"The Harp & Sword Chronicles"
Soul Storm Part I - "The Connecting Flame"
Copyright 2008 by Myristica
Excerpt - 'Reunion'
The illness had taken over his
body to the point that he stumbled on every other step. His face was flushed,
and he shivered with cold. The physical exertion on his lungs also stole oxygen
from his blood, causing massive dizziness. He leaned against a cedar tree and
took a moment to calm his breathing, struggling to remain conscious. Please,
not now. Not when I’m so close.
He heard his name spoken softly, and he lifted his glassy blue eyes and looked off into the clump of trees ahead. The warrior stood in their shadow, but Stephen could make out the sword that hung
in a curved scabbard on his hip. The sword’s hilt was familiar to Stephen. He had seen it many times in his dreams. The
hilt called his memory forward, and the carved ivory skulls were real enough that Stephen felt certain he could touch them
if he wanted. Yet he knew the sword was magick; magick he was wary of.
Though darkened mystery surrounded it, Stephen knew the owner of the sword was possibly even more dangerous. Still, he was not afraid. He had heard all of the stories
of the Marked One, which had traveled deeply into the lands of Murgatara, but Stephen sensed he was in no danger in the presence
of this warrior. The man had always been a symbol of purpose to him, as though
the dreams were messages of things to come.
To be certain it was the man from his dreams, Stephen took a long look at the image before him now. The warrior wore black leather boots and breeches made of common black muslin. A white shirt hung over his hips to his thighs. It laced up
the front, and the laces were undone, revealing a mysterious scar that marked his otherwise smooth chest. The sleeves were to his elbows and brown leather gauntlets adorned his forearms. The scabbard was attached to the belt that cinched the shirt around the warrior’s waist. He had long black hair and a close cut beard, but the eyes were clouded, as they had been in Stephen’s
dreams, always shadowed. He stood like a silent sentry and, with compassion in
his voice, spoke tenderly to the dying prince.
“Do not be afraid to follow your dream, Stephen. Come to me when
you can.” Then the warrior was gone, fading into the air like a rippling
Stephen wasn’t sure if he was dreaming again or having another vision.
Maybe that was it, though. Maybe his second sight had been altered by
the strange coldness that was attacking his body; maybe even his brain. He reached
up and grasped the stone around his neck. Thaddeus, can it be you? He took another moment to gain his bearings, and then he started off in the direction
of the vision.
Thaddeus lifted his bow and placed the arrow
to the string. The buck was only twenty feet away. It was healthy and strong and would make for good meat that night.
Whatever was left over, he would give to a needy family. As he pulled
back the string and took aim, he focused on a clean, quick kill.
That was when the growl of a lone predatory salar tore through the air and sent the buck leaping away in fear.
Thaddeus cursed under his breath. He turned to the source of the interruption
and heard the frenzied growl again. The cat was about to attack, but only one
thing could make it sound like that before attacking…human prey.
Thaddeus gripped his bow and hurried over the hills, through the thicket of trees and brush. The growl had come from the area near the Weeping Boulder. He
would have to make it there quickly if that human had any chance at all to live. The
salar were merciless in their killings, usually clawing the belly open and letting the scent of warm blood grip them. They would feed upon their victim as they lay slowly dying.
As he leapt up onto the crest of a ravine, he
looked down onto the far bank of the river…and froze in place.
There, with his back against a huge oak tree, stood a youth. He was dressed
in what appeared to be the traveling clothes of nobility: a light blue tunic with a dark blue cloak clasped at his neck. Straggly blond hair hung limply to his shoulders.
His breeches were also dark blue and his black boots reached his knees. The young noble was like a statue, perfectly
still as a snarling salar growled and unsheathed its fangs before him.
For the first time in five years, Thaddeus felt his heart jump into his throat.
It was a sign of life within him that he thought had died with his soul that day in the Verma camp. For before his eyes in that very moment was his dream come to life.
He saw the salar crouch into position, ready to leap, and that pulled him out of his shock. He lifted the bow and arrow and took careful aim. “Don’t
move!” he shouted to the young noble.
The sound of his voice caused the salar to growl once again. It was a
second away from lunging. Thaddeus aimed for the neck and let the arrow fly just
as the man-eating cat leapt into the air.
The force and strength behind the pull was enough for the arrow to tear through the golden hide and muscle, piercing
the neck all the way through, and the salar fell at the youth’s feet, dead.
Thaddeus took a moment to breathe. Was this what his dream meant for him
to do, simply to save the life of this youth? No, there was something more to
this moment in time than just felling a salar to keep a noble youth from a violent death.
Thaddeus was determined to find out exactly what that something more was.
He started down the ravine wall. “Are you all right?” he called
before he leapt and somersaulted over the river, landing just a few feet away from the dead animal. He turned, now able to focus clearly on the youth.
Small in stature, but still tall enough to reach Thaddeus’ shoulder, the youth was frail and thin, yet in spite
of his flushed face and skin, he was very comely. In fact, with a healthy complexion
he would be considered beautiful. His eyes were round and the color of a clear
spring sky, though at that moment, they were glassy from illness. His strong
jaw smoothed down into a round chin. His nose was small and straight. And his lips, though full and shapely, were also pale and dry, the symptoms of sickness clearly evident. Yet Thaddeus thought it strange that such a sick and flushed youth would not be sweating. Not even a face-to-face encounter with one of the deadliest creatures of Fuhrahl forest
had caused him to perspire.
Thaddeus then saw the stone around the youth’s neck and his heart almost stopped.
He hitched a breath as the knowledge came at him from all corners of his mind.
Memories, desire, hope long forgotten; all of those things culminated and mingled with the rising joy within his being
as he locked eyes with the youth, uncertain he could accept, yet uncertain he could not accept what he knew to be true. “Stephen?” he whispered, unable to give any more strength to his voice.
The youth smiled at him and reached out a shaking hand. In an instant
Thaddeus was at his side, grasping that hand. In that moment both reacted to
the physical contact. A surge of energy flowed through them from one to the other,
and Stephen grasped Thaddeus’ hand with such strength it overwhelmed the warrior.
He had not expected that kind of strength from this obviously very ill young man.
He looked into those glassy blue eyes, now swimming in tears. A smile
full of tender knowing and contentment shone from that beautiful face, and Thaddeus felt the ice around his heart start to
thaw. It was a gentle and healing heat that had been far too long a stranger
What happened next was so natural and so welcomed that it took a moment for Thaddeus to remember the curse on that
child prince he had met eight years before.
“I knew…you’d come back.”
Thaddeus blanched. Those words had come from Stephen’s own mouth.
Stephen had spoken!
But Thaddeus had no time to rejoice in this glorious revelation. Stephen’s
weary eyes rolled back into his head and his body buckled. Thaddeus caught him
around the waist and eased him down, cradling him in his arms.
“By Enreak, what is going on?” The words flowed, but Thaddeus
wasn’t sure if he had spoken them aloud. As he held the unconscious prince,
he gazed down at the face that had many times over the last eight years haunted his dreams.
The veins within the eyelids were prominent, deepening the gray coloring around the eyes. Stephen looked so much like the child of Thaddeus’ memory.
He had grown taller, of course, but the body was still as frail as that of a child.
The lung sickness had ravaged him without mercy. “How is it you
are alive?” the warrior choked out, as he ran a trembling hand over that pale and beloved face. “You have grown up, my Prince.”
He noticed the stone, now encased in gold, hanging from a leather thong around Stephen’s neck. He carefully ran his fingers over it, the smooth, oblong surface echoing traces of memory in his mind. That day, so long in the past, now rushed up to greet him in the present and it was
as though these last eight years had never come between them. It was as though
Thaddeus had never lost his family to slaughter that night, never sought to learn how to fight in order to avenge their deaths,
never met and fell in love with a member of the Swarrin race named Terahn and never lost that love to an act of violence that
sent him over the edge into darkness.
“Stephen,” he whispered, his voice choking under the strain of the emotion that fought with his reason. Stephen could not be alive, but here he was, in Thaddeus’ arms. And he had held onto the stone, onto the memory of a rebellious youth who had saved him on that fateful
“Stephen, Stephen, Stephen.” Thaddeus brushed the tips of
his calloused fingers over the stone, worn by Stephen as though it were some type of medal or, even still, an amulet of protection,
just as Thaddeus had told him it would be. “Stephen, is this how you survived...by
holding onto my memory, just as I have survived by holding onto yours?”
The tears that fell from his eyes were of joy, and for the first time in what seemed forever, Thaddeus did not deny
them. Stephen was alive! The source
of his hope, the small candle of light in his darkness, the treasure still shining in his burned out soul, was alive and talking.
Unconsciously, he pulled the youth tighter into his embrace and lowered his lips to Stephen’s ear, whispering;
“Is this a dream?”
But in a shattering moment, something happened to turn the dream into a nightmare.
Thaddeus felt the chill of cold steel against his cheek, and heard the sound of a hard-edged voice full of violent
warning, “Release His Highness now, Marked One, or I will lay claim to the legend of being your executioner.”