Chapter 26 – Facing the Demon
1 0 0
X
Reading Options
Font Size
A- 15px A+
Width
Reset
X
Table of Contents
Loading... please wait.

Dear Readers,

Thank you all for reading and your awesome support! I hope you enjoy this bigger chapter, the end of Act I.  

The next chapter: 'Chapter 27 - Escorath (Act II)' will return on 02/07/2022 after a week break!

Kind Regards,

JMMatheis 

 


 

Chapter 26 - Facing the Demon

 

They could see the flicker of fire colouring the dune ahead, casting a wavering dance of long shadows. They had met the remains of the road an hour earlier and started to follow it west. The track was rough, but easier than the dragging pull of the sands that incessantly sapped her strength. Selera looked to Hima as she walked ahead; she had remained quiet since midday, her eyes occasionally meeting hers in a silent judgmental manner. Any discussion that passed between Hima and Martyn was beyond her understanding.

“How many people are in your…” she stopped as she noticed Hima share a glance with Martyn.

“Six, occasionally seven.” he said before letting out a sharp whistle as they crested the low dune that had snuck over the road.

Selera frowned, “So few? You only have three handlers or guards?”

Again she caught the quick shared glance.

“We don’t need them.” he said quickly as he sighted the tents, striding ahead to meet the compact form that could only be a dwarf.

She slowed her walk, feeling Hima’s hand on her arm.

“Wait here.” Hima said, leaving her and walking ahead, disappearing into the larger tent.

Selera watched, catching the dwarf’s gruff words as he conversed with Martyn.

“Really? If you wouldn’t have sent… Oh, I see. How’d you find one of her kind out here in this Humy infested wonderland of ground glass?”

She watched Martyn’s back, his voice muffled.

“Oh, now that’s a bit rich!” the dwarf said.

Martyn gestured to Selera, his voice low.

“That is his? By the mighty god of toadstools, his, you know?” said the dwarf in surprise as he looked her way, “Aye. I’ll play guard for the moment, but make sure it’s at least another century before you ask me to stoop so low, it’s affecting me height.”

Martyn glanced at her, “Come, wait with this fine fellow.”

“Guard!” said the dwarf in exasperation.

Martyn gave him a tired look, “Wait here with our ‘guard’, I will get you in a few moments. And, don’t provoke him.” he said to her as he disappeared into the tent.

Selera slowly walked up to the strangely attired dwarf as he stood outside the entrance, grumbling to himself, a mockery of his position.

“Just a damned guard now? Talk about a demotion, if it were anyone but her asking it of me I’d give them a piece of me axe. But there is no way in the eternal hells I would try to mess with a su…” he said to himself, chuckling warily as he gave Selera a glance.

“Nice elf.” he said, looking at her with a raised brow.

Selera frowned, “What did you say?”

“I said that you got some nice legs on you. Great figure too, for an elf, but that defensive glint in your eye is a real turn off.” the dwarf said with a sadistic smile breaking his face.

“Are all the dwarves in Lord Septye’s company so crass?” she responded with verve.

The smile grew wider, his teeth showing, “Lord Septye? That’s the name he’s using? It’s an old one…Aye, we are crass, just wait until you meet me kinsmen running naked beyond that dune over there. The worst of the worst; hired muscle if you get me meaning. Here for the thrill o’ wetting our axes with some Humy blood.” he said, his voice gravelly.

“Do you hate humans that much?”

He let out a chuckle that seemed to come from deep inside, “Gods no! I hate all races equally, dwarves, elves, goblins, gnomes, halfings…even dragons. I think you get the picture; anyone gives me lip, I’ll give ‘em a splitting with me axe.”

Selera glared at him in silence

“Wo ho, that look sets me heart a patter, tickles me breeches it does.” he chuckled, “I wouldn’t mind setting eye on Wrenna again, for a mortal she’s as fine as they come. He said with a laugh. You do know her, don’t you? That fiery half-elf sporting the very best of dwarven qualities.”

Her glare sharpened even further. Without warning the flap of the tent opened, Martyn standing, holding it open for Selera.

“Just messing with her, An…Lord Septye. Haven’t done basic guard duty in a millennia, is all. Falling back into the mindset was all too easy.” said the guard quickly.

“That is good to hear, where is she?” Martyn asked quickly.

“Aye… Aye… She’s off for a bit of reconnoitring, should be back soonish.” the dwarf said as he shot Selera a quick glance, “Aye and before you tell me. Wait for the screams, enter the tent, drag the wolf out all while trying not to decapitate the newcomer. Done!”

“Wolf?” said Selera.

“Aye, wolf. Well, what are you waiting for missy? Get in. If it gets messy and I start hearing animal-like howls and some blood-curdling screams. I’ll be in shortly to drag her out. Can’t vouch for ye staying in one piece though if you piss ‘er off.” he almost chuckled with mirth.

Selera gave Martyn a concerned glance as he dropped the flap of the tent back into place.

“Your dwarf, he is…” she started.

His dwarf… That’s a grand notion that is! His dwarf! Ha! I am nobodies dwarf! Lucky she’s out for a while or she’d be laughing her ass off.” came his grumbles though the wall of the tent.

Martyn shook his head, “You best get used to it and fast, he is testing you. The more unsettled, the further he goes. While we wait for the rest of our company to return, you can meet Rhyker and Kitaraiya.”

She followed him further into the tent, strangely aware that the insides did not match the dimensions of the exterior. Its fabric was thick and encompassing, velvety and opulent. She glanced about, the soft ambient light reaching everywhere, yet not. Martyn stopped before another flap of cloth that hung like a heavy curtain, dividing each room from the other.

“In here. I have been told that Rhyker had also been affected over the last few days, though unlike Sialin, he has had lucid moments. If he has woken, then it is safe to say she has too.”

Selera nodded and set her shoulders, the tales and rumours that followed the two beyond the curtain were at the least, formidable and at the worst, terrifying. What unsettled her further was that the Demon was only a year or two older than her. That the tales of his partner stretched back more than thirteen years, a hauntingly beautiful woman that had a tendency to lose herself in her power when in battle that could only be calmed by him and no other. Both their names were running freely with the blood of their enemies and the fear from the shadows. So much so, that their names alone garnered respect from Wrenna, Illias and Alletair. Taking a deep breath, she entered the room of layered fabrics, a table covered in maps and a few wood and leather folding chairs set to the side. Smoke-less lanterns akin to those of the Academy spread their light toward the centre.

A deep shadow seemed to dwell over the table, brooding in silence, its shoulders shifting slightly with each heavy breath. Selera could feel her thread tremble within her, even reigned in, the turbulent maelstrom of his power was overpowering, whipping around with abandon, ready at the slightest whim to consume anything in its path. Selera was not sure, quickly casting a glance at Martyn.

“Rhyker?” he said, quickly going to the shadow and grasping what would be his shoulder.

Deeper in the tent, Selera could just make out an angered woman’s voice and Hima’s speaking in return. Their words muffled beyond understanding.

Suddenly the curtain behind the table was swept aside, “He needs more sleep, I know, but surely this could wait until the morning. Papa, please, let him rest…” said Kitariaya as she swept into the room.

She stopped, her sharp blue eyes on Selera, narrowing suddenly, dangerously. Short cut, jet black hair heavily streaked with grey was swept to the side at a rough tumble. Her face, elegant and defined with expressive brows and bowed lips that were rapidly shifting to an aggressive twist. Selera almost took a step back, the ferocity of Kitaraiya’s thread engulfing Rhyker’s in a protective shell.

“Kit.” was all that Martyn said for her to look at him.

“Tell her to stop looking at him like that, to withdraw that force of hers and I’ll wake him.”

Selera grimaced, only realising in that moment that she was reacting unconsciously to the power at play in the room. She nodded, taking a step back and breathing a sigh of relief as Kitaraiya pulled back and gave a nod in return as she rested her hand possessively on Rhyker’s shoulder and neck.

Kit glanced at Martyn quickly, “Can we get this over with quickly, he needs proper sleep, not the visions of memories that have assailed him the last six days.”

“Wake him.” Martyn said, his voice not leaving an option.

Kit leaned over the sleeping shadow, her form being slowly engulfed in its pull, her lips close to his ear, her voice at an intimate whisper. Selera watched in dark fascination at Kit’s familiar and almost sensual movements toward Sialin’s partner. Her hands and fingertips on his muscular shoulders as two flaming embers of the hellfire forge flickered to life from within the shadows. Almost instantly the maelstrom tightened, turning into what Selera could only describe as a pinprick of blinding light against an impenetrable blackness. The shadows that surrounded him dispersed as he slowly stood.

He reached up and ran a hand through his jet-black hair, the embers quietening but remaining. He sighed deeply, his broad chest shifting beneath his shirt. While not physically imposing as her husband, Alletair; Rhyker’s capacity as a warrior was immediately clear even to the untrained eye. Standing half a head taller than Selera with broad shoulders, his eyes seemed to penetrate everything that he set them on.

“I must apologise.” he said calmly, nodding to Selera, his demeanour at odds to Kitaraiya’s, “Is this the specialist? But why is she here?” he said, his eyes slipping to Martyn.

Martyn nodded, “She is here because she needs to be. We need to do this right now, both of you. Introduce yourselves, name and rank. From this moment we have another along for the ride. I know you would not agree, but she is our only choice.”

Kitaraiya pursed her lips and nodded before standing at a semblance of attention, her eyes glowing lightly, “Kitaraiya, the Winter Wolf of Aldaliss, Warrior of Toth and Talon of the Dragon.”

“And I am Rhyker, the Crimson Demon of Aldaliss, Warrior of Toth and Talon of the Dragon. A pleasure.” he said with a small bow of the head.

Selera stepped forward, her eyes on Sialin’s destined, “The pleasure is mine. My name is Selera Desilantre, Spell Runner of the Northern Wolf, friend to Lia of the Spyres.”

She watched Rhyker’s eyebrow slightly rise before giving her a small nod.

“Well met, friend of Lia. I am sure you have questions, Selera.” he said politely before looking hard at Martyn as Kitaraiya whispered aggressively into his ear, her hand digging into his arm, “This is dangerous, you know this Martyn.”

“I have brought Selera on board because she is an expert. A part of our goal is the same and her knowledge will be invaluable. It will not be an issue unless you make it one.”

Rhyker nodded, taking a deep breath, his eyes on Selera, “I am awake, let’s get to the bottom of this now.” he said, gesturing for Selera to come to the table.

“So, why did Papa see fit to bring you along, what is the reason?” asked Kitaraiya, her eyes on Selera almost uncomfortably.

She watched as Martyn placed a pouch on the table, catching Rhyker’s hard look.

Rhyker’s burning embers met her blue, “Why do you search for this…trinket? I assure you, it will only lead to pain.”

Selera reached out and slipped the device out of the pouch, running her fingers over it, she looked into his eyes, “I need to find one with that still has charge. It is for a personal reason.”

Rhyker glanced at Martyn momentarily before meeting Selera’s again, “What is this personal reason?”

She frowned, biting at her lip, “Six days ago we lost two members of our crew to a device like this, my younger brother and sister, twins.” she glanced at Martyn, continuing as she saw his reassuring nod, “Lord Septye tells me that maybe we could trace another that was activated if we had one with charge. I could take it to the Academy of Spyres in Knocht…”

“Stop-Please!” Rhyker said, his voice almost cracking like a whip, startling Selera, “Their names, the children’s names?”

“G-Groyven and Tiffaniel Desilantre, they are nearly eleven years of age. Please, I need whatever help I can get. It may have transported them to a parallel or…” her words dropping to a whisper as Rhyker’s tense visage shifted to Martyn.

“Here too? What is this? We were tracking those down to stop this possibility. What is happening here?!” Rhyker growled, struggling to keep himself under control, Kitaraiya’s arms wrapped around him protectively as she whispered into his back.

Selera watched Rhyker in equal measures of fear and avid fascination, only barely noticing Hima and another woman enter and come to the table as her eyes were locked on Rhyker’s face.

“Father, what is this?! Antrandis, please, what is this?!” his eyes snapped across to Hima, “Sian, Winter, please, we have the right to know.”

“Antrandis? Sian? Winter?” Selera whispered to herself in disbelief, her eyes quickly looking to the women at her side.

Emerald eyes with flecks of brilliant silver looked back at her, the golden hair instead a deep black with coppery undertone that showed in the light. She looked back at Martyn to find stormy blue eyes watching her intently.

“Antrandis? Antrandis of Darkfall?” she mouthed in shock as his voice filled the room, bringing silence.

“Rhyker, Kit. Only moments, I assure you.” he said calmly.

Selera frowned, her breath caught in the back of her throat, watching as Sian placed a hand gently over both Kitariaya and Rhyker’s entwined fingers.

“Selera, eighteen years and six days ago, two children arrived in my domain, in the mountains on the borders of Scarosant and Meliandra. They arrived at the height of the full moon and eclipse.” he glanced at Rhyker and Kit, his eyes gentle, “We caught up to them after a battle that almost stole their lives and I took them in as my own as we searched for a way to get them home. Their names are Tiffaniel and Groyven Desilantre, twins of the Aletere. Hendosphyre the gryphon is their guardian at that time and remains to this day alongside his mate.”

He took a deep breath, a quiet smile on his lips as he took Rhyker and Kitaraiya’s other entwined hand as Kit remained with her face buried in her brother’s back sobbing quietly.

“Son, daughter, Ven, Tiff… We both were wrong, it was time not dimensions, not parallels, not anything else. Time. Six days ago, your young selves travelled back eighteen years to the closest eclipse.”

Selera stared at Rhyker in disbelief, gradually recognising the adult features of her younger brother as his fiery embers calmed to that sharp sky blue.

“No, I lost them six days ago… Six days.” she said, her hands shaking.

“Eighteen years…” came Kit’s muffled cry as she pulled her hands free and hugged Rhyker, her fingers clawing at him desperately, “We never left, Ven. We never left.” her voice shifting to pained frustration.

Rhyker stood in stunned silence, his eyes meeting Sian’s then Antrandis’s before shifting to Winter and her gentle smile. Finally he met Selera’s eyes.

“Lera?”

Selera nodded slowly, tears running down her cheeks.

Suddenly Kitaraiya released him and stalked around the table, her eyes flashing dangerously, “No. I don’t believe it. If you are really our sister, what were our last moments together? Tell me!” she said, stopping short within Selera’s reach.

“You activated it, there was a golden sphere. You were standing over Groyven, his blood was everywhere.” Selera said, her voice breaking, her eyes on Kitaraiya’s, “I told you that, I will love you, always. I told you that I would come for you, and – and I have.”

Kit glanced back at Rhyker, sharing a look and she nodded.

Selera stepped back, her eyes shifting anxiously from Groyven to Tiffaniel, now adults, “My brother and sister are the adopted children of a Hithren? Rhyker and Kitaraiya of Meliandra, the twins of Shadowfalls? Siblings to Eira Lin Haarlstarn, the Chancellor of Knocht? The Spears of Scarosant, wards of the Stormarrow? My little brother is the feared Crimson Demon? And the Winter Wolf is little sister?” she looked at Tiffaniel in fear, “Gods, what happened to you Tiff? What happened?”

Kit looked at her with wetly shimmering eyes, “I grew up, Lera. It took a few words from one who saved my life to make me realise how wrong I was. You did everything you could to keep us safe without a word, asking nothing in return. I have dreamed of this moment, even after we abandoned hope. But I was always the little girl, not the elder.” she said, taking a step closer, her movements like she was cornering prey.

“You asked what happened to me? You are asking the wrong question, ask what happened to us…Ven – Ven did everything he could to keep us alive for the second time, he fought for our survival, he stood in the path of the wolves and fought them as he bled fire. And I, I choked, my inaction and doubt is what led to what you see me as now. Even when I was bleeding out, he did not stop, willing the life back into me while blaming himself. My doubt is what made me into what I am.”

She stopped, her breathing erratic.

Rhyker’s hand came to rest on her shoulder, calming her, “Kit, don’t. Now is not the time.”

“Lera.” he said, moving forward and reaching out to Selera before drawing her into an embrace with Kitaraiya, “Right now, it does not matter, we are all here now and we are safe. For you, we disappeared from the ship six days ago. Eighteen years ago we survived the wilderness, we were brought to safety and had a family adopt and surround us. You told us to survive, we did.”

Selera looked up into his eyes, the image of the darkness shrouded Demon leaving her and saw the boy, the tears of the girl wetting his chest as she desperately pressed her face against him.

It was then that she realised that Kit was whispering, “I didn’t mean to, I was just trying to save Ven. I am sorry. I – I didn’t know, I just wanted to save…Just for once, I needed to do the right thing.”

She felt his arms tighten around them, holding them together as his eyes smouldered. His voice gentle as he spoke, “When we were attacked in the forest, I almost lost Tiff. She was struck down by servants of Groumangand. Xiana drew it out of her. The goddesses Lumos and Aisling have tried a number of cures, but it is something to do with the dragon blood that runs in our veins, we of the Aletere, the connection to the old world. Soon, we might have an answer.”

“Tiff?” Selera said, breaking into tears, looking at him in fear, “Groumangand?”

He nodded slowly.

“You speak of the Hithren and gods, like they are your… family” she looked to Antrandis, seeing his nod, “Dragon blood?”

“They are our family. You best speak to the dragon herself when she returns.” he said with a smile.

“Dragon? But there are no dragons.” Selera looked at the both of them. Unable to speak, too overwhelmed by the moment to continue as she was held in their arms until he released them, stepping back and looking at her, a smile on his lips.

Kit looked at her, a timid smile slowly growing before a sudden frown creased her brow, he eyes quickly finding Rhyker’s as she looked sharply at him in realisation, “Ven, Lia… She is…Lia is not a version of her, it is her. Go, go now! We’ll follow!”

Selera watched as Rhyker seemed to freeze in place, Kit’s words slowly sinking in.

“Lia is Sialin.” he said quietly, embers spontaneously flickering to flame.

His eyes met Antrandis’s in an intense stare, responding to the approving nod.

“I must go.” he said at a whisper.

 


 

 

ANNOUNCEMENT: If you would like to support the author or read advance chapters and get access to other goodies, don't forget to check out my Patreon (the big red button below!), where up to 6  weeks (+12 chapters) of advance chapters of Book 2 - In the Shadow of Dreams are available!

0