Read The Flames of Deception - A Horizon of Storms: Book 1 Online

Authors: AJ Martin

Tags: #fantasy, #epic, #dragon, #wizard, #folklore

The Flames of Deception - A Horizon of Storms: Book 1 (53 page)

BOOK: The Flames of Deception - A Horizon of Storms: Book 1
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Tiberius walked up to him and chuckled. “I
remember a king that fought off the advances of the Aslemerian
Empire with a steely resolve. That brought
thousands
of the foreign dogs to their
knees!”

Arwell snorted. “Many years ago now, when I was
a
foolish
young man,” he retorted. “Before I knew the consequences of
taking risks with peoples’ lives. I welcome your advice, my old
friend, but were you to know the burden that sits upon my shoulders
you would not so readily call for war.” He patted the man on the
shoulder. “There must be a way to preserve the peace and save my
daughter. Every man has a price and the wizards are no
exception.”

Tiberius nodded. “If you say so, Your Grace. I will support
you in any direction you will take.”

Arwell smiled. “My most trusted friend. Where would I be
without your help?”


With your head on a spike, if your enemies would have their
way!” the man chuckled.

Arwell nodded. “Thankfully, we live in more stable
times.
Domestically
, at least. Now, you must prepare to travel to Olindia.
Take... Samuel Clover with you,” he instructed. “He is a skilled
negotiator. If anyone can broker a truce with Mahalia, it will be
him.” He clenched his hands. “Perhaps I should come with you,” he
mused.


Joseph, you said yourself even your
daughter
advised against
leaving Rina. The truth is we do not know if Josephine will succeed
in bringing this dragon to heel. If all this madness is true, then
your place is here, defending your realm. Let me deal with Fenzar.”
He smiled. “Who knows, if this young wizard has taught Josephine
enough, then she may very well be able to deal with him
herself.”

Arwell smiled. “That would be a sight I would like to see.
And then perhaps we can free ourselves from Mahalian interference,
once and for all.”

Maryn
132nd Day of the Cycle,
495 N.E.
(New Era)

 

The
light of a dozen or so candles bounced about the walls of the
whitewashed little house in which Maryn lived and cast out the dark
and dankness of the dreary day outside. Rain beat the windows with
a regular tapping, falling in waves upon the red tiled roof. The
sky outside was pale and grey, but light enough to provide some
natural illumination.

Maryn poured a bubbling concoction from the steaming pewter
carafe into a tall, china mug. The scent of peppermint and other
mixed herbs filled the room. Delicately she set aside the jug, took
the cup in both hands and sipped gratefully at its contents,
drawing in the mint aroma with a sigh- refreshing. Idly she moved
to the kitchen window and watched the raindrops slide in randomized
movements down the distorted glass. She actually quite liked days
like this, being inside the house in the warm, with the candles
glowing, safe from the torrent outside. The heavens hadn’t let
loose on the world this much in many weeks. In a place as cold and
wet as Olindia could be, at least this far in land, it was no mean
feat they had made it this long without a downpour. It was good for
the herbs, she told herself, and contented herself to tending the
little shop. There wasn’t really much else to do on a day like
this. No one had been in to her shop all day, which was no
surprise, really. She wouldn’t set a toe outside in this, let alone
a foot!

Her
reflection caught in the window and she studied herself
momentarily. It had been a while since she had contemplated
something as simple as her own face: a mirror was a luxury she had
abandoned a long time ago as well as the vanity that required such
things. In spite of that, she found herself staring at the ghostly
figure in front of her.


You
are
growing old,” she whispered to herself dryly, and
pawed at her cheek with a hand. Her eyes were drawn from lack of
sleep. She had been plagued by bad dreams and it showed. In truth,
she looked for all intents and purposes to be no older than a woman
in perhaps her thirtieth year. But she could see through that thin
veneer to the person beyond. With using the earth power came the
added benefit of delayed ageing. She had looked young for many more
years than she deserved to, by human standards at least. But now,
as with all who wielded such power, time was catching up with her.
The more her body grew used to the energy as the years went by, the
more her body began to age again. Still, eighty was not a bad age
by
any
means for this all to happen, she supposed. She was lucky
to have survived at all given everything she had lived
through.

She
drew herself out of her daydreams as there was at a knock at the
door. With a tut, remembering she had fastened the shop’s door shut
against the relentless wind, she set down the drink and wandered
through, out of the kitchen and into the hallway. The knock came
again as she pushed a red curtain aside and made her way through to
the shop front.


Just a minute!” she called. The knock came again.
“I
said
-” she unfastened the lock and threw open the door. Her
heart jumped into her throat as she stared at the man beyond the
doorway.


Matthias!” She exclaimed and took a step back. Her eyes
flared bright blue as she stared at the sopping wet wizard, his
hair pasted to his forehead, raindrops sidling down his face. She
looked quickly, panicked, to the people behind him. “Luccius?” she
acknowledged. The ansuwan nodded to her.


Can
I- that is to say, can we- come in?” Matthias asked. “We need your
help.” He shook his head. “I swear I’m not here to hurt you
Maryn.”

Stunned and still in shock, she nodded. “O… of course,” she
said, and her eyes faded back to their natural colour. She stepped
aside to let them through, tidying her hair and brushing her skirt.
When they were all inside and dripping on her clean wooden floor,
she closed the door.


Matthias what are you
doing
here? What…” She stopped, her gaze drawn
to the girl in the soldier’s arms. Her eyes opened like saucers.
“Oh my
gods
. It’s Princess Josephine!” She swallowed and raised a hand
to her mouth.

Matthias looked to Maryn with confusion “How do
you kn-” then, realization dawned on him. “It was
you!
You were the wise
woman who helped her contain her power!” He wiped the water from
his nose. “I should have known!”

Maryn shook her head. “What’s happened to her? How
did you find me?” She asked. “What are you even
doing
with her?”


Please, Maryn, I will tell you everything later. I
promise! I
will
explain, but first, please,” he begged, “you
have
to help
her.”

She
swallowed, and nodded. “Of course.” She reached out and felt
Josephine’s forehead, and then drew her hand back with a
hiss.


What is it?” Thadius barked. Maryn’s eyes were wide, her brow
creased.


What kind of power did this?” she asked, turning to
Matthias.


She
was infected by a necromancer,” Matthias answered.


That isn’t possible! There aren’t any necromancers! Not any
more!”


I
assure you Maryn, there is at least one. I’ll tell you how and why
when I can. But all of it can wait.”


Can
you help her?” Thadius asked imploringly.

Maryn shook her head and tapped her lip with a finger.
“There’s the problem of filtering out whatever is
causing-”


Answer him!
" Can you help?” Matthias repeated fiercely in
desperation. She caught his eye for a moment, and her brow creased.
She looked from him to the girl. “Yes. Possibly. Probably. But it
will not be easy. I’ve never
seen
this level of petrifaction.” She took a breath and
steadied herself. “You,” she looked at Thadius. “Bring the princess
in here. Follow me. Quickly!” She beckoned them into the kitchen,
where she grasped the mug and the rest of the clutter on the table
and gathered them to one side. “Place her here. How long has she
been like this?” she asked as she raced back into the
shop.


About four days now, nearly five,” said Luccius.


That long? It is a wonder she isn’t dead already!”
Maryn bellowed through the hallway. She shuffled back in with a
cluster of jars and square pots cradled in her arms, and dumped
them all by Josephine’s side. “This is a very nasty strain.
Very
nasty,” she
muttered as she dashed about the kitchen. “I’ve seen things like it
before, but never as vicious as this. I can feel the dark energy
infused in the poison, even by touch. Pestle and mortar, third
cupboard to the right,” she instructed, pointing. Luccius dove into
action and began rummaging around the cupboards. “It’s an insidious
infection,” she said as Luccius handed her the bowl. “It won’t just
be attacking her body, but her mind as well.”


Her mind?” Thadius repeated. “How can it
do
that?”


A part of the infector is left behind. It infests
the mind like a parasite and feeds off her soul. For her to have
survived so long shows just how strong this girl is. And I should
know, because I taught her
how
to be!”


How
can you fight something that attacks your soul?” Luccius
asked.


The mind is the key to its potency. It takes over
your thoughts and dreams and then shuts down the body piece by
piece when it has completed its work.” She looked up. “A
Necromancer
, Matthias?”


That’s right,” he whispered.


I don’t suppose you’re going to
tell
me just
how
a Necromancer has
come to walk this world again?”


Not
right now, Maryn, if it’s all the same to you.”


No,
I thought not. Well, however they have, the energy they have used
is twisted and nasty. This might not take. Not very easily anyway,
but it will give her a fighting chance at the very least. Grind up
this.” She handed a chunk of something to Luccius, who held the
pestle and mortar clasped in his hands. “Nice to see you again, by
the way, Luccius,” she acknowledged as she poured a thick red fluid
into a glass, and her brow creased up. “What exactly has happened
to your face?”


I’d
rather not talk about it,” he muttered.


I see. Well I will see what I can do about that
once we are finished here. Give it some more
oomph
man, you’re not going to even
dent
it the way you’re
going!” She brushed a wisp of hair from her face. “It is lucky you
brought her to me. I doubt very much anyone else would be able to
help her with this.”


Most other people who practice medicine don’t have the
knowledge you do.” Matthias replied.

She
held up a finger. “You’re not going to worm your way into my good
books by flattery wizard.” She shook her head. “Do you think I can
just forget everything?”


I
rather hoped you had,” Matthias said sombrely. “It has been a long
time.”

She frowned. “They say time heals old wounds, but
this one between us Matthias has become infected and gangrenous. If
I could have forgotten what happened I
would
have, but it is rather
engrained
on my
memory!”

Matthias nodded. “I know. I understand that. I’ve tried to
keep an eye on you all these years, find out where you’ve
been.”

Maryn shook her head. “I
knew
it was you. All those wards I put up to
stop the Council from finding me again and still someone found a
way through them. It
had
to be you!”


You
found a way to block me recently though,” he commented.


A
new kind of ward I had never thought of trying before,” she
advised.


That explains
why
I lost track of you,” he
replied.


Yes, and it should have
stayed
that way! How did you track me down this
time?”


The
‘Ricat Demora’,” Matthias advised. “The lock of hair you gave
me…”


You still carry
that
around with you?” she asked,
surprised.


You
never know when these things may come in useful,” Matthias replied.
“I used so much of the power trying the incantation, I almost burnt
myself out.”


Well, lucky for Princess Josephine you did
not.
Ah!

she exclaimed. “That would
also
explain the bad dreams I have been having! You’ve
caused me sleepless nights! An effect of the echo you pulled from
me!” She shook her head. “Luccius have you finished grinding that
filium ore?”

BOOK: The Flames of Deception - A Horizon of Storms: Book 1
4.27Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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