
Hastra shut her eyes and raised her hands. What is needed is given and she needed focus. She ignored the troll boots scraping 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 reach 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.
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. They were protected from our enemy. Her arms dropped to her sides. She fell over and stared at the shape moving amid the light and whirlwind.
Beyond the silence within 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
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