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Authors: Juliann Whicker

Tags: #romance, #fantasy, #amnesia, #elves, #barbarians

Forget Me Not,

BOOK: Forget Me Not,
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Forget Me Not

By Juliann
Whicker

Copyright © 2016 by Juliann
Whicker

 

License Notes

This ebook is licensed for your
personal enjoyment only. This ebook may not be re-sold or given
away to other people. If you would like to share this book with
another person, please purchase an additional copy for each
recipient. If you're reading this book and did not purchase it, or
it was not purchased for your use only, then please return and
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this author.

 

 

Glossary

Elsyria- Elven people near annihilation
from the century war

Barabbas- Barbarian, warlike people
ruled by the Unseen Emperor

Cimarron- Barbass spice known for
aphrodisiacal qualities

Balthaar- General of the Emperor’s
army, former viceroy

Hatia- Elven maiden, mad, Lady Perr,
The Wind Spinner

Maltha- Green-skinned Rasha

Hortham-Blue-skinned Rasha

High Precept-Elsyrian chief

Targen-Bashai high priest

Rasha – Elsyrian soldiers

Bashai- Emperor’s High
Priests

Olbase- soldier’s recovery
station

A Century Before:

Maltha secured his shield to his back
before he turned away from the laughing Dwarven, the men he’d
fought with against the Barabbas, the Barbarians ruled by the
Unseen Emperor whose cruelty was legendary. He had no smiles for
them, partook of no wine, not when he was preparing to walk among
the shadowed, the dead, to lay souls to rest and make quite certain
none of the fallen were merely injured.

The Rasha served other nations, other
causes as part of their training. The body of Elsyrian warriors did
not fight in wars and in armies, but trained with other races. Even
a green-skinned Elsyrian must be trained who would rather have been
weaving clouds with small magics, or growing life-giving fruits
with his hands.

The scent of death carried to him on
the wind, the scent that he tightened his jaw against, ignoring the
cawing of the pale crows as they fought over what had been life
hours before. The sun was fading from the sky, spilling golden
light over the plains littered with fallen Dwarven and Barbarian.
He accepted the beauty as he accepted the death, chanting beneath
his breath the words to give the earth rest, the souls
peace.

His concentration was broken by a sound
other than the crows and the wind rustling the tall grasses. He
heard her before he saw her.

She sang in Barabbas to the tune of an
Elsyrian lullaby. He frowned as he followed the sound over the
gentle crest of a hill and saw her dancing in a silver dress. She
held her arms wide as she spun, nearly floating over the
corpse-strewn ground. Her skin, blue-tinged, made her look nearly
like one of the dead barbarians, but her eyes glistened and her
song filled the air with an electric buzzing that crawled over his
skin.

It was the song of despair, aching,
brokenness. Maltha looked around, searching the plains for any
living soul, but the girl seemed alone. Horribly alone. He strode
through the trampled grass, deftly avoiding the fallen, Dwarven and
Barabbas alike. She didn’t notice the bodies underfoot but leapt
from one broken body to another, spinning, spinning,
spinning.

It wasn’t until he was quite close that
he saw her throat, her torso wrapped in a scarf soaked in her own
silver blood. Her face remained unmarred, perfectly whole, the face
of a high-born Elsyrian maiden, a girl Maltha had known, Hatia,
House of Perr. He went to her, calling her name in as many
languages as he could remember, catching hold of her hands, trying
to maintain eye contact, but she couldn’t see him, didn’t know him,
had been lost for too long in the grip of the Bashai.

There was no question of who had
tortured her. The marks burned into her flesh were the twisted dark
magics of the Unseen Emperors high priests. They had broken her
mind, taken her memory, burned into her soul the worst wrong you
could inflict on any Elsyrian. The Emperor had never harmed an
Elsyrian in this way before. He had not been capable of such
atrocity. Taking her, breaking her, releasing her into a camp where
some few dozen Rasha practiced their arts, was his threat, his
promise.

The Elsyrians went to war for the first
time in memory. Thus began the fury.

 

Chapter 1

Balthaar raised his sword, the dull
blade reflecting the lowering sun’s rays along the chipped edge.
The sun showed the etched glyphs in the metal, marks that Balthaar
barely understood in spite of the fact that he’d learned the basics
when he’d been Viceroy a hundred years before, in Bashai training.
Balthaar had painstakingly etched every one of the marks over his
century of service. The sword was more than a weapon of steel and
iron. It sang in his hand when he raised it, sang a song of blood
and death that shattered the ranks before him without a single
stroke.

The ranks of the Rasha parted before
his sword, fell in spite of the marks on their own swords. For a
century Balthaar had fought the Elsyrians, pushing back into their
borders, taking one immortal life at a time, ever since the great
fury, when the Elsyrians had fought in earnest a short time after
Balthaar had quit his post as Viceroy and fled to the anonymous
ranks of the Emperor’s army.

Balthaar had not remained anonymous for
long.

After the final shriek before darkness
fell, the armies withdrew through the clouds of dust and the scent
of death to tents while medics took to the field with lanterns, to
walk among the bodies in search of the wounded. The Barbarians
hadn’t always sought their wounded, but after a century of battle,
you tended to pick up more than etchings on swords from your
opponent.

Balthaar stopped abruptly in the
doorway of his tent. He smelled Bashai. The peculiar scent, dried
herbs and dried blood was something he’d never forget. The shadowy
figure became even more ominous when Balthaar lit the lamp and saw
the painted face of Targen, high priest of the Emperor.

The streaks of red and black around his
dark eyes couldn’t disguise the face he knew as well as his
own.


Son of the Empire,”
Targen said in a voice as dry and sharp as a whip.

Balthaar forced himself to sheath his
sword, his weary arm quick in spite of the day spent battling the
fiercest Rasha.

He bowed, ignoring the prickling at the
base of his skull. One did not receive the head of the Bashai
without the fear that had been carefully embedded into his bones
during his earliest memories. Balthaar had been in line as priest,
but had chosen war without permission from Bashai or the unseen
Emperor.

Targen had spent many hours tooling
Balthaar into a weapon leaving Balthaar scars from the whips and
knives the Emperor’s priests used to instill loyalty into his
subjects.


Balthaar,” the priest
said, his voice smooth and certain in spite of his age. There were
perhaps a dozen priests who aged as slowly as Balthaar. The gift of
longevity came from the Emperor, his blessing which could be
revoked at any time. Balthaar had lived long enough that the gift
felt bitter after burying so many comrades.


Targen,” Balthaar said,
unbuckling his greaves. “What brings you to the front
lines?”


The Emperor,” he said in
a deceptively soft voice.

Balthaar barely flicked a glance at
him. “What service may I perform? Eternally may he
reign.”

The red streaked eyebrows lowered as
the priest leaned forward, frowning at the general. “You have
become accustomed to acting instead of thinking. You are not my
first choice, but I understand the Emperor’s decision. You are the
only blessed who chose war. As such, you are the one who will go to
the heart of Elsyria an ambassador at the Elven Lord’s
request.”

Balthaar continued stripping off his
armor expressionlessly while his mind raced. The army was fighting
hard on this front against Elven and the small Dagmar resistance.
If luck held, this, the last army between the Emperor and Elsyria
would be defeated by the end of autumn. With winter to move the
armies and organize supplies, the invasion of Elsyrian mainland
could begin the following spring.

Taking the general out of the war
during this, the final great battle would only draw out the
fighting, leading to more casualties beneath another leader,
however experienced. Balthaar swallowed his protests as he focused
on the shoulder straps that held his breast plate. After he undid
them, he set the breast plate on the shelf and removed his padded
vest. Argument was futile. He dipped a cloth in the basin and
washed his face, scrubbing the war paint into streaks, his shoulder
and chest, the old tattoos faded but still visible, the marks of
the Viceroy, the blessed, those intended as priests of the
Emperor.


No words?” Targen asked
after the silence held too long in the old patched and repatched
tent of the General of Barabbas.


I am honored by the
privilege extended by his holiness. May he reign forever. It has
been a very long time since I’ve used words in place of
weapons.”

Targen smiled slightly. “I am certain
that you will do your part as ambassador with as much devotion and
enthusiasm as you have played the part of general.” The words
carried the bite of resentment, Targen acknowledging in his way
Balthaar’s betrayal of the Bashai.

The Barabbas general was being
delivered like a lamb to the slaughter according to the Emperor’s
will. He had served the Emperor’s army for a hundred years, but now
that victory approached, he was being removed, cast aside, sent to
die ignominiously amidst his long-fought foes. It was Balthaar’s
execution, an order he’d waited a century for.

Balthaar smiled at Targen and felt a
flicker of satisfaction at the fear in the high priest’s eyes. It
was something, to be considered a threat to the Unseen
Emperor.

Chapter 2

The ship rose and fell as it crossed
the wide bay. A brisk wind filled the white sails and pushed the
vessel through the waves that slapped the hull. The winter rains
would obscure the surrounding vista in the next few months, but for
now, a few days before the autumn solstice, the sun shone on the
verdant greenery along the coast of Elsyria, home of Elves and
magic.

General Balthaar stood at attention at
the starboard, staring stonily at the dense forests that lined the
shore. Elsyria couldn’t be more unlike his own homeland, Barabbas.
Although he hadn’t been back for years, he considered the desert
home. It left little to the imagination, revealing red rocks and
brown swells so that you could see the horizon until it met the
sky. Here trees crowded claustrophobically, masking the inhabitants
of the cursed realm.

Two of those Elsyrian soldiers, the
Rasha, shared the ship with Balthaar as his guide and escort but
aloof from the Barbarian.

Balthaar shifted, missing the weight of
his sword between his shoulders. Ambassadors, even pretend ones,
did not carry such weapons. As such, he was allowed no more than a
sliver of bronze tucked away in his boot. Balthaar tried to dismiss
the shame, being taken from the ranks of his men to negotiate in
the unlikely event that he wasn’t executed by the Elsyrian High
Lord.

He’d led the Barabbas armies fearlessly
against the Elven magic that could confuse, terrify and distract
its opponent. Those small things were the difference between
conquering and being conquered. Balthaar’s hands tightened on the
bulwark as he considered his men under the command of Soren, his
second-in-command. The man was fearless, driven, as well as
strategically adept, but could he push back the fear without
Balthaar? Surely one man could not make such a difference, however,
before Balthaar had taken command, the Emperor’s army had gained no
traction against Elsyria.

The two Elsyrians shifted their stances
when the boat tilted to one side. The one with green-tinted skin
became gray faced as he fought down nausea valiantly. Balthaar had
seen thousands of sick and dying Rasha over the hundred years of
his service. Green-skinned tended to have weaker stomachs than
their blue-skinned companions.

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