The Sword of Ardil: The War of the Furies Book 2

THE WAR OF THE FURIES

 

Book Two

THE SWORD OF ARDIL

 

First Edition Design Publishing

The War of The Furies Series

Book Two: The Sword of Ardil

Copyright ©2016 Matt Thomas

 

ISBN 978-1056-901-57-2 PRINT

ISBN 978-1506-901-58-9 EBOOK

 

LCCN 2016933612

 

February 2016

 

Published and Distributed by

First Edition Design Publishing, Inc.

P.O. Box 20217, Sarasota, FL 34276-3217

www.firsteditiondesignpublishing.com

 

 

Cover Art – Deborah E Gordon

 

ALL
R
I
G
H
T
S
R
E
S
E
R
V
E
D. No p
a
r
t
o
f
t
h
i
s
b
oo
k pub
li
ca
t
i
o
n
m
a
y
b
e
r
e
p
r
o
du
ce
d,
s
t
o
r
e
d
i
n a
r
e
t
r
i
e
v
a
l
s
y
s
t
e
m
,
o
r t
r
a
n
s
mit
t
e
d
i
n
a
ny
f
o
r
m
o
r by
a
ny
m
e
a
ns ─
e
l
e
c
t
r
o
n
i
c
,
m
e
c
h
a
n
i
c
a
l
,
p
h
o
t
o
-
c
o
p
y
,
r
ec
o
r
d
i
n
g, or
a
ny o
t
h
e
r ─
e
x
ce
pt
b
r
i
e
f qu
ot
a
t
i
o
n
i
n
r
e
v
i
e
w
s
,
w
i
t
h
o
ut
t
h
e p
r
i
o
r p
e
r
mi
ss
i
on
o
f
t
h
e
a
u
t
h
o
r or publisher
.

 

 

 Also by Matt Thomas –
The War of The Furies Series, Book One, The Tides of Infinity

For Shawnterra,

You
came with the sunrise and own the sunset.

Table of Contents

 

PROLOGUE — MEMORY
..
1

CHAPTER 1 — SIGNS AND OMENS
.
9

CHAPTER 2 — THE WARDEN AND THE WHITE ROSE
..
18

CHAPTER 3 — THE PRICE OF REDEMPTION
...
30

CHAPTER 4 — CHASING HISTORY
..
42

CHAPTER 5 — UNLEASHED
..
53

CHAPTER 6 — AN OUTING
..
75

CHAPTER 7 — OATHS
.
99

CHAPTER 8 — THE FIRST MINISTER
..
116

CHAPTER 9 — ALINGDOR
..
130

CHAPTER 10 — OVERTURES
.
146

CHAPTER 11 — SEALED
..
159

CHAPTER 12 — LINS MALDEN
...
169

CHAPTER 13 —TO WAKE THE NATION
...
181

CHAPTER 14 — WHAT FOLLOWS AFTER
..
192

CHAPTER 15 — INNISFIELD
..
206

CHAPTER 16 — INTO THE WHITEWOOD
..
217

CHAPTER 17 — THE WAY SOUTH
...
231

CHAPTER 18 — TRIAGA
..
244

CHAPTER 19 — UNREST
..
257

CHAPTER 20 — INTO ANCAIDA
..
269

CHAPTER 21 — ACROSS THE LOWLANDS
.
283

CHAPTER 22 — CALDOR
..
295

CHAPTER 23 — TAKEN
...
310

CHAPTER 24 — IN HIDING
..
324

CHAPTER 25 — DEFEATED
..
334

EPILOGUE — SHATTERED
..
372

PROLOGUE — MEMORY

 

In a remote part of the ancient world, when the winds of the globe were alive and at one with the pulse of the earth, the land trembled as it inhaled and exhaled, preparing perhaps for the return of forces absent now for three or four millennia. A hush hung over the horizon, a silence in the bowels of the earth that carried from the pits of the Mountains of Memory to the far reaches of the Forlorn Wood.

That hush brought to mind the moment when the fabric of the Making had been shattered. The upheaval had been cataclysmic, opposing aspects elemental in nature colliding. It was an ending. And a beginning. And a significantly changed world had been forced to limp onward.

That afternoon the autumn air was particularly moist and pulsing with memory. As he surveyed the far north, Luc Viamar-Ellandor felt certain the reawakening of those forces had not gone unnoticed across the Nations. He imagined rangers and anchorites as far as the Martyren forests felt it. In Gintara, the Handmaidens would be looking for ways to stay neutral while truth-seekers and academics considered the signs. In Bevronail, the dregs of the lost nation were likely huddled together wondering what spirit of malevolence was moving to seize the mastery of the world. Black skies over Ancaida carried word of doom, swell after swell without relief. A beginning, or an ending. What the people of Tolmar and Val Mora were doing to prepare to meet it troubled him, gnawed at him.

Ancaida first
, he reminded himself, beads of sweat collecting along his spine.

Silently absorbed in the ebb and flow of the Tides, he searched the distance a second time, forced himself to see beyond memory. Sword unsheathed, he felt the wind touch him. Not so long ago he would have felt uncomfortable in anything other than trousers, a plain coat, and padded cloak. Now he wore a thick belt with a series of pouches and devices and a sword that at one time had belonged to the master of Penthar. He did not know it, but to those near him he appeared frightfully raw on the plains, dark scale armor and gauntlets a seamless match, an untapped fount of power. His cloak was clasped loosely. A mere month had seen the transformation become permanent and the trimmings a necessary acknowledgement of the truth. Not necessarily for him: for the men that had ridden to the ends of the known world with him, for him.

Clicking his teeth, Luc had to shake off the feel of the wind and shrug aside the memories the airstream conveyed. Beside him, Imrail gripped a spear in hand; on the other, Rew and Ayden were armed with weapons likely unique to the two of them among the entire host, the younger wielding a pair of white daggers and the grizzled elder a two-handed broadsword that was cumbersome at best on horse. Behind them, two dozen of Vandil’s best men waited, bows drawn and swords at the ready.

“When did that happen?”

Luc pulled his eyes down to the hilt of his sword where Imrail’s attention was directed. Above the grip a pale sphere stood enclosed in the claws of some mythic creature. Luc felt a sudden intake rise up in his throat when he caught what Imrail was referring to. The gem had changed. Now it was a flawless representation of the Mark. An ancient symbol of power. . . . And fear. The creature grasping it was no longer mythic. It was the claw of a hawk. When had that happened?

How?

Rew cleared his throat. “You two had better watch,” he muttered. “They’re almost on us.”

Imrail eyed him somewhat callously before raising a hand. Instantly two dozen arrows left their bowstrings with a deafening
twang
. The approaching Angrats—a handful, but still dangerous even in small packs—staggered. A second volley saw them hurtled backwards, dead or maimed beyond any healing. Nasty creatures, those. Luc wondered what Fury had spawned them in the mists of time. He had a score to settle with that one. At least for the moment the danger had passed.

After a few minutes watching the grim company finish off any still showing signs of life and attempting to stay clear of the shifting breeze and the stench the beasts gave off, Luc reluctantly followed Imrail and turned his bay south. Hours of searching and only two or three scattered packs of Angrats. He almost wished they had found one of the Ardan or a company of Earthbound of some significance.

Grimacing, he dug his heels into the bay. He was growing more and more reckless by the minute.
Remember your roots, you lout.
A few dozen Angrats would have given even a significant company reason to pause. One of the Ardan by itself was much more serious.

Almost two full days now and no sign of either the Earthbound or the Companions and General Vandil. Now he was running out of time. He owed Altaer and Urian too much to just simply pick up and walk away without doing something. Along with Riven, the pair were among the handful of Companions the Lord Viamar had sent to Peyennar to ensure Luc lived long enough to play a role in the titanic events to come.

“Don’t think any of them would have been taken easily, my Lord,” Waylor Ayden said. “Besides, Vandil wouldn’t risk Urian or Altaer.” The man rubbed a hand over his bald scalp. “I say it’s time we turn our thoughts to Alingdor and—”

Imrail silenced him with a meaningful look. Luc did not miss the exchange; he simply chose not to comment. Two days. Two days to find himself, to remember himself. Such hopes were proving vain, though. At the moment he wanted nothing more than to be Luc Viamar-Ellandor, son of the Warden and the White Rose. Of course there were the itching memories of forgotten times to contend with, but surprisingly for the moment he was able to force them beyond conscious thought.

What happened when he slept was another matter.

Today he wanted to simply imagine he was Luc Viamar-Ellandor. He mulled the thought over. He hardly knew what even that meant to him. The village Elders, Oathbound, and Sons of Thunder—aptly named, he now realized—knew he was something more. A being out of time and memory. Something to fear. Or to attach oneself to.

Just prior to sunset they reached their basecamp about eight hours north of the hills leading to Peyennar. After two days in the saddle he was surprised to find a sprawling compound with runners entering and leaving even at this hour. Tents dotted the horizon and the hearty aroma of camp fare was only slightly marred by a recent light rain. Judging by the sky and the feel in the air only one native to these parts could gauge, it was only a matter of time before the stronger penetrating autumn rains came.

Making his way through the compound on the gritty bay, Luc met the nods and bows of men manning the perimeter. Some he knew and conversed with briefly, Imrail and Ayden moving off to consult with their aides. Like the waiting earth, the company appeared expectant, some perhaps eager to be rid of the far north, others for an indication of what he would do now that they had returned without General Vandil and the others.

After taking his time crossing to the camp’s interior, Luc dismounted and handed a waiting groom the reins. Rew had left some time before muttering something about washing off the dust of the journey with a little brandy. Ayden paused his consultation with the others to check the mid-sized tent they had erected for Luc. The old veteran had shaved the wisps of his scraggily hair. With iron bands at the wrists and a two or three day growth of stubble on his face, he had a determined look that reminded Luc of Vandil. Nodding that it was clear, Luc ducked inside.

Following his departure two days prior, someone had taken the time to carpet the tent floor with soft furs and cushions. He hated the extra attention and ached for the days when he and Master Ingram had spent weeks in the wild with no more comfort than they could find in the hills.

Still with his sword belted on, he sat with his legs crossed, attempting to reconcile the rather whimsical desire for simpler times. Breathing evenly, he gripped his knees and squeezed his eyes shut. As sure as night was falling, Luc Anaris had died the day he had climbed the Shoulder of Peyennar. The memory of white light and the Fallen lingered. That had been the day his past had burned beyond recollection. The day Amreal had saved him and Luc Viamar-Ellandor had been re-forged into something entirely unknown to any of them.

Perhaps a quarter hour later the suggestion of activity outside the tent made him look up. Something about Razmoen still worried him. Had he done the right thing? Luc had no time to puzzle out the answer. Rew pushed back the tent flap and entered, halting in front of a polished brazier. Its glowing embers filled the tent with a surprising amount of heat.

Before either one of them could speak, one of the men poked his head in. The soldier had a pair of steaming bowls covered with white cloths. Rew took his with a muttered thanks and blew on it before taking a tentative mouthful. It was a stew of some sort. Luc left his where the man set it.

Rew Acriel was a reminder of the past he had been contemplating out on the plains. Luc’s earliest memories outside of his folks and Amreal always involved the Acriels. He and Rew had trooped through all parts of the hidden mountain retreat, going further than was likely prudent in hindsight. Never one to pay close attention to their tutors, Rew had chosen to go his own way, preferring to play the part of the vagrant. Master Acriel had worked tirelessly to instill a residue of discipline into his son, but for all his efforts the saucy-eyed, rough-cut brown-haired young man was always one step ahead of his father and the other Elders—eager to be off and see the world when the opportunity presented itself.

Well, the time had come.  

Before either one of them spoke, Imrail threw back the tent flap. Ayden entered on his heels.

“You want to talk about it?” the captain asked unceremoniously. The man hardly waited before seizing the opportunity to go on. “Time to face up to it. We’ve done what we can here. If Vandil is out there, he must have had good reason for not having made straight for Peyennar. We’ve had scouts combing the area right up to where you found the king. There’s no indication they’re dead and no reason to assume so. I suspect the Earthbound forced them north. We’ll have to trust in his skill to outmaneuver them. We can’t spare any more time. We have to discuss our next steps. Are you still intent on moving south?”

Luc ran a hand through his hair. Still reeling from recent events, he had begun experiencing moments of lightheadedness. Trying not to betray any hint of discomfort, he tugged off his gauntlets and reached for the covered bowl.

“There’s other news,” Ayden said. “Your mother and father reached Peyennar.”

Luc whipped his up. “When?” he demanded.

“Last night,” Ayden told him. “Runners brought the word. If you don’t make for Peyennar, they’ll be on their way here. I suggest we turn in and get an early start.”

Luc held back a response.
Here?
He felt a sudden upsurge of emotion, consuming him. Ayden went on.

“We’ve had word of the Third Company,” the sword master said. “The missing men,” he explained. “Riven found them. Seems they were pinned down north of the First City. They’ve had a time of it. It appears Peyennar wasn’t the only place hit. Hit hard. Guess the Earthbound had its eye on Alingdor this entire time.”

Imrail shot the old veteran a look that silenced him. “The Lord Viamar is asking for you,
my Lord
,” the captain whispered. “He insists.”

Rew had been smacking his lips around a mouthful, but paused to glance at the two men. “Insists?” he scoffed. “You’re insane. No one insists on anything anymore. We’re done. That
sword
means something. Those people mean something. What we’re doing means something.”

Luc studied his friend, surprised by the rough edge to his tone. Clearly the lanky youth had been changed by their encounter with the Legion. Luc himself was troubled, even unhinged by the news his folks were here. The Ancaidans did mean something, though. But how would it look to his people if he left Penthar now?

“Tell me again,” he said softly.

Imrail drew in a steadying intake, jaw rippling. “I’ve told you three times, boy.” Muttering under his breath, he paced the tent, gloved hands folded behind his back. “Ingram’s scouts found ample indication of their passage. They’re making no secret of it. He suspects they’ll skirt the Landing and continue south. From there it’s anyone’s guess what this Ansifer means to do. If Isar issued orders—”

“It’s Naeleis, not Isar,” Luc said. He felt his hands began to clench. “I know it.”

Silence. Rew let his spoon drop and Ayden shifted uncomfortably. If Imrail was troubled by Luc’s seemingly intimate knowledge of the Furies, he did not show it. His face only hardened. “Even if I was the last of the Companions I would still have a duty to House Viamar,” he said. “Your mother is there with the king. The
king
commands it.”

Looking away, Luc exhaled. He had never been one to chafe at oaths or bonds of duty, not since the day he had been bonded to the Oathbound, but the memories were too grating. They were thorns piercing the skull. The urgency to find Vandil had been mitigated in part by the urgency to find the Sword of Ardil and stop the Furies from tearing the Nations apart. That was his duty. There were reasons. Reasons that should make him weep, he thought. He expected to die in the attempt. He deserved to die. He was not meant for this, to live like this. He should have been bound and chained.

Finally, he met Imrail’s eye and nodded with a finality that made the captain relax noticeably. “I’ll come,” he said quietly. “I want the search to continue, though, and an advance party to make for Edgewood. I’ll risk one night in Peyennar. Not one second more.”

Other books

Nurse Hilary by Peggy Gaddis
Days of Your Fathers by Geoffrey Household
The Lost Continent by Bill Bryson
Free Lunch by David Cay Johnston
Red Light by Masterton, Graham
Climates by Andre Maurois
Encounter at Farpoint by David Gerrold
Blood Lies by Daniel Kalla
Inez: A Novel by Carlos Fuentes