Authors: E.M. Sinclair
Tags: #epic, #fantasy, #adventure, #dragons, #magical
(Circles Of Light -
Copyright 2006 by E.M.
In Memory Of
For John and Ben, with
Cover Painting - ‘Brin’
by Bethan Town-Jones
Cover Design by David
Farn had overheard Gan
speaking with Kija. Gan referred to Tika and Elyssa as “the two
girls” during the conversation. Farn was greatly taken with the
phrase, much to everyone else’s irritation, especially the two
girls themselves. He let no opportunity pass where mention of “my
two girls” might be made. Kija grew so disgusted that she announced
she was flying north to the Sun Mountains to visit the Elder Seela.
At least she would enjoy some intelligent conversation there, she
pointed out icily. She instructed Brin to keep a careful eye on
Farn, Tika and Elyssa, and most definitely not to encourage Farn in
any nonsense. With that, the golden Dragon flew north in a cloud of
When Emla, Shan and
their three Vagrantian companions appeared in the circle to the
north of Tagria, they learnt that Rhaki was gone from his tower.
Emla held council with the Lords of Far, Tagria and Andla in the
comfort of Raben of Tagria’s manor. The Lords were at first
cautious and sceptical of this Golden Lady of Gaharn, but were won
over by Emla’s transparent openness. As Zalom of Andla pointed out
privately, she had not needed to admit that the dreadful Rhaki was
in fact her brother.
Her distress was
genuine when she heard of the death of Lord Hargon of Return’s
eldest son and the disappearance of both his younger son and his
daughter. A long day was spent in talks with these Lords and their
advisors which lasted into the early hours. It was agreed that
Raben and Zalom would escort the Golden Lady to Return to meet
Hargon but their departure was delayed by the arrival of a Merig.
He insisted on speaking to Emla alone and gave her the news of the
Drogoyans presence in the Stronghold. He also told her of the
mutilated remains appearing in the circle in the Asataria, of Rhaki
using Serim’s body, and of Bartos, Hargon’s younger son.
Emla decided to
disclose the latter news for now only to Kemti and the Sapphrean
Lords. She asked how she should tell Hargon of this new
bereavement. Both Tika and Elyssa became unaccountably distressed
and it was with some relief to Emla that Seboth of Far suggested
some of her party might like to rest at his town for a few days. So
they divided. Gan, Sket and Riff remained with Tika, Elyssa and
Maressa. The two other Guards would accompany Emla, Shan, Bagri and
Kemti to Return.
Hard on the heels of
that message, came another. Emla heard that Discipline Senior Fayet
had staged some kind of revolt and barricaded himself within the
Asataria buildings. Emla’s head ached as well as her body, jogging
along on the konina she was expected to ride with ease. Kemti
grinned at her discomfort.
‘Will you tell Hargon
of his son’s death?’ he asked.
‘I will have to,’ she
replied, wincing as her konina did a silly side stepping hop and
nearly unseated her. ‘Stars forfend that he asks after his
daughter. Kija was much disturbed at the child’s disappearance with
Kadi. I think part of her reason for going to visit Seela is to see
if she can glean any hint of their whereabouts.’
‘And what was Vagrantia
like?’ Kemti’s face was innocent. ‘I believe you had intended to
travel to the Stronghold – it must have been quite a surprise to
find yourself and poor Shan so far across the
Emla sniffed. ‘Using
the circles is a little more complicated than I had believed. But
to answer your question: Vagrantia is quite extraordinary. I only
saw Parima Circle of course, in the short time I was there, but I
look forward to many more visits. And hopefully, things will not be
so fraught – the High Speaker Thryssa was devastated wover the
affliction her people suffered. The death of her councillor
affected her badly.’
After a night at a way
station, Navan, Armschief of Return, met their party half a league
from the town. The escort he brought formed up around Emla and the
Lords of Tagria and Andla, riding on towards Return’s western gate.
Navan eased his konina alongside Emla.
‘Lady, Hargon is beset
with worry,’ he said quietly.
Emla looked at him
searchingly. ‘I have heard Gan speak highly of you Navan, so I beg
your advice. Hargon’s second son is dead in Gaharn. How best may I
tell your lord of this unfortunate news?’ She told him briefly and
bluntly what she knew of the circumstances.
Navan’s breath hissed
through his teeth. He rode in silent thought for a few
‘Let me ride on and
inform him Lady. I may not tell him all the details you have given
Emla nodded gratefully
and Navan spurred his konina forward, barking an order to one of
his men. The armsman took up Navan’s position and the company of
riders drew nearer Return. The seneschal Traff greeted them
formally in the inner courtyard and conducted them to guest
‘My Lord is engaged at
present, but he will join you shortly for the midday
‘Not a very big place,
is it?’ Shan commented, poking into cupboards in the room Emla had
‘It is large by the
general standards of Sapphrea Shan. Do try to be a little tactful.’
Emla stared out of the window. ‘What must it be like to lose two
sons within days of each other?’ she thought aloud.
‘People in Gaharn lost
all their children when that fever came four cold seasons past,’
Shan reminded her.
‘Yes I know. You might
come to terms with deaths by a rampant fever, but Hargon’s boys did
not die so simply.’
‘My Lady? Why are
Tika’s eyes changed? There has been no sign here of that dreadful
affliction we saw in Vagrantia. And do you see how she and Elyssa
could almost be sisters? Oh I know Tika is so dark and Elyssa so
fair, but you know what I mean Lady – alike in their
Emla laughed. ‘No I
have no idea why Tika’s eyes have silvered, and yes, I have seen
the strange closeness of the two. What it all means, my dear Shan,
who knows yet?’
There was a light rap
at the door and Kemti came in with Bagri. As Kemti was about to
speak another knock sounded and a young serving boy announced that
he was to take them to the dining hall.
‘We will talk here
later,’ Emla murmured, following the boy to the meeting with Lord
Hargon advanced to
greet the Golden Lady, bowing politely and mouthing the ritual
words of welcome. Emla’s heart smote her, seeing the pallor under
the man’s tanned face, the emptiness in his blue eyes.
languished, helped only by the efforts of Lord Raben, Lord Zalom
and Emla, their host sitting silent and leaving his food untouched.
An awkward silence fell as servants cleared away the last dishes,
broken at last by Hargon. He roused and looked round the table as
if surprised to find himself in company.
‘Forgive me my Lords,
Lady Emla. I am a poor host of late.’ His eyes met Emla’s. ‘I have
to tell you honestly Lady, I am glad to hear of Rhaki’s death. I do
not understand how my son should come to die with him, but I choose
to believe he may have helped to achieve the end of that evil
remained sympathetic. Now was not the time to inform Hargon that
Rhaki was not dead, that somehow his spirit, if not his body, lived
on in this world.
‘I will take another
wife and, stars willing, there will be other sons,’ Hargon said
with a determined effort.
‘Your daughter’ Zalom
‘I have no children
left,’ Hargon declared. ‘The girl is dead to me. I would not have
her here to remind me of my lost sons.’
Emla thanked the stars
that Tika had not come on this visit to Hargon: she could imagine
the angry response Hargon would have faced had Tika heard that
comment. She caught Navan’s eye and read the mingled relief and
worry he felt.
‘How long might you
guest with us Lady Emla? We can provide entertainments for you
should you wish.’
‘No. No thank you Lord
Hargon. I have – erm - matters to attend to in Gaharn of some
urgency, but I must go to this tower which Rhaki constructed before
Hargon’s face hardened.
‘As you will. You will excuse me if I do not join you. Navan will
escort you of course, but I have no wish to go there.’
The next morning, Navan
led them out of the town’s southern gate. They rode through fields
where men and women worked steadily, hoeing along the rows of
plants. Rhaki’s tower came into view when they had passed the last
fields, and a short while later they saw armsmen posted at a
hundred paces from the tower itself. The smell hit them as they
rode within the ring of sentries, the koninas tossing their heads
‘I did not realise it
was this bad Lady,’ Navan apologised.
Emla dismounted and
glimpsed several green faces. ‘I will go on alone. There is nothing
to fear, but I have to go inside. You may all wait for me
Shan obstinately moved
to Emla’s shoulder at the same moment Navan stepped forward. They
began to walk to the unfinished and now abandoned building that
adjoined the tower. To distract herself from the stench, Emla
studied the way the blocks of the tower fitted seamlessly together
and admitted how far Rhaki’s skill and strength in using power must
Shan bolted aside and
bent double, violently sick.
‘Go back Shan. That is
an order child.’
Navan stepped through
the half built doorway and glanced about. A narrow stairway
protruded from the blocks of the tower which he indicated to Emla.
Nodding, she moved ahead of him and began to climb.
The Golden Lady stared
down at the remains of her brother’s body. A quilt partially
covered him but even through the decomposition, the gaping ulcers
were still visible. His eyes were open, red scaled but for the
black pupils, and his face was contorted in what may have been
final agony or a laugh. She tore her gaze from the hideous corpse,
seeing the room was empty of anything except a few pots and jars on
the floor near the body.
‘Enough Navan, let us
Neither spoke as they
retraced their steps to where their escort waited. Shan sat on the
ground, white faced, Kemti crouched beside her. Emla smiled at the
girl but spoke to Kemti.
‘Can you join with me,
to call fire? That must be destroyed at once.’
‘What of the circle
that must be close by?’ Kemti came and stood at her
Emla lifted her chin
towards a low rise of hills.
‘Thryssa showed me how
to feel the presence of a circle, and Bagri can too. It is over
there. We must find it once this is no more.’ Emla touched Navan’s
sleeve. ‘Move your men back Navan. Kemti and I will fire this
Navan stared for a
moment, realising she meant to use the power. He nodded and ordered
his men back, past the ring of sentries.
Kemti and Emla faced
the tower, letting their minds expand into the web of power which
embraced the world.
‘Now,’ Kemti said
Flames flowered through
the tower roof, blooming down the walls and smothering the annex
with creepers of fire. Sharp cracks ripped through the air as stone
cracked and split in a heat far too intense to be natural. The sun
moved across the sky, and still the two tall thin figures stood
facing the conflagration until it was a tumbled, smouldering
Their shoulders slumped
and Emla swayed against Kemti for a moment. Without speaking, they
turned back to their silently watching escort. Emla was grateful
for Shan’s shoulder to lean on as Bagri hurried to support Kemti.
She drew herself up to face Navan.