Authors: Guy Antibes
Power of Youth
the Warstone Quartet
Each of the four Warstone books has a distinct storyline and flavor. I
Bloodstone | Power of Youth
we return to the continent of Besseth and look towards the Red Kingdom.
The Red Kingdom is a bit more backward that the more progressive Valetan. The king has only one daughter and we begin the story as Duke Histron invades the capital of Foxhome.
This story depicts another man’s development into a war leader by a much different route. The interleaving of stories occurs a bit earlier in Bloodstone, as all of the Besseth storylines begin to converge. This story has a different version of romance and more battles over Lord Daryaku’s attempt to control the three Warstones on Besseth.
Enjoy this story about the Bloodstone,
Power of Youth
he flickering light of torches, together
with the sounds of hoarse shouting, broke through the blissful slumber of Unca, Wizard to the Court of the Red Kingdom. How dare revelers disturb his sleep! Unca began to shake off the lovely dream that flittered away from his memory, as he realized there was no revel in Foxhome castle tonight. It quickly dawned on him that some cataclysm had visited his home and he might be physically at risk. He threw on his robes and buckled a rusty sword to his bony hips and began to hustle out of his rooms until the cold floor reminded him that he should put on his boots.
The singing and clashing of swordplay seemed to be growing closer as Unca reached the royal chambers. Ten royal guards, weapons drawn, stood guard and parted for the wizard.
“Unca!” the king said, motioning him to quickly join him as the queen helped her husband into the crimson armor of the Red Kingdom monarch. “You must find Sallia and take her to safety.” He thrust a black suede pouch into his arms. “The Bloodstone must go with the princess. I’m afraid it won’t be long until Duke Histron’s forces reach us. He won’t let us live and I’ll be damned by all of the gods if I won’t defend my castle to the death.”
“Duke Histron is behind the fighting?” Unca said, beginning to feel a little sick. He leaned against the wall, suddenly weak. “Come with me. You three can flee.”
The king and queen shook their heads. “They have taken Foxhome and somehow he knew of a whole section of the castle’s secret passages and used them to invade us. We are undone, old friend.”
‘Undone,’ the King had said. Unca heard the defeat in the king’s voice and looked at the tear-stained face of the queen. Worst of all, his heart beat in his throat since he had unwittingly caused this debacle. Duke Histron convinced Unca to give him the plans to the passages. He told Unca that, as a birthday present, he would clean out the cobwebs and filth that had built up for centuries in one section of the secret ways and present a feast such as King Billeas had never known. Evidently the Duke’s method of cleaning included usurping the throne. He clutched the pouch and felt the teardrop shape of the Bloodstone, the ancient amulet that defined the line of Red Kingdom kings.
“Don’t just stand there, man, find Sallia and hide her!”
Unca could barely stand to look at the King’s face. “I know of a way out of the castle that the Duke couldn’t possibly know. We can retrieve the princess and all find safety.”
The King narrowed his eyes. “I will not run! Neither will the Queen.” They both looked at him defiantly.
Unca glanced at the Queen, who nodded, and then lifted her chin, with tears running down her face. “Save my daughter for the good of the kingdom!” These two would not let Duke Histron define who they were. He didn’t have the time to convince them otherwise.
“Go and do as I command.” The King laid his gauntleted hand on Unca’s arm. “One last commission, my most trusted servant, tell Sallia that her mother and father have always loved her.”
“We love her,” the Queen echoed.
Guilt turned Unca’s face to flame as he ran out the doors and through the back corridors to Sallia’s quarters. The usurpers hadn’t yet attacked the wing of the castle that housed the quarters of the princess. He wiped away the tears from his own eyes and wished he now stood with the King in his chambers. Magical powers still were at his command, although they had weakened over his sixty-odd years.
He met the Princess at the open door to her suite of rooms. Her white-blond hair looked as disheveled as Unca imagined his to be. She stamped her bare foot on the cold stone.
“I demand to know what is happening!” How did such a sweet face hide such a self-absorbed temperament? The twenty-year-old Princess Sallia put her hands on her slim hips and tapped her toes on floor.
Unca swallowed. The implication of his massive mistake clogged his throat, but he forced through the words he needed to say. “Duke Histron has overrun the palace. Your father has ordered me to take you to safety. Come.”
She withdrew her hand and refused to touch him. “Don’t you dare touch me! What will he do to my parents?” Her violet eyes seemed as bright as an exotic flame.
Unca shuddered at the implications behind those words as she spoke. “They will certainly be killed tonight and soon.” He tried to find some kind of reaction in the Princess’s face, but his words hadn’t yet registered. “I have the Bloodstone.” He waggled the pouch at her and grabbed the sleeve of her robe and pulled… hard.
The young woman gasped behind him as the sounds of battle intruded on their conversation. Unca sighed with relief as he dragged her through the door to the Princess’s rooms and slammed it behind them, locking it, and then pulling as much furniture as he could to block the entrance. No one had ventured into this section into the palace, but it was only a matter of minutes before the intruders arrived at her door. He breathed the scent of roses and took in the white and pink decorations of Princess Sallia’s rooms. Unca imagined her blood splattered on the walls if he hadn’t arrived in time.
“Now we’re trapped,” she said, with hands on hips, but Unca could see fear on her face.
“Do you have a sword, Princess?” Unca said as gently as he could. He spotted the beginnings of understanding. “My parents…” The tears had come and the shock of the attack began to overtake her emotions, her eyes unfocused, her lips quivering. She weakly slapped at herself as her control began to break down. That was the reaction he sought before he had to act.
Unca turned around and lightly slapped her face, heedless of the consequences. He looked her closely in the eye. “We must leave the castle from here and never return. Quickly, find some serviceable clothes to take with you, but not much, for you’ll be carrying them for a long distance. Put on some sensible shoes. Boots would even be better.”
He twirled around the room looking for the panel that would lead them to freedom. What kind of freedom would he have, bound to this useless young girl for who knows how long? Perhaps she would torment him for the rest of his life. Unca knew he deserved any punishment the gods meted out and at this point he didn’t care. It wasn’t just the Princess’s life he wanted to save. He had promised the king and the token of that promise lay in the pouch that he carried in his pocket.
There! He found the flower and the flute device he sought and twisted the flute. The door bumped ajar. Shouting and iron-shod boots began to clatter on the stone floor outside.
“No time to gather anything. Grab a cloak, we must go now!”
Common sense finally punctured Sallia’s fear and she grabbed a cloak, and a purse of coins and a pair of velvet slippers. She padded on her still-bare feet through the open door. Unca slipped through the opening. Unca didn’t know he held his breath until the door clicked shut. He slid the iron bar across the door’s hidden latch, cutting them off from the princess’s chambers as fists pounded on the bedroom door. He exhaled and spelled a ball of light in the pitch blackness of the passage, and then he pushed Sallia along the dark passage and down a half-flight of stairs.
The shouting and commotion that barely leaked through the stone passage door dwindled as they continued to race down steps taking them down through the castle wall.
“Put your slippers on,” whispered Unca. He heard only a grunt in response, but she sat down on the dusty stone floor and put them on. She rose, lifted her chin and threw her cloak around her.
“My parents are dead,” she said, faintly as if informing herself of the awful tragedy. “My parents are dead.”
Unca nodded and continued to urge Sallia on. This passage took them to a junction. Unca didn’t know where the other passage that led back up into the castle came from, but the desperation of the situation stifled his curiosity. He took another deep breath, it seemed to be a night of deep breaths, and forced Sallia deeper down the stairs.
He thought the steps would never end until they came to a level section. This must take them underneath the moat.
“Take your slippers off. Step carefully, Princess Sallia. There is mud on the floor.” He breathed in damp air and as he took the last step, mud covered his boots to the ankle.
“You expect me to walk through that?” Sallia said, her face screwed up in an expression of distaste. It was as if she had come up for air.
“Suit yourself,” Unca said as he began to trudge through the passage. “I said watch your step, my dear Princess,” Unca said as his boots sucked and squished through the muck. He pulled his light with him and pictured Sallia standing on the last step rapidly being swallowed up in blackness.
Another grunt and four feet now made sucking sounds in the dripping passage.
“We are lucky, Princess Sallia. We could just as easily have found this tunnel filled with moat water. It shouldn’t take us long before we ascend to drier passages, then it’s a long time tramping until we reach the end.”
They ended their flight at a door that wouldn’t open. Unca observed the roots that grew from the edges of the stone and uttered a spell that shriveled the threads that blocked their escape.
“You’ll have to help me move this door. I’m an old man and it’s likely you match me in strength.”
“If I have to,” the Princess said, sighing.
“I have forgotten the spell for opening a recalcitrant door, my dear Princess.” If he ever knew it. He grunted while he put his shoulder to the door.
“You’re pushing on the wrong side. See the hinges?” Sallia said. “We need to pull the door open.
Unca felt his face burn in embarrassment. How could he help the Princess when his brain was nearly addled from the stress of their escape? He took yet another deep breath. At least within the realms of her grief, she could reason… perhaps better than he.
“I’ll just have to,” he said.
Unca had just said what he thought and his face heated up again. “I’ll just have to move over. Excuse me while I touch you,”
The door creaked open a few feet and would go no further, but the exit enlarged enough for them both to tumble out in a clump inside a room overgrown with vegetation. The Princess jumped up and brushed the debris from her cloak while Unca struggled to close the door.
“Where are we?” she said, gazing up at a moon surrounded by stars. Unca followed her gaze. It might have been beautiful under other circumstances, but Unca only thought of the moon to light their escape.
“Along the Great West Road, perhaps a league from the city walls. We can’t stay here. I have a cottage far to the northwest, close to the border of Gensler.”
“There are no keeps there, only foresters and farmers. Who will save us?”
Unca sighed. “No one will save us, Princess Sallia. All we can do is hide and live our lives in obscurity for as long as possible. If we don’t, Duke Histron will send assassins to kill you. We will know when you can make yourself known. Without the Bloodstone, Histron won’t dare crown himself king.”
“He is usurping the throne, nevertheless.” She paused and Unca noticed her eyes filling with tears. The end of the tunnel escape allowed them both to look back towards Foxhome and the castle they both had called home. “My parents. They are dead,” she said and began to sob.
Unca opened up his arms and she sought the solace she needed in them. He just let her cry. No reproof for touching this time.
“What’s to become of me?” Sallia said. The darkness hid her eyes, but Unca could see the moonlight reflected off of the streaks of tears down her face. Tonight was a cruel lesson for the both of them. As he put his hand on her hair and felt her sobs, his unwitting betrayal brought tears to his own eyes.
“Let fate decide. In the meantime, my cottage will be more than comfortable for the two of us.”
She frowned. “I didn’t know you had a cottage,” she said between sobs.
Unca laughed and it felt invigorating. “That’s the point. None know me there as the Court Wizard, except for a few, including my housekeeper. We must hurry. The Duke will have men on the road, soon enough.” The princess’s tears made Unca soften up a bit towards the girl. Perhaps a more quiet environment would help her grow up a bit. She had always been a handful for the court. Stubborn, willful and self-centered. One could only hope, but it mattered no longer. Unca would have to take care of her. He looked forward to it as penance.