Authors: Kira Morgana
The Harp of Aleth
Book Four of The Tower and the Eye
A Blue Hour Publication
Published by Blue Hour Publishing 2016
Copyright©Kira Morgana 2015
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system or transmitted in any form by any means without prior written permission of the publisher or author, except by a reviewer who may quote brief passages in a review to be printed in a newspaper, magazine or journal.
The right of Kira Morgana to be identified as the author of this work has been asserted by her in accordance with the Copyright Designs and Patents Act 1988.
The novel is a work of fiction. The names and characters are the product of the author’s imagination and resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental. Objections to the content of this book should be directed towards the author and owner of the intellectual property rights as registered with their local government.
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From the centre of the Heart Mountains, protected by his tower of black rock, the Aracan Katuvana scanned the kingdoms surrounding him.
“It would seem that Galivor is mobilising against you, Lord,” a voice said.
The Aracan Katuvana nodded, focusing the gaze of one of the magical Observatory windows onto the capital city, Galindren. Outside the immense walls, camped thousands of soldiers.
“Who knew Korin would make such a good king? Not one of your agents has been able to get close to him.” The voice got closer as an ancient goblin in a red and black tabard carried a tall, polished basalt Jar into the room.
The Aracan Katuvana turned to watch the goblin place the Jar onto the pedestal beside the window. A single, large, green eye slid around the outside of the Jar to look at the Aracan Katuvana.
“I am getting reports that Elyandor is unusually busy for this time of year as well.” The Jar sighed. “A pity that I… you do not have any influence in Elysia.”
The Aracan Katuvana shook his head, changing the window’s view to Valdier, where a large encampment had sprung up around Castle Grof. Viraldian standards fluttered amongst those of Valdier’s aristocracy.
“Ah, so a common threat does unite the warring!” the Jar seemed positively gleeful. “Now if only I… you could get the King under your command.”
The Aracan Katuvana gave the Jar a long look, then gestured, changing the window again.
The Jar frowned. “You are strangely uncommunicative this morning, Lord. Is everything all right?”
In answer, the Aracan Katuvana changed the window again. This time the scene displayed was the kingdom of Franier where a similar encampment to the first two, had grown up around Alethdin. On the edge of the Alethdariel Forest, spread several small camps of Elves, all within sight of each other’s fires and all obviously fortified.
“Ah, I see. The Franieren are threatening the Elves again.” The Jar giggled. “Border wars are such fun. Mayhap we should send an agent or two in from the Alethdin Dungeon, to mix up the chaos a little?”
The Aracan Katuvana shook his head and the Jar gave a small sigh of disappointment.
The window zoomed into the North West corner of Franier and the Aracan Katuvana pointed at a dull red spot of light, next to a small sprawl of human buildings.
“That would be Frazin. ’Tis a small mining town at the foot of your mountains. The Dungeon here is no longer active, Lord, hence the steady beacon.” The Jar paused in its summary. “Custodian Wortarin was turned to stone by a spell during the Franieren Rebellion. Sadly, we have been unable to replace him as Custodian due to the spell on the Dungeon’s Crystal, so we just closed it up.”
The Aracan Katuvana growled.
“We have no one senior enough, at present, to bring it back, Lord,” the Jar protested.
“I am ever available to my Lord.” A silken voice preceded its owner as the Lych Mistress sashayed into the room. She curtseyed deeply, her unbound red-brown hair rippling forward over her shoulders and cloaking her considerable cleavage.
The Aracan Katuvana made a strangled sound as she leaned forward to kiss his gauntleted hand.
“Lady Lych, you grace our Lord’s presence with your beauty,” the Jar said.
The Lych Mistress straightened up, smiling.
“I merely came to offer my aid.”
The Aracan Katuvana clapped his hands and a horde of gremlins rushed in with a soft, velvet cushioned chair. It looked out of place against the spare décor of red, black and gold in the Observatory. The Aracan Katuvana stood and helped Lady Lych to seat herself in it.
“I thank my Lord for his consideration,” she purred, staring up into the dark space under the Aracan Katuvana’s hood.
He waved one hand and returned to his throne.
She studied the window. “Frazin Dungeon was immobilised just before the Alethdariel Dungeon was cleansed. I remember my mother receiving reports from the High King in Fron about the attack.”
“It would appear that the current High King is threatening Alethdariel,” the Jar said slowly. Its single-eyed gaze narrowed on her.
Lady Lych shrugged. “I know nothing of that. I have been busy with my duties and the dungeon at Grof occupied much of my time until recently.”
“You have discharged your duties perfectly, my Lady,” the Jar replied, turning its gaze back to the window.
A white light flared in Frazin’s market place.
“A hero? What in Khorne’s name is a hero doing in Frazin?” The Jar squinted at the view.
With one wave of his hand, the Aracan Katuvana zoomed in on the light and the Lych Mistress laughed.
“I think Tzeentch has been playing again,” she said with delight.
“How would he do that? My brother…” the Jar grumbled and fell silent at a glance from the Aracan Katuvana.
The Lych Mistress raised an eyebrow questioningly.
“Nothing. Ahem. Do you know this person?” The window showed a slim elven woman, her long silver hair divided into two plaits and wearing a plain green cloak with a rainbow sigil on the front left side.
my Lady-in-Waiting and best friend. How has she received hero status?” The Lych Mistress leaned forward.
The Aracan Katuvana made the strangled sound again as his glance drifted across to her. He coughed and turned away again, fixing his gaze on the view in the window.
“It appears that she has achieved this through a vow.” The Jar blinked and a second window brightened with an image of Julissa, kneeling in front of a temple altar with an odd-looking female cleric beside her and an Autochthon warrior behind her, his predominantly elven form covered with thick fur, which displayed the same patterning as a Golden Tiger from the Southern Isles.
He wore a simple breastplate, leaf mail kilt, greaves and arm plates and carried a kite shaped shield with a Leaf and Castle insignia picked out in green and gold enamel.
“I have retrieved this memory though one of my…your agents in the Temple of the Bardic Goddesses,” the Jar said.
The three of them turned to watch the memory:
“I beseech the Bardic Goddesses to aid me in my quest. I fear the High King of Fron will overrun Alethdariel with his soldiers if I do not find the Golden Harp of Aleth before my Mistress, the Queen can persuade him otherwise. I ask the assistance of Calliale, Keiliare and Ailliana to find the Harp and return safely.” Julissa’s voice whispered through the temple amplified by its superb acoustics.
The cleric beside her bowed her head and began to sing in a strange, nasal tone that reverberated and echoed harmoniously with itself, combining with the whisper to produce an oddly beautiful sound.
A long, spiralled horn of gold and silver protruded from the cleric’s forehead with her long, white-blonde hair loosely draping around it and over the shoulders of her soft, multi-coloured velvet robe to fall almost as far as the golden veined, marble floor.
A bright rainbow of light shone down through a window and with a mellow chord, the Goddess Keiliare stepped out of the light, her long, multi-coloured hair and white velvet robe trailing out behind her.
Julissa dropped her gaze to the floor and the Cleric bowed.
“I have heard your plea. I shall aid you in finding my harp,” Keiliare said, raising Julissa to her feet. “You shall become my Champion and return my harp to its rightful place on my altar.”
The Unicorn cleric straightened.
“Lady Keiliare, where
The Goddess of Music smiled at the cleric.
“Dearest Qin-Dar, as direct and forthright as ever. However, the forces of Darkness observe us, so I may not tell you aloud.”
“How am I to find it then? Every book and document I have ever studied is unsure of the Harp’s location after the founding of our country. That is why I thought to ask for help.”
Keiliare moved to stand in front of Julissa and placed one hand on her head.
“I may tell you this: Beneath the heart of black stone, a crystal stands blood red.” Removing her hand, she moved around the woman, a blur of rainbow light. “I consecrate you my Champion Bard; the one who will bring my harp home.”
Julissa gasped as the goddess’ power entered her.
Keiliare moved to the cleric.
“Qin-Dar, Cleric of us all. You may only have a little time left yet, use it wisely.”
The cleric nodded. “As my Goddess wishes, so shall I obey.”
The warrior looked surprised as the Goddess moved in front of him.
“Feline warrior, protector of my champion. Hold out your blade.”
He did as he was told, proffering his sword hilt first. Keiliare took the sword and sang a song; sweet, wordless and powerful. The three gems in the hilt shimmered and changed, becoming all the colours that Keiliare’s aura showed.
“I have blessed your weapon, loyal Virrinel.” The goddess returned the blade to him. “Now touch your blade to that of your dagger and the dagger blade to your shield and armour.”
The same shimmer surrounded each item as the warrior touched them together. Soon the steel gleamed with power and his shield wore a rainbow of hues behind the sigil.
“Keep my Champion safe and guide her well on her quest.” Keiliare stepped back into the rainbow. “Farewell and good luck.”
The Jar rolled its eye as the window faded to black.
“Beneath the heart of black stone, a crystal stands blood red? Sheesh. That’s the most obvious clue I have ever heard.”
“Believe me; it would have taken Julissa several weeks to work it out,” the Lych Mistress said. “She is not as intelligent as she might think she is.”
The Jar snorted.
The Aracan Katuvana stood and walked over to the window showing Julissa in the market square. The Bard was talking to a young woman bearing the insignia of the High King on the shoulder of her leather jerkin.
“That’s Tavia of Fron,” the Jar said. “She was a pupil of Thiert in the Galindren Chapter. I believe she became a Franieren Cavalier after his death. She was never one of ours, sadly.”
The Aracan Katuvana turned to look in the Lych Mistress’s direction.
The Jar exhaled noisily.
“Lady Lych, our Lord would like you to take on one last mission for him. Take some of the trainees from the Under City and sort out the Frazin Dungeon. You’ll be able to take control of the Dungeon’s creatures. Just protect Wortarin’s statue.”
She rolled her eyes to the ceiling.
“As if I didn’t know what to do with a mothballed dungeon.” She rose and curtseyed to the Aracan Katuvana. “I am ever your servant, my Lord. I shall reactivate the dungeon immediately.”
The Aracan Katuvana nodded.
The Lych Mistress swept out of the room.
* * *
Virrinel watched as his mistress argued with the Cavalier.
This is the place the Goddess told us to come, so why argue with her.
He glanced up at the mountains that loomed over the small market town. He could see the top of I’Mor Barad as a black shadow through one of the mountain passes. He shivered, despite his thick fur and woollen cloak.
How can anyone live under that?
Qin-Dar tapped his shoulder, loose strands of her long white hair blowing into her face as the wind swirled around her.
“Don’t brood about the place. None of the locals even notice it.” She swept the strands back behind pointed ears, exposing a tiny gold and silver horn that protruded from the middle of her forehead.
“How can they do that?” he burst out, a little louder than he intended. Because of his adaptation, it sounded like a snarl and many of the people passing around them looked at him, and then hurried on looking worried.
“They have lived with it for so long that it is part of the mountains for them,” Qin-Dar said. She looked over at Julissa and Tavia. “I do hope this mage, arrives soon. Lady Julissa won’t be happy with Ser Tavia otherwise.”
“How do we know that he can be trusted?” Virrinel mastered the temper that flared at the mention of the mage with difficulty.
“I’m sure that Lady Julissa will know,” the cleric replied calmly.
Virrinel glared at her.
I can’t snap at the unicorn cleric, it’s not her fault. Why am I so upset by the mention of this mage joining us?
Julissa shrugged and turned towards them.
“Tavia has arranged for us to stay at The Bleeding Heart Inn. It’s up this way.” She pulled her cloak around her and walked away.
Virrinel and Qin-Dar followed. Tavia stalked off in the opposite direction, brows drawn.
“My Lady,” Qin-Dar said, hurrying to catch up with Julissa. “Where is Ser Tavia going?”
Julissa glanced back at her.
“Tavia is going to contact the Mage. She has no idea why he is late or where he is.”
Virrinel winced at the sarcasm in his mistress’s voice.
She is not happy. I hope the Innkeeper doesn’t ask her to perform.