The tarol twitched empathically at the man’s unconscious movements, its leaves picking up on the minute fluctuations of the filigree body hairs as electric currents beyond the senses of others played along the nerves of the dermis. The physiological quakes evident in the female caused much more concern, but the tree had been advised to expect such and take no action. Ordinarily tarol would discount such instruction as foolishness, but this was Kãrn, The Eternal. His will gainsaid even the most ingrained instinct: that of his protection at all cost.
The major leaves on the trunk beyond the access aperture of the bedroom external wall rustled as the network of intersecting insulating leaves might not. It was the equivalent of a frustrated sigh. The tarol sensed the increase in voltage as he rose to wakefulness. It sensed he was about to move, and isolated the predicted shift in the blanket-leaves to his side of the bed. Outer branches scratched the outside of the castle’s fascia like drumming fingers. The tarol waited.
Kãrn wrestled himself from sleep and sat up, sweating. Carrie lay beside him, the faint glow of lovemaking still detectable. Or maybe she dreamed of more. Kãrn smiled, watching the rise and fall of her chest beneath the blanket of spun tarol leaves. He sat there for a while in a peace only she could create for him, and studied the odd mottling of her skin as the time approached. This was Vias’s fault.
He angrily flicked off the sheet and swung himself out into the gloom and strolled over to the castle window. The energy lattice was at its ebb. The Slayer, Vias’s general, would be leading an assault about now. Out there somewhere, beyond this realm protected by beings he had come to accept and respect beyond the marvels that they were, his subjects were killing and dying. The amorphous life-form that was the Xoal reacted to the psychic link and flared until he held his finger to his lips and nodded towards the sleeping form. The Xoal pulsed warily until he ordered it to be quiet. Kãrn could not get his mind around its attitude lately.
He slowly shook his head and returned to his musing. How easily he had accepted the mantle thrust upon him: Kãrn, Eternal of Light. He wasn’t sure how accurate the description was, but Vias had been quick to declare himself the Dark Eternal all those … centuries ago?
Xi, his old friend and self-appointed protector, had deftly introduced their titles. He had quietly made it clear to Kãrn that they needed to talk a good game if they wanted the respect of the many species either created or born on this piece of rock they collectively called Minosiae.
‘Minosiae,’ he snorted. ‘If only they knew.’
But they’d couldn’t, they mustn’t. The knowledge would destroy them and even the least of them were still sentient beings, whatever their beginnings. The Slayer especially had to be spared this knowledge despite his murderous instincts and unspeakable cruelty. Kãrn needed to redeem this vicious “Dark Eternal”, yet Vias raised the secret of its essence like a shield every time Kãrn came close to victory.
But this time Kãrn had come up with a trap. Even now the most powerful of the brethren would be laying hands on Vias to force him to give up the secret which would save them all. All they
needed was the code and the “Darkgem” as Vias had so dramatically dubbed it. The Dark Eternal could keep his barrenness and his warrens. That way he would not dare reveal the other knowledge, for what is a kingdom without subjects? The Xoal would take care of the rest.
Carrie stirred in a draught which Kãrn barely gave notice to. He sensed her slip from the bed and steal up behind him. One arm snaked around his shoulders. Then a burning sensation at the back of his neck raced towards numbness. He broke away, flinging his love aside.
‘What?’ Dimming vision took in the weapon in her hands. He wanted answers, but couldn’t ask.
‘I have to.’
She was able to catch him easily in her Terrkin form and carry him back to the bed, where he would be found in due course and his loss would devastate the forces of Light and …
‘No!’ She snatched her hand back from administering the coup de grace and flung the weapon into a far corner. The changeling stared at the limp form for a while, then mulled over a tear caught on the back of its talon as it had coursed down a scaly cheek. A guard knocked urgently on the door. He’d be bringing the bad news. The Terrkin dived out the window and glided back to the island.
In the Taitian Hills Xi battled with The Slayer, wondering why he couldn’t manage the killer blow. Somehow the ignorant beast was able to counter, despite Xi’s superior strength and speed. Taking a calculated risk, he threw himself at the monster. It lost its footing and they toppled from the ledge. The opposing companies could hear them bounce far below before the silence. An overenthusiastic ergail captain leapt into the air but was incinerated by an elder before he could fully extend his wings. A silver creature sprang into the air and shrugged off several blasts with a laugh which turned every stomach. Its mate, angered by the attacks, swooped along the precipice roaring its rage. Bodies fell. So did the Darkgem. It slipped from the metallic hands of the first silver creature as it attempted a save. There was no other to retrieve it.
‘Well, that could have gone better,’ she remarked snidely.
‘They attacked you. No-one warned the ergli?’
She alighted gracefully on the ledge. The noise of her wings would have sickened any left alive. She kicked one of her erstwhile brothers-in-arms off the ledge to join the rest.
‘Well I’m not going to tell Him!’
She shrugged. Together they dropped and soared, flying towards the safety of the coast.
First published in 2012 by FeedaRead.com
EPublished in 2012 by Narwhal Publishing
Printed by Amazon/Kindle Direct
Front cover by license of Fotosearch.com: (Order: 20526882. Date: 19 April 2012).
Back cover original by Perry Mc Daid.
Copyright © 1996 Perry McDaid
The author(s) assert the moral right under the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988 to be identified as the author(s) of this work.
All Rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form or by any means without the prior written consent of the publisher, nor be otherwise circulated in any form of binding or cover other than that in which it is published and without a similar condition being imposed on the subsequent purchaser.
British Library C.I.P.
A CIP catalogue record for this title is available from the British Library.
Somewhere in Javé, a raging Vias was tending his wounds. He hid because he had no strength and no friends. He waited for an invasion which never came. Time passed. Memories faded.