Authors: Ronald Coleborn
Tags: #Bisac Code 1: FIC009020, #Bisac Code 1: FIC009050, #Bisac Code 1: FIC009520
Legends of the Dread Realm:
Chronicles the First: Knight's Valor
Copyright Â© 2012 by Ronald Coleborn
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This is a work of fiction, therefore names, characters, places, and incidents are
either the product of the author's imagination, or are used fictitiously, and any
resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.
torm clouds gathered in the night sky above Pembrick Hollow, a settlement in the realm of Prybbia that sat on a fertile and densely populated plain bordered by a low mountain range. The town owed its power and prosperity to those mountains, an abundant source of iron, copper, and other metals that smiths often traveled many miles to purchase. Just south of the town lay the desert stretches known as the Barrens of Darmutt, making Pembrick Hollow something of an oasis. Once a cluster of separate villages, the town was now large and flourishing, its narrow streets twisting and turning from a bustling main artery.
At the western fringes of the town, in a squat cottage on an arid plot of land, a woman began to stir. She awoke and dressed herself and then began to dress her son. He gave her no help and seemed nearly lifeless, but the woman didn't complain.
We've got to be on our way now, Quarvik
, Seyalinn thought as she pulled a tunic over her son's head.
The weather's starting to turn, and the rain has held three full months to the hour, which means those men from Aklon will be soaring overhead before long, thirsting for bloodâif your latest dreams are to be believed.
, Quarvik thought in response, his gray eyes rolled to the back of his head, blind to the world around him. And though he could neither see with his eyes nor hear with his ears, he had no need of either. He had the gift of
, ancient mindspeak. He could invite whomever he desired to share in his thoughts, but so far he had invited only his mother.
Quarvik could not move his limbs. Aside from breathing, the most he could manage was an occasional blink, and he had been this way since his birth. But his mother had accepted his fate and cared for him from that day forward. His father had not been so kindhearted. He had taken one look at his new son, who lay still as death amid the wool blankets, barely bigger than his palm, and walked through the door without a word. He had been gone thirteen annos now, but Quarvik knew him well, for he had seen him in his dreams. But then, Quarvik saw everything in his dreamsâpast, present, and future.
Seyalinn fastened her son's breeches and set him down on the bed with his legs dangling over the edge. She grasped one of the leather straps that were sewn into his tunic and turned away from him. She picked up the remaining leather strap in her other hand and pulled both straps, raising Quarvik from the bed. When she felt him against her back, she bent forward and tied the straps in front of her. Quarvik was a mere ninety-five pounds, lighter than many of the dogs that roamed the streets of Pembrick Hollow, and she had no trouble managing him. This was the way they traveled, Seyalinn walking, Quarvik riding on her back like a sack of flour, oblivious to the world, seeing only what he was allowed to see in his dreams. But those dreams offered golden suns and cool breezes, endless meadows covered with red and yellow wildflowers, rabbits and squirrels and deer scampering through fields and forests, sparrows taking flight on tiny wings, and mighty eagles gliding among the clouds. At times he luxuriated in those dream fields and forests, other times he longed to escape them. Most times nowadays, he longed for escape.
Are we going far?
Quarvik never knew how far his mother had dragged him from one place to the next. His deafness and blindness made it difficult for him to sense distance. And even a mile was enough to tire him. Distance could only be measured by what he saw in his mind.
Yes, it's far
, Quarvik told her with a thought.
We're crossing to the Glyssian Realm. A week out, at most. There we will meet the Dragon Tamer Party
She walked to a corner of the room and stooped down to pick up a sack of provisions.
How are we to arrive at Glyssia? Were you shown? We cannot afford such a journey.
A spice trader will be making his way toward the region. He is packing now to stay ahead of the rain. His horses will take us.
And of this you're sure? You have to be sure, Quarvik
It will require one thing of you
So long as it don't involve me whoring miself.
It will involve something much more complicated, but less demeaning. But I doubt you'll enjoy it any the more.
Out with it,
Seyalinn demanded, as she blew out the lamp that hung near the front door. She opened the door and stepped through.
You'll have to steal his wagon.
Seyalinn arched her head skyward and saw the storm clouds scudding across a dark night sky. She took in a deep breath.
Point the way, boy. We've no time to stand here and enjoy the night air.
ix knights rode their tired horses out of the Bokrh Forest and into the Eastern Plain of Glyssia. They had driven the horses hard for two days and were relieved to finally be out of the dense and treacherous woods and away from its towering breerwood trees before night descended. The darkening sky signified the hour of full twilight, and storm clouds in the distance threatened rain. It would take another half-day's journey to reach their destination, but they were glad to be away from Prybbia and treading once again on Glyssian ground.
Though spent and ravenous, the men rode on with a certain urgency. They were all that remained of the renowned Outer Guard, the feared first line of defense against enemies of the Glyssian Realm. The recent Battle of Aklon had reduced that famed host from nearly three thousand
to these six tired and hungry knights.
The six now made haste for their homeland. They had survived the horrors of battle and the subsequent travails of a punishing two-week flight that had taken them across the empty desert stretches of the Barrens of Darmutt, up and down the perilous slopes of Mount Krune, and through the savage Freelands, whose men still followed the primeval custom of skinning and gutting wanderers for sport, and, some would say, sustenance. They had gone three days without food, and the last they had eaten was no more than three or four morsels apiece and a few swallows of what remained of the old wine one of the knights held in his possession.
As they entered the vast plain that bordered the Village of Heth, one of them decided to break the long silence. He was a late member of the Outer Guard, newly sworn to the king and ranked at the lowest level. With some effort he delivered a breathless sentence that was peppered with the dialect of the Usigii, one of many peoples who inhabited the Tooth, the southernmost province of Glyssia and also its poorest.
“Horses be needing to quench their thirst afore long. I say we make for the stream, to the west, before we be traveling to Heth.”
The others, men of higher rank unaccustomed to granting the requests of underlings, ignored him. They rode on, gliding across the dry yellow shortgrass toward the fogs of Heth Village. Before long, the lowly knight spoke up again.
“I'm be starved!” he protested, pitching his voice almost to a shout. “There are grains be grown on fields at the edges of this very plain. Please! We must stop.”
After silence greeted him again, the young knight slowed his horse to a trot. The five knights ahead of him slowed as well, the chiefest among them rounding his steed with such force that the animal reared up and whinnied in protest. The man, the Outer Guard's Knight at the Head, made his way to his disgruntled subordinate, whose horse now stood motionless.
The lowly knight spoke first. “Sir Jerreb, I meant not to annoy you. I'm just famished is all. And the horses'll do us no good dead of thirst, as soon they'll be.”
Jerreb of Rivencrest sat composed, his watchful eyes gazing beyond his young knight to scan the forest they had recently left behind. A mild breeze stirred, fluttering the ends of his raven tresses. He shifted his eyes from the forest to his man and spoke his first words in nearly a full day. “Eastern Plain is no place to tarry. I shouldn't have to remind you, Ellerick, that we're being pursued by relentless killers.”
“Sir, I assure you, they're yet a day's ride or more behind us. Their massive destriers'll make certain of that. Surely you can allow us to stop for a wee bite, and a drink besides.” He was a slender fellow, Ellerick, but strong and able enough for his slight size, as he had proven in many a mock battle and more recently on the fields of Aklon. As thin as he was, Ellerick bore his armor like an ill-fitting cloak, unlike Jerreb, whose breastplate and segmented shoulder armor snugged against his massive form as though he'd been born into them.
Jerreb directed his gaze toward the misty blue-gray mountains in the distance while tightening his grip on the reins. He gave a long sigh and again set eyes on Ellerick. “We've been slaughtered very nearly to the last man, from our Knight Master Shield down to the least foot soldier. I refuse to lose another man among us six, least of all myself. We've no time for food or drink. The horses will have their fill in Heth. It's time we press on.”
Ellerick fixed him with such a pathetic expression that he was forced to add, “But if you insist â¦”
The young Usigiian watched as Jerreb dug into his saddlebag of fine leatherwork and withdrew a stale piece of rye bread that had been cut from a dark loaf. The bread went sailing through the air toward him. He caught it sure and began devouring the hard chunk with abandon.
“Have your fill,” Jerreb said, eyeing Ellerick with not a little contempt. “But make it quick, for as to your notion that we're a day's ride or more ahead of them, take thought that their accursed Ivull dogs will trail our scent to the very castle gate regardless of the distance we've put between us. Of that I'm certain.”
“And the Riders of the Dread Order of that bloody tyrant Farisin are not likely to let up in the hunt,” added Knight Commander Sendin of Livlee, who was walking his horse to the two men.
“True enough,” Jerreb replied, turning his courser toward the approaching knight. “We've already seen what they're capable of. Feats of savagery that seem to have been aided by one form of sorcery or another.”
“Aye,” Sendin put in, stroking his full red beard. “Sorcery indeed. Why else would many of our men begin to clutch at their throats as their eyes popped like crushed grapes in their sockets, or the hot blood came pouring from their very ears with nary a hand or weapon put against them? I tell you I have seen nothing like it, but surely I have heard tales of such things in mi boyhood.”
“We face a new kind of enemy, Sendin,” said Jerreb. “An enemy bent on numbering us among the Glyssian corpses that now dot the fields of Aklon.” His eyes were as blue as the violent waters of the Nelms Sea beyond Ryseland and just as frigid. He set them on Ellerick. “Now, Ellerick, unless you intend to see us off to the netherworld by tarrying here, we'd better be on our way. Are you through?”
Ellerick gave a sour belch and thumped his chest twice. “Quite through, sir. Quite through.”
Jerreb pointed his horse east, dug his heels into its flanks, and sprinted toward the Village of Heth. The others followed, each rider urging his horse forward until they rode six abreast once more, a neat line of gilt armor and white coursers making its way across a vast plain that would soon be enveloped by the dark of night.