Nine – Chapter 4, The Jealous Prince

“I am Reglan,” said the captain. “No Matter, know this…
Your flesh will not be wasted.”

Mattoby the Gat takes his motley crew on a quest to uncover the secret of the Lumenstones and the evil forces unleashing them. On their journey, they encounter the disturbing Goblin Haunts, battle a group of witches and struggle to survive hostile terrain and each other’s tempers.

Their path takes an unexpected turn when Anditor, the young son of Vidor, describes his encounter with Reglan, the Lord of the Werewolves, and the chest of stones aboard his pirate ship…

…a story that will lead the nine into peril.

BOOK 2

Nine

Chapter 4 – The Jealous Prince

 

“I wish you would reconsider.”

Eijivar stood from packing his sack. His bow and arrows were lined up neatly on the floor by his bag. His great sword and several daggers were already sheathed in his belt. He wore the travel clothes of the guard in plain greens and browns. The only exception was the intricate embossing of emerald threads forming vines down the arms of his shirt. He wore calf-high leather boots, and a travel cloak was folded on the floor next to his things. He kept his back to the Great King. When he finally did look up, it was to stare out over the grand balcony framed by three archways into his rooms.

“She has made her decision?”

“Yes, and it is sealed.”

“You didn’t know?”

“He kept it from everyone. Can you blame him?”

Eijivar snorted and went back to packing. The King observed him for a few minutes in silence.  Eijivar had served him faithfully for countless years like a son. He was proud, arrogant even by Valdaren standards, but he was a fierce fighter, unrelenting in battle. He would have made a good match for any other Valdaren princess, but he was never right for Lorien. The King had always known that. He knew his daughter’s heart and mind. He agreed with her decision. He hated her timing. Eijivar could not be replaced by a dozen Valdaren guard.

“This isn’t just about Lorien.”

Eijivar stood. He placed his hands on his belt. The fingertips of his right hand brushed the handle of his sword.  He turned to face the King.

“Really? Maybe not for the rest of the world, but it certainly is for you…and it was…for me.”

“Eijivar…”

But the Valdaren prince raised his hand, palm up, toward the King. There were no words that would convince him.  The King sighed deeply. He placed his hand over his chest and bowed. When he straightened, he walked out of the room and shut the door behind him. He nodded to the two guards waiting in the hall for him, trying their best not to look astonished at the bow their King had just given to Eijivar and that man’s refusal to acknowledge it.

“Notify the rest of the company that we will meet in one hour,” he instructed.

“What about Ajie and Lorien?” one of the man asked.

“They are waiting in my chambers. I will inform them.”

Behind the door, Eijivar stared outside, motionless. The only change in him was that his hand was now wrapped tightly around the handle of his sword, the muscles of his arm straining. Fury welled inside him. Had he known the night before that Ajie had that ring, things would have ended differently. He would not have backed down for a second. Ajie had been wise in hiding it. It was an irrevocable bond. Eijivar knew that. And yet…

He bent over and packed his cloak into his bag. He secured the bag and threw it over his shoulder and did the same with his bow and arrows. He crossed over to the wall opposite the terrace. The long wall was decorated up and down with ancient weapons he had collected. Some of them were so rare that they were priceless in the cities of men. He gently removed an ornate dagger from the straps that held it securely to the wall. He rolled it over in his hands and admired it. It was a goblin dagger that pre-dated the Great Wars. The handle was carved from dragon bone depicting a battle between a phoenix and a dragon. He ran his fingers along its curvatures. It was his favorite. He removed the dagger from its sheath and stuck the sheath in his bag. He allowed the dagger to drop out of his hand onto the floor. The old bone cracked down the middle, separating the soaring phoenix from the fire-breathing dragon.

Eijivar left the room, not bothering to close the door behind him. He walked quietly down the hallway to the back exits. He descended the long, spiral stone staircase to the bottommost tier of balconies and vanished into the woodlands, traveling in a westerly direction.

~

Book 2, “Nine”, is available now in all eBook formats at Smashwords 

and available in eBook and softcover at Amazon:

 

Book 1, “The Lightbearer”, is available as a FREE eBook at Smashwords.

 

Lumfree1

 

All material Copyright ©2017 Tanya Cliff

Nine – Chapter 3, Reglan

“I am Reglan,” said the captain. “No Matter, know this…
Your flesh will not be wasted.”

Mattoby the Gat takes his motley crew on a quest to uncover the secret of the Lumenstones and the evil forces unleashing them. On their journey, they encounter the disturbing Goblin Haunts, battle a group of witches and struggle to survive hostile terrain and each other’s tempers.

Their path takes an unexpected turn when Anditor, the young son of Vidor, describes his encounter with Reglan, the Lord of the Werewolves, and the chest of stones aboard his pirate ship…

…a story that will lead the nine into peril.

BOOK 2

Nine

Chapter 3 – Reglan

 

The chest landed with a thud a few feet away from his hiding place, kicking up sand that almost made him sneeze. It was black with a strange marking on the side and chained heavily all around. The mark was shaped like a D on top with twist dropping down from it. Anditor squinted and cocked his head. From that angle, it looked like a snake falling off a ledge. Once he righted his head, he thought it looked most like a D.

He had listened, trembling but curious, as the group of noisy men approached. One of them sat down on the log he was hiding behind a few feet down from him. The man tossed a pile of furs to the ground, still wet with sticky blood, fat and skin. It made Anditor’s empty stomach churn. He thought he might vomit and clamped his mouth shut. He stared at the pile. It included small game pelts, like rabbit, and larger game, like lynx, all freshly killed and skinned. Each of the men had a similar pile strung together. There were five men in all and dozens of pelts.

“They have spotted us.”

“Good. Best to get this over quickly. We’ll take our pay and head into the woods,” the man sitting on the log responded.

“Didn’t Legard mumble some warning about nightfall? It is getting dark,” said the man standing closest to the chest. Anditor could only see his legs, but those were skinny and bent.

“Legard was drunk.”

“We all were drunk. Still…,” he said.

“Look, Fink. Legard is a moron. If he had any brains, he would have brought this chest here himself and collected the money. The pay on this job is worth hundreds of pelts.”

The other men started laughing. A long boat was lowered into the water. Several men climbed into it and picked up the oars. Another man, larger than all the rest, with a mane of dark hair swirling wildly around him in the wind and his ripped shirt flapping over his broad chest, climbed over the side of the ship and down the ropes to the boat. The boat swayed under his muscular mass. A slender, hooded figure, much shorter than all the rest, followed him. The men on the shore stopped laughing.

“They are huge,” whispered Fink.

“Bah…,” responded the man on the log, but Anditor caught the flash of the steel blade of a dagger and heard the crunch of bark as the man pushed it into the log.

“I don’t like this,” Fink said softly. “I don’t like this at all. It doesn’t…feel right.”

The men watched silently as the boat arrived at the river bank and its passengers disembarked. One of them anchored the boat on the shore and stayed beside it. The others approached. As they got out of the boat, Anditor caught a glimpse of the face of the hooded figure, a face with delicate features and large eyes that sparkled in the moonlight. He thought it must be a woman.

As they came closer, he could only see them from the thighs down. He cocked his head again to try to see their faces, but he could only see to their hips. The captain approached the man on the log. Anditor was shaking, trying to be still.

“You are the captain?” asked the man on the log.

The captain stepped over to the pile of skins that man had tossed on the ground next to the chest. He stooped down and sniffed them. From that angle, Anditor had a close-up view of his face. He had a strong, rigid jaw line and thick, powerful neck. His dark, piercing eyes studied the pile with an intensity that made Anditor’s heart race with fear. He reached down to touch the topmost pelt. Even his hands were hairy and strong. The man growled deeply under his breath and stood. Anditor shuddered and fought to keep still.

“You are Skinners,” the captain said in a low, throaty voice.

“What is that to you?” asked the man on the log. The tremble in his voice betrayed his otherwise cool demeanor. “We have delivered your chest. Give us our money, and we will be on our way. That was the arrangement.”

“What is your name?” the captain asked.

“No matter,” the man answered. Anditor heard the crack of wood. The man had removed the dagger from the log and scraped it along the bark. “Pay up. We will be gone.”

“No Matter,” asked the captain. “Did you eat these animals?”

The man on the log said nothing. There was an uncomfortable silence. The captain responded with a low, impatient growl.

“We…we,” responded Fink. “We didn’t have time, Sir. We…we were in a rush to deliver…your goods. They are right here. Look. See?”

Anditor’s father had warned him about Skinners. They were reviled among the hunters of the Trividian Forest.  Skinners hunted solely for the pelts they could trade in far off cities, harvesting as many skins as they could carry and leaving the rest of the carcass to rot. The hunters of the Trividian wasted nothing. The animals were their source of food and clothing. Even the fat of the animals was used to make oils and soaps and the bones to make stews and tools. Skinners only wanted a profit. The man was lying. The captain knew it. Anditor did also.

“No Matter,” the captain said.

The man on the log stood, the dagger in his hand pointed at the captain. The captain laughed in a crazed manner.

“We don’t want any trouble. Just pay us what we are owed, and we will be gone,” the man stammered. His dagger shook as he spoke.

The captain growled again and stepped directly in front of the man. Anditor dug the side of his head into the sand so he could just see the dagger touching the side of the captain’s shirt. The captain’s laugh echoed through the woods. He extended his arms openly.

“I am unarmed,” he challenged.

He moved his chest into the dagger until the tip sank into the folds of his shirt. Surprised, the man jerked back to pull his dagger away, but the captain grabbed hold of his arm and pushed the blade in until blood started to trickle down the garment. He laughed again. The captain pushed the blade in deeper and stared in the terrified man’s face.

“I am Reglan,” said the captain. “No Matter, know this…”

He thrust his free hand into the man’s chest in one motion, grabbed hold of the man’s heart and ripped it from his chest. Blood spurted everywhere.

“Your flesh won’t be wasted.”

He tossed the heart behind him. It was caught in the teeth of a werewolf. Reglan tossed the body back. The four men who had come with him, now all transformed, descended on the body in a flurry of growls and flying blood. The other men began to run. Anditor watched in horror as werewolves jumped off the deck of the ship into the water and disappeared under the surface, only to reemerge on the shore moments later. They tore into the woods in pursuit of the fleeing men.

“I loathe Skinners. Grab the stones.”

The hooded woman walked over to the chest and picked it up. When Anditor looked back at the captain, he had taken the form of an enormous werewolf, covered in dark fur. He lifted his head high and howled a long, mournful howl. Anditor shut his eyes tightly and held his breath. When the howl ended, he peered back again. Two werewolves were fighting over the leg of the man who had been sitting on the log.  Two more were standing in front of the woman. The hair on their backs was standing straight up and their teeth were bared.  Reglan’s werewolf jumped between and attacked the two. He bit one by the neck and tossed it to the side. It yelped as it hit the ground. The other ran off.

The woman walked past the injured werewolf and placed the chest into the long boat. She gathered the anchor and climbed in, taking up both the oars. She waited. Reglan followed her and sat at her feet, his large form completely hiding her from view. She rowed them back to the ship. Anditor watched as she tied a rope around the chest and scaled the side of the boat. She hoisted the chest onto the ship. When she was finished, she looked down at Reglan. Her hood flew back in the wind, and her long, dark hair cascaded in waves around her. Reglan scaled the side of the ship with his claws, his massive body rocking the entire boat. From the deck, he howled again, then he followed her down the steps and below deck. Anditor lay in the sand, afraid to move, barely able to breathe.

~

Book 2, “Nine”, is available now in all eBook formats at Smashwords 

and available in eBook and softcover at Amazon:

 

Book 1, “The Lightbearer”, is available as a FREE eBook at Smashwords.

 

Lumfree1

 

All material Copyright ©2017 Tanya Cliff

 

Nine – Chapter 2, A Fall

“I am Reglan,” said the captain. “No Matter, know this…
Your flesh will not be wasted.”

Mattoby the Gat takes his motley crew on a quest to uncover the secret of the Lumenstones and the evil forces unleashing them. On their journey, they encounter the disturbing Goblin Haunts, battle a group of witches and struggle to survive hostile terrain and each other’s tempers.

Their path takes an unexpected turn when Anditor, the young son of Vidor, describes his encounter with Reglan, the Lord of the Werewolves, and the chest of stones aboard his pirate ship…

…a story that will lead the nine into peril.

BOOK 2

Nine

Chapter 2 – A Fall

Anditor darted through the woods, the quiver full of arrows bouncing on his back and the bow in his hand. He was careful to hold the bow high so that he didn’t trip on it as he dodged obstacles in the dense woods. If he stayed on his feet, his brothers would not catch him. He was no match for them in size, but he was fast and had the keenest eyes of the bunch. He leaped over the exposed roots and fallen limbs nimbly, maintaining his pace. The Great River was just over the next ridge. If he could get past the ridge and down the hill, he could hide in the thick vegetation along the river bed. They would never find him. He glanced over his shoulder, bumping his nose on Trindon’s bowstring. He could just see Mennu and Trindon darting through the trees behind him. He could hear every one of Trindon’s curses. Too out of breath to laugh, he grinned. Serves them right for not taking me, he thought.

He dodged several more trees and then jumped over the top of the ridge. His feet slipped in the loose leaves of autumn, and he landed on his back. The quiver landed to his side, the strap pulling hard against his arm. He slid, faster and faster in that position down the steep embankment. He gripped the bow tightly to his chest and winced in pain. Hard bumps in the ground and rocks pummeled his back as he fell. Dirt flew up into his eyes and burned. He closed them tightly. He kept his body stiff and slid – down, down, down – until he finally landed in a thick mass of prairie grass where the bank flattened.

He lay motionless, hidden in the grass, afraid to move. He could hear his brothers’ voices coming from the woods above. He chuckled. It hurt. He chuckled again. He moved his arm, gently untangling it from the quiver strap.  There was a large gash in his shirt, and his shoulder was bleeding. His back burned, but he could move all his limbs. He clutched the quiver of arrows across his chest with the bow and rested for a few minutes, closing his eyes. His brothers’ voices faded.

“I will kill you!” Trindon shouted from a distance.

That was the last thing he heard from them. He chuckled again and winced in pain. His whole body ached. He rolled onto his side and listened for a few minutes more. Once he was certain they had gone, he sat up and looked around. He could just see over the tall grass. The river, broad and deep in these lands, flowed some fifty paces away. He glanced up and down. There was no one in sight.

Anditor stood to have a better look. Down river led to the bog cities of men where the Great River emptied into the Undulan Sea. He glanced up river. The river flowed straight for about two miles and then took broad bends as it cut through the thickest sections of the Trividian Forest. That was the direction he needed to go. Once he got to the bends, he could follow the river several miles north to a tributary that would lead him through the woods and close to Shrevdon, his village. Even if it got dark, the lad was confident that he could find his way home. This was the farthest south that he had ever been, but he knew the forest to the north well. He would recognize the landscape once he hiked that way.

He tossed the quiver over his shoulder and lifted the bow, then he approached the river, where the grasses were low enough that his seven-year-old legs could walk over them easily. The shadows grew long. It was evening. It would be late at night when he arrived home, provided he didn’t get lost on the way. Anditor was not worried about that. He hoped it would be late. His brothers would be sleeping, and he could work with his grandfather early the next day. The other boys wouldn’t mess with him then. By the time Trindon found an opening to freely pummel him, Anditor figured his brother would have something else to be angry about, most likely something stupid his sisters did.

Anditor continued. His shoulder bled, and he was sore all over. He was hungry, thirsty and tired. Yet he hummed as he walked, moving agilely through the grass. His only companion was a turtle that jumped off a dead log into the river as soon as it spotted him. He glanced up the ridge several times, and he paused and looked behind him. This was a wild and unpopulated land, the space between the villages of hunters in the north woods and the bog cities of men to the south. The bears of the Trividian Forest made their home in this desolate place. They were huge and fierce. Trindon’s bow was too big for him to use and wouldn’t have much impact on one of those, even if he could shoot it.

The slope to the river slowly flattened, and the tress of the forest encroached its banks. He was nearing the first bend. The grasses continued to thin and become shorter, and he was now stepping over masses of roots exposed from the river’s often flooding waters. He continued without stopping, silent now, breathing heavily. He knew he wouldn’t reach the tributary before dark. He guessed that he had an hour left of dusk, and he had several miles to walk before he reached that spot. As soon as he rounded the river’s curve, he froze.

In front of him was a long, slender, black ship, anchored in the deep waters in the middle of the river. The ugly, strange ship was facing south, toward the Undulan Sea. A few men walked along its deck. They were large, hairy and unkempt. They reminded him of nasty tales of pirates his grandfather told on stormy nights to scare he and his siblings. Pirates were folk of the ocean. The Trividian Forest, his home, was days away from those waters. The Great River was a passage for cargo barges and small fishing boats, not ships. He ducked behind a tree and watched.

Aside from the men on the deck, he saw no motion. He watched both shores. It was quiet. One of the men on the deck was watching the shore to the north of him. A thick grove of river birch and poplars with some freshly fallen trees in its midst stood twenty paces ahead of Anditor. It provided cover. The man on the ship watched intently up shore. Anditor knew that meant there was someone or something ahead. That was the direction he needed to travel to get home.

He inched toward the grove, pausing often and watching the ship for any change. It was getting dark. He decided to hide until whoever was approaching from the north passed. At the edge of the grove, he got down on his belly and slithered under a gap between the sandy ground and the fallen limbs. He clawed his way toward the largest fallen log. He could see a safe spot covered with branches that had an area large enough for him to climb under and hide. He pushed and pulled his way through, catching the bow several times and finally snapping its string. He couldn’t pull it free. He tried and tried. It held fast to something behind him, like a snagged fishing line. He tried to back up. The quiver caught. He couldn’t back any farther. He sighed and let go of the bow. Trindon would kill him.

He slid forward through the sand, and dug his way under the branches. It was good cover and provided a clear view of the ship, but he was closer to it than he had intended to be. He could see the men clearly from a gap between the sand and the fallen log, even as the evening’s shadows were growing long. The men were huge, dressed in rough, loose and tattered clothes. They were armed with long swords and daggers. Anditor was afraid. He didn’t move. He barely breathed.

~

Book 2, “Nine”, is available now in all eBook formats at Smashwords 

and available in eBook and softcover at Amazon:

 

Book 1, “The Lightbearer”, is available as a FREE eBook at Smashwords.

Lumfree1

 

All material Copyright ©2017 Tanya Cliff

Nine – Chapter 1, The Theft

“I am Reglan,” said the captain. “No Matter, know this…
Your flesh will not be wasted.”

Mattoby the Gat takes his motley crew on a quest to uncover the secret of the Lumenstones and the evil forces unleashing them. On their journey, they encounter the disturbing Goblin Haunts, battle a group of witches and struggle to survive hostile terrain and each other’s tempers.

Their path takes an unexpected turn when Anditor, the young son of Vidor, describes his encounter with Reglan, the Lord of the Werewolves, and the chest of stones aboard his pirate ship…

…a story that will lead the nine into peril.

BOOK 2

Nine

Chapter 1 – THE THEFT

 

A small snake slithered out of the stream of warm liquid and landed on the boy’s foot, causing him to fall on his bare bottom and land in the forest ferns. The motion of his foot hurled the snake through the air. It dropped a few feet away. Trindon glanced over his shoulder, thankful his two older brothers were not in sight. He stood, brushed the loose foliage off his butt and pulled his trousers up, securing the oversized pants with the leather belt his father had made for him.

He brushed his pants, removing any evidence of his misadventure, the only event that had caused his heart to beat quickly all day. The three older sons of Vidor had been hunting since early morning deep in the Trividian Forest. It was nearly evening, and all they had spotted were small birds and a few squirrels chasing each other through the trees. He was hungry, thirsty and tired, and he longed to return home to a hot meal. If he mentioned that to Mennu, the 15-year-old would hit him and poke fun at him. If he mentioned that to 17-year-old Kivandor, he would be banned from coming along on future hunts.

Kivandor was nearly as large as his father but not nearly as patient. Whining was something for “girls” and “girly boys”. Kivandor had warned Trindon sharply on his first hunt that, if he whined at all, he would be abandoned in the woods and be required to find his way home in the dark by himself. Worse, he would never be taken out again. The warning had resonated. Trindon, now eleven, had not uttered a single complaint, no matter how tired he had become, hungry he had grown, sore his arms were from carrying his bow or how many blisters he had on his feet. He was proud of the fact that he was still allowed on the hunt.

Mennu had once complained about a large sliver of wood that had pierced his palm while resting by a tree during a hunt. Kivandor left him in the forest. It took Mennu until the next morning to find his way home. The oldest son refused to take him on another hunt for an entire year. Vidor allowed it. He had important work to tend to as leader of their village. Vidor trusted Kivandor to teach the other boys the lessons he passed down. Whining was never allowed. Naked-bottom critter scares? Trindon blushed at the thought of what his brothers would say if they discovered that tidbit.

The snake rested on the ground a few feet away, drops of urine sparkling on its skin. Trindon took a step toward the snake, then another. It watched him, motionless. He slowly moved, until his foot was close enough to strike.

“Look at what I have!”

Trindon glanced to his right. Thirty paces away, his youngest brother stood holding the bow and arrow that he had left behind. Anditor laughed and waved the bow in the air. He strapped the quiver of arrows on his back and retreated several steps.

“Serves you right for not letting me come! There were nine deer in the woods! You have missed them all day!”

“Anditor! You little fleabag! Put my bow down!”

Anditor turned and ran, yelling over his shoulder, “They have headed toward the river! I will shoot one! I will show you! I will show you all!”

“Anditor! I will kill you!”

Trindon stomped his foot, squishing the snake beneath his boot. He ran after Anditor, cursing at the top of his lungs. Mennu ran up alongside him and pointed toward the ridge that led down to the river bank. They could just see Anditor darting ahead between the trees. They followed in pursuit, Trindon shouting every curse he could think of between gasps of breath. Anditor disappeared over the ridge. Mennu grabbed hold of Trindon’s shirt and stopped him. They were both gasping for air.

“Where…does he think…he is going?” Mennu asked.

“He said…there were deer…heading toward the river…that we missed them.”

“We should have brought him. He has the keenest eyes of us all.”

“Not gonna bring him anywhere…gonna kill him!”

The two boys ran toward the ridge. They hadn’t gone far when they were stopped in their tracks by strong hands which grabbed each of them from behind.

“Leave him!” scolded Kivandor.

“He stole my bow and arrows!”

The protest was met with a quick swat to the head from Kivandor. Trindon winced and rubbed his head.

“That little fleabag stole your bow and arrows, because you were careless and left them sitting by a tree while you went off to pee. It is your own fault,” Kivandor said.

“You saw?”

“I saw your stupid, naked ass fall into the ferns!”

Mennu laughed out loud. Trindon turned a deep crimson and fought back the tears which he was certain would bring a swift death. Kivandor whacked Mennu across the head.

“Shut up, Mennu!” Kivandor warned. “I didn’t see Anditor until he picked up your weapon. That little brat is sneaky.”

“He said there were deer heading toward the river,” Trindon stated with as much dignity as he could gather.

“Had we taken him with us in the first place…,” Mennu suggested.

“Leave him!” Kivandor interrupted. “Deer, or no, he was told he could not come along, and he did not listen. We are going home. He found his way here. He can find his way home. If he isn’t eaten by some beast on the way, you can kill him when he returns.” He whacked both boys across the head again. “Let’s go!”

Mennu and Trindon both rubbed their heads and followed their brother, but not before Trindon yelled several more death threats in the direction of the ridge.

“Why did you fall on your naked ass?” Mennu asked.

“Shut up!”

~

Book 2, “Nine”, is available now in all eBook formats at Smashwords 

and available in eBook and softcover at Amazon:

 

Book 1, “The Lightbearer”, is available as a FREE eBook at Smashwords.

 

Lumfree1

 

All material Copyright ©2017 Tanya Cliff

A Lesson from a Lumenstone

 

My characters wrote poetry several years before I gave it a serious try. Several pieces of their “works” survived the adaptation that is now The Legends of the Lumenstones. Poetry has become a part of my weekly writing expression and an important part of how I learn and grow. In celebration of the softcover going live for sale at Amazon, I thought I would share a couple of the surviving pieces, both taken from Chapter 7, “The Gat’s Gathering”. The first four lines form a riddle provided by Mattoby the Gat. The rest are lyrics from a song. They are a few of the colorful threads that help form a rich, storytelling tapestry.

~

Long the night at Dorghorn’s height,
There was a tiny glimmer.
Fortune’s right and great delight,
Held in the hand, did shimmer.*

~

Did you see my Adrianne?
On the far end of a dream,
Searching for me in the light,
My footsteps vanished in the stream.

Did you see my Adrianne?
Did you hear her cry my name?
All is darkness now and weary.
‘ round my waist there is a chain.

Did you see my Adrianne?
Always wondering where I went.
Lost to shadows, sold to darkness,
This the tomb where I was sent.

Here in the night
of darkest gloom,
We work the mines
of Dobbin’s tomb

Here in the night
of darkest gloom,
We work the mines
of Dobbin’s tomb.

If you see my Adrianne,
Tell her please and not to cry,
I have found the way to exit,
For I must work until I die.

Here in the night
of darkest gloom,
We work the mines
of Dobbin’s tomb.*

~

(*Taken from Chapter 7, “The Gat’s Gathering”, The Legend of the Lumenstones: The Lightbearer)

words and photo © 2017 Tanya Cliff

Posted in books & Legend of the Lumenstones. Bookmark the permalink.

on sale now

4 – The Captain of the Guards

“Shouldn’t the Captain of the Guards be out…guarding…something?”

Ajie moved to pass the tall figure blocking his way through the corridor, but Eijivar matched him step-for-step, waving his hand like he wanted to swat Ajie down the hallway and back to the grounds outside. Ajie stopped.

“Well? You are the Captain of the Guard…of Many Guards. Certainly, there is something out there you need to watch over?”

Eijivar ran a hand down his long, blond hair and brushed it over the silver-scrolled, emerald fabric of his fitted vest, as if to flick off the imaginary dirt that Ajie had dragged in from the forest. The two male Valdaren companions, similarly dressed to Eijivar, chuckled. Eijivar looked back at them furiously and nodded his head for them to leave. The look silenced them, and they both walked away. He turned back to Ajie and scowled.

Ajie, dressed in the plain greens and browns of the Guard, looked out of place in the Halls of the Great King. The bow and arrows strapped to his back and the sword and daggers sheathed on his belt spoke to his purpose. The dirt on his boots and sweat on his brow testified to the lands he had already patrolled that night. The shoulder-length, brown curls that adorned his head belied his Valdaren blood. He stared back at Eijivar.

“There is nothing in these halls or in this city for that matter, in need of your presence. If the guards are doing their jobs outside, then they have absolutely no need to drag their dirty feet down these pristine corridors.”

Ajie smiled.

Eijivar took a step toward him. Ajie responded by placing his hand on the handle of his sword.

“I have been summoned by the Great King. If you have a problem with that, take it up with him.”

Eijivar scowled.

“Summoned? For what purpose?”

“You are welcome to join me, provided you aren’t afraid of a little dirt, Eijivar.”

Ajie walked past Eijivar, bumping his side with his shoulder as he passed. Eijivar spun and caught up to Ajie, keeping pace alongside him.

“Summoned for what?” he asked as they walked.

“Take it up with the King.”

“I will take it up with you!”

He grabbed hold of Ajie’s arm. Ajie stopped and pulled his arm free. He grabbed his sword and pointed it to Eijivar’s chest before the man had a chance to react. Eijivar spread his hands wide and grinned.

“Ever the quick one.”

“It’s why I have been summoned,” he said with a grin, and he put his sword back in its sheath. “For that…and other reasons. Take it up with the King if you don’t like it.”

Eijivar kept pace with him as they continued walking. They turned down several corridors, and then Ajie stopped. Ahead was a closed door with a guard on either side. Unlike the Guard that patrolled the lands outside of the City of the Great King, these guard were dressed in fitted shirts and vests in dark blues and greens, in similar fashion to Eijivar, but without the fancy scrolling. They were armed with swords but nothing else. Ajie grabbed hold of Eijivar’s arm.

“What you discuss with the King is between the two of you, but this task is given to me. If you try to interfere, I will stop you,” Ajie responded.

“Then it involves her.”

“Of course.”

“You are going to accompany Lorien somewhere? This time of night?”

“Yes.”

Eijivar took hold of the front of Ajie’s vest.

“Where? Where are you taking her?”

Ajie pushed Eijivar’s hand away.

“I am not taking her anywhere. I am to accompany her. And I don’t know where. As I said, you can ask the King yourself.  I am warning you, do NOT interfere.”

Ajie walked up to the guard and bowed. They returned the bow and opened the door. Ajie entered the room, and Eijivar followed him. They both stopped, puzzled, as soon as they saw Lorien and the King. Neither of them remembered to bow. Lorien was dressed in the dark browns and greens of the guard. She had a bow and quiver full of arrows strapped over her back, and a thin sword and dagger sheathed in holders strapped to her waist. She wore old boots of the guard that rose just above her ankles. The King nodded to the two men and motioned them into the room. The door was closed behind them.

“What is going on?” Eijivar asked. “You are allowing her to leave…like…like…?”

He waved his hand in the direction of Lorien. She glared back at him, furious.

“Like what?” she asked.

“Like a common guard,” he answered, returning her glare. “What is going on?”

“Lorien has business outside of our lands. Ajie will be accompanying her. Would you have her leave the Northern Realm in flowing, silver-scrolled gown and slippers?”

He grinned at Lorien, and he winked at her. He was tall and strong. His long, white hair, the only testimony to his age, shined in the moonlight on the open terrace. Lorien found herself fighting the urge to hide in the protective fold of his arms.

“I would not have her LEAVE the safety of the Northern Realm at all. I would certainly not allow her to run wild in the night like a common guard. She is the daughter of the Great King!”

“Yes, I am aware,” responded the King. “I don’t recall summoning you, Eijivar, but please, have a seat.”

He extended his arm to the table in the center of the balcony. Eijivar did not move.

“Ajie, follow her,” the King stated firmly. “Do not leave her side. Once you pass through the gates and out of our lands, move swiftly. She knows the way. Keep your eyes sharply tuned. There are shadows moving beyond our lands…”

He stared at Ajie, who bowed in acknowledgement.

“Lorien…” he said more softly.

“I will be careful, Father. Besides, I’ve already been wounded once tonight. How much mischief can he cause?”

“Plenty, but it is not HE who concerns me,” the King said, hesitating for a moment and nodding toward the door.

Lorien needed no further encouragement. She turned and hastened out of the doorway and down the long corridor, Ajie following at her heels. Eijivar stood by silently and waited until they were out of earshot.

“Do you not think,” Eijivar stated, carefully measuring each word, “that it is beneath the status of the daughter of the Great King to run like a wild thing in the night? And with a member of the common guard, for that matter?”

“Ajie has extraordinary eyes. He will spot trouble long before it spots them, and there is no COMMON guard, as you put it, who is more skilled than he,” the King responded calmly.  “Lest you forget, by my hands he long ago was made Captain of many of the King’s Guards.”

The King sat at the table on the balcony and motioned for Eijivar to join him. He watched the pathway leading to the forest, hoping to catch a glimpse of Lorien. He spoke to his guest without turning his head.

“Neither the will of a Great King nor the lust of a Valdaren prince can alter the ground that she must travel.

“Lust?”

“Yes, lust.”

“Long have I…,” Eijivar protested.

“Long have you lusted. You have lusted both the beauty and position my daughter possesses. I caution you, Eijivar, they are hers. She is free to share them as she wills, or not.”

“I do not…”

“Sit, Eijivar.”

Two figures emerged from a ground patio and moved rapidly along the path toward the woods. The slender figure with long, dark hair walked in the lead. Ajie followed, matching her steps. They passed the tree line and disappeared into the woods.

“Sit, Eijivar.”

Eijivar walked to the table and sat across from the King. He looked out toward the path that the King was still watching, then turned back to the King. He leaned forward.

“You belittle my feelings for your daughter by reducing them to lust. Long have I cared deeply for her. How can you allow her to wander out of our lands like that? And with him?”

The King looked at Eijivar and sighed.

“It was her choice.”

Eijivar sat back in his seat and folded his arms across his chest.

“I see. You had nothing to say about it?”

The King laughed.

“I always have something to say about it. In this case, I agreed with her. Ajie has keen eyes and a quick draw. They must travel swiftly and keep out of sight. He was the correct man for the job.”

“I would have willingly traveled with her. I’m a stronger with the sword than Ajie, and I am…”

“You are what?”

“A true Valdaren of the Northern Realm…one of her kind.”

The King laughed again.

“Ajie is a distant cousin of a lesser family born far from these lands. No matter how many Guards you make him Captain of, nothing will change that,” Eijivar’s words bit through the cool night air with hot bitterness.

“Jealously does not suit you.”

“I am not…”

The King held up his hand and stopped Eijivar.

“Time alone will reveal your intentions toward Lorien. It will sift you by its own moving measure, as it does us all. Do not profess to me. Save your words for her, if she will hear them. I have answered. She is free to choose a suitor, or to choose no suiter. This night, she chose a protector, and she chose well.”

“I do not…”

“I know what you would say. Eijivar, you are a noble and trusted warrior, a fighter second to none, but you have much to learn. You have chosen to grace my presence this night, my old friend. As it happens, Lorien’s test has just begun. I believe it is the beginning of your test as well. We have business to discuss.”

~

Chapter 4, The Captain of the Guards, from The Legend of the Lumenstones: The Lightbearer

words and cover art © 2017 Tanya Cliff

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3 – The Task at Hand

“Ouch!” Lorien gasped and formed her hand into a fist. Drops of blood slipped out from her palm through her fingers. She held her hand close to her body and kept her back to her father, who was seated at a table in the center of the balcony.

“Lorien?”

“It’s nothing.”

The blood ran down her wrist. She grabbed the sleeve of her shirt with her left hand and pulled it over her wrist up to her fingers, grateful for the dark clothes of the Valdaren Guard she was uncharacteristically dressed in. Warm blood oozed from her hand down the arm of her shirt. The dark splotch on the sleeve grew, and she could feel thick blood pooling up to her elbow. Her hand throbbed. But where had the cut come from? Her eyes scanned the railing in front of her. She had been resting her hands on it only moments before, gazing out over the rushing waterfalls into the moonlit night that was to guide her journey. The marble was polished and smooth.

“There was a sharp piece of rock loose on the banister. I caught it with my palm. It’s just a scratch. It is nothing.”

Her father watched.  Lorien, keeping her back to him, glanced down at her fist. She pulled the sleeve back slightly. There was no blood. She opened her fist. There was nothing. Not even a scratch. She had felt the sharp pain. She had seen the blood. Even the stain of the shirt sleeve was gone.  She bit her lower lip, then forced a smile and turned to her father, holding her hand up for him to see.

“See, it’s nothing. I just caught it on something. That’s all.”

Still, he watched her.

“It was nothing,” she insisted.

He got up from his chair and walked to her. He took her hand in his own and studied it. He touched the spot where she had felt the cut and traced his finger down the middle of her palm.

“It was nothing.”

She tried to pull her hand away from him, but he held on, his finger still pressed to the spot she had felt the gash. He looked intently at her and grinned. He pushed her hand gently toward her chest and let go.

“I’ve never known a little scratch to cause you to gasp.”

“True, but this isn’t an ordinary night.”

“Hmmmm…I’ve never known you to be jumpy whether the night was ordinary or not.”

“I didn’t say I was jumpy.”

“You gasped and grabbed your hand.”

“I don’t know what it was, but there is nothing there now.”

“What was there?”

“Honestly, what does it matter?”

“Lorien, there is a task at hand that requires YOUR hand, but I will not allow you to leave the Northern Realm unless you are honest with me.”

Lorien forced a smile and held her palm up for him to see.

“Do you see anything?”

“No.”

“Then there is nothing to tell.”

“Lorien…”

She looked away to avoid the piercing gaze of his blue eyes, but she could feel his probing. She bit her bottom lip, and shifted from one foot to another.

“Fine…I felt a sharp piercing. I looked down, and it was bleeding…gushing blood. Then I looked down, and there was nothing.”

He grabbed her hand again and held it palm up between his hands. He closed his eyes. Lorien relaxed. The strength and warmth of his hands had always reassured her. She was content to stand by him. She didn’t want him to let go. Without releasing her hand, he opened his eyes and looked deeply in hers.

“A test,” he said quietly.

“Well, that is lovely and nonspecific, Father.”

He laughed.

“I believe you have been the unwitting victim of a little Gat mischief. It is nothing serious.”

“Yes, that is what I said…nothing.”

She laughed, though she tried not to.

“Honestly, I’m going to fix that Gat for good one of these days,” she protested. “He is always meddling…always!”

“He means you no harm, Lorien. Quite the opposite.”

“I know that, but…”

He raised his hand to stop her and nodded his head.

“Lorien, if I didn’t think you were ready, you would not be going anywhere. For all their magic and potions and knowledge, Gats are not Valdaren. They were neither Lightbearers nor Kings. To us were these tasks given, and we have always fulfilled them. The Gat sees a linear progression of life. He does not understand the swirling of the wind or the radiating of light. When the real test comes, what is inside of you will match it.”

They both stood for a time, side-by-side, staring out into the forest of the Northern Realm just beyond the pools and river that collected below the waterfalls of the City of the Great King. On any other night, the two of them would have talked quietly and laughed, remembering stories of times passed or playing word games in a language only the two of them understood. He would challenge her and try to stump her. She would challenge back. They would make sport of words and strategies, ideas and plans, constructs of a brilliant mind and its singular off shoot. This night, for the remaining moments they had, they waited silently.

~

Chapter 3, The Task at Hand, from The Legend of the Lumenstones: The Lightbearer

words and cover art © 2017 Tanya Cliff

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2 – A Test

The Gat climbed the ladder to the top shelf of books. He swiped the boney finger of his right hand along the dusty spines, sending a small cloud of white particles into the air. He puffed through his scraggly beard several times to clear the air in front of his nose. More dust followed. He sneezed and blew vigorously. Still, his finger continued moving down the titles:

 

One Hundred Potions, One Hundred Cures by Finnaous Dolspringer

Gorgenyweed, Uses and Dangers by Dorian Middlesnout

Ancient Herbal Spells for Today’s Gat by Meldringfor the Gat (a Gat who had been dead for more than 200 years)

Plant use in Gates and Portals by Melvin Parnoidian

Herbaceous Curses by Doddlesnick Twofinger (rumored to have lost the other three to a particularly potent mix of Nodlesleg Weed and Brovlinine Seed)

 

“No…no,” muttered Mattoby. “Where is it?”

He continued along the line of books, careful not to damage the tattered spines. His finger stopped, and he gently patted the title of the next book.

“There you are.”

He pulled the book off the shelf and hugged it to his chest as he walked down the ladder, mumbling under his breath. He carried it past piles of books that covered every part of the room, from the overstuffed shelves and mismatched tables and chairs to the floor. Mattoby’s library contained books of every shape and size, color and age, history and use arranged in a haphazard order understandable only to himself. He knew the general location of every title, including those stacked on the floor, books that he was now stepping over and walking around to get to the one empty table in the back of the room.

He placed the book on the table and read the title out loud, “Magical Cures, The Lingering Effects, by Vagmorgian the Gat…ah, Vagmorgian, my old friend…I do wonder whatever became of him.”

He opened the book, taking care not to rip the brittle pages, and ran his finger down the Table of Contents.

“Ah, there you are…Chapter 7: Tests of Completeness – The Theory of Magical Growth…dry topic.”

He coughed a few times and sneezed.

“Let’s see…let’s see…I know it is in here.”

He resumed muttering and mumbling to himself as he scanned Chapter 7.

“Aha!”

“Yes…yes…,” he read fragments aloud, “…magical powers displayed in young and developing beingslingering effects connected toespecially pronounced in curesprovided the benefiting specimen remains alivepowers reflect, in theory…”

He stopped. “Yes…yes…it’s all theoretical, isn’t it? Still, Vagmorgian…I wonder…I wonder…”

He continued reading, stopped at one point, retracing his finger under the words. He read them slowly, “The connection between a healed living organism and its magical healer is a strong bond, lasting the life of the healed organism. In theory…yes, there it is again…yes, yes…In theory, the recipient organism reflects the power of its healer, the reflection growing in intensity with the maturing magical power of the being that delivered the healing. The healed organism does not possess the magical powers, merely reflects them under the proper test conditions, in theory…yes, yes.”

Mattoby waved his hand as to chase the word “theory” off the page.

“You always were a cautious one Vagmorgian. In theory…”

He chuckled.

“I wonder…I wonder…We shall put it to a test.”

The Gat returned the book to its place on the shelf in the same manner he had retrieved it, sneezing a few times at the top of the ladder. He paused at the door to his hallway, held up his hand and snapped his fingers. The candles in the lanterns on the walls and hanging from the three chandeliers on the ceiling all dimmed to a soft glow. He entered the brightly lit hallway and turned to the right. The ceiling in this hallway was high enough for the tallest of men to walk comfortably, though the Gat, diminutive as he was, did not require it. He had rare, but occasional, company to the rooms down this corridor, and the hallway was set to properly accommodate them. He reached the room in the front of his house.

The corridors to the left and the right of this main hallway were never used by company. They were narrow and winding tunnels, with low ceilings. He could pass through them on his tiptoes if he desired, but tall men and Valdaren would have to duck and walk bent over at the waist to navigate the passages. It was no bother to him. These rooms were never intended for company.

He stepped into the hall to the left of the main passage. The lanterns scattered down the corridor lit up as he did but provided only dim light. Unlike the main section of the house with its wooden plank flooring and clapboard walls, the floor beneath his feet was dirt and the walls stone. Mattoby walked down the corridor, past three thick wooden doors, each locked with a different variety of bolts and barricades. He stopped at a fourth, mumbled quietly and ran his fingers over the face of the locks. One after another they unlocked.

He opened the door, walked into the dark room and shut the door behind him, repeating the process with his fingers. The muffled snapping of the locks on the backside of the door answered him. He snapped his fingers. The lights in the room, bright white lights, responded by flicking on together, revealing an enormous greenhouse that stretched for a hundred feet in front of him. The ceiling vaulted high above his head, and numerous birds took flight, startled by the sudden brightness. In the center of the room was a grove of rare trees that pushed to the top of the glass panels on the ceiling.

A few of the birds landed by his feet, and he tossed some crumbs from his pocket to them.

“Yes…yes,” he said quietly to the birds. “I’ve disturbed your sleep…It cannot be helped.”

He walked down the path to the right of the tree grove. Several vines twisted their tendrils and brushed against him as he passed.

“Hello, my friends. I will not trouble you for long.”

At the back of the room was a small greenhouse contained within the cavernous room. It was made of glass panels all around with no apparent entry. Vines wrapped around the outside of little room, blocking its insides from view. Mattoby snapped his fingers. The vines recoiled off the structure. A light in the center of the room illuminated revealing a table with a single plant on it, a plant with emerald leaves shaped like hearts and lovely white flowers as large as man’s hand. There was nothing else in the greenhouse.

“Still alive, I see…good thing…yes…yes.”

He mumbled a few words, and the front panels of glass folded themselves to the side, creating a doorway.

“Yes.”

He stepped inside the room and gently touched a leaf.

“The first gift of the last Lightbearer…a child’s wish for your flowers to ever bloom…and still you bloom…though hundreds of years have passed. She is a child no more, but is she ready? Is her magic strong enough? I wonder?”

Mattoby reached to the belt around his waist that was hidden by his long grey beard. He pulled out a thin dagger, a blade that looked more fit for a child’s play than a powerful Gat’s use. The handle was made of carved bone in the design of a twisted vine. It was an ancient bone, the former owner of, Mattoby would never confess. He pulled a clean tissue from his pocked and folded it precisely into a perfect square several layers of cotton thick. He placed the cloth directly underneath a leaf and held that leaf in his left hand just at the base where it connected to the stem. He held the dagger in his right hand and poised it above the leaf.

“Forgive me Lorien. This will sting a bit.”

He whispered a few words, then plunged the blade into the center of the leaf, resting its tip on the cloth. Blood flowed through the gash in the leaf and down the blade, saturating the folded tissue. It dripped off the table and onto the floor.

~

Chapter 2, A Test, from The Legend of the Lumenstones: The Lightbearer

words and cover art © 2017 Tanya Cliff

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1 – Lost

“We are lost.”

“We are NOT lost.”

“Have you ever been to this place before? Does any of this look familiar to you? Loni…Loni!”

Loni continued down the path without looking back. Dovni sighed, shrugged his shoulders, sat down and leaned against a tree. His body ached, and he was hungry. They had not eaten a proper meal since setting out on their journey four days before. Now, as far as Dovni could tell, they were lost. The small men from Hill Country were a rugged sort, provided frequent meals from their well-stocked kitchens and long naps in their comfortable beds. “Adventurer” was the polite term given to those folks who fled Hill Country to avoid being locked up in one of the local jails.

Dovni pulled a loaf of bread out of his bag and tried to bite into it. He frowned. The bread was stale. He hit it on a rock repeatedly until it broke apart. He picked up one piece at a time, brushing off dirt and a few insects as he ate. He watched Loni walk from one side of the path to the other, searching through the forest undergrowth. Loni pushed branches, ferns and weeds to the side, feeling the tree trunks with his hands. He moved methodically from one tree to the next. He searched one side of the path and then the other, repeating the process every few steps.

Dovni felt a crunch and squish of beetle juice in his mouth. He shuddered and gulped, washing it down with water from his flask. He shuddered again.

“We are lost!”

“We are NOT lost,” Loni responded, his words muffled by the leaves and stems surrounding him. “I found it!” Loni stood, holding what appeared to be a Luna Moth in his hands. “There! See!”

He walked back up the path and sat next to Dovni.

“Look,” Loni said, “I told you we were not lost. We’ve followed the Gat’s instructions to this point. And here is the next piece.”

Loni unfolded and gently rubbed the back of the wings. As the scales shed, parchment was revealed underneath. Drawn on the paper was a meandering line with a tiny “x” marked in the corner at the bottom and a larger “x” marked toward the top.

“Here is where we are now,” stated Loni, pointing to the bottom corner. “And there is where we will find the next piece of our map. So, no, we are not lost at all. We are exactly where we are supposed to be.”

“Where we are supposed to be? I am supposed to be home, sitting in front of a fire eating my dinner. Or maybe at “The Border Inn” enjoying a meal and some ale with you. Or at your Granny Nana’s house eating…oh, I can’t even think of it.”

Dovni picked a chunk of the bread off the ground, brushed it off and held it out to Loni. Loni took it and began gnawing on its edge, a grin on his face.

“No,” continued Dovni. “We are NOT where we are supposed to be.”

“Where is your sense of adventure?”

Loni spat out small crumbs as he spoke.

“Adventure?!? Adventures are for Valdaren or the large men who hunt in the Trividian Forest or sea-trading men. They are NOT for simple folk like us.”

“Drougerhead!”

Loni bumped his shoulder into Dovni as he spoke.

“I am NOT!”

Dovni leaped to his feet and put his hands on his hips, glaring. Loni grinned up at him as he chewed.

“Are to.”

“I am…I am NOT! We are days away from Hill Country, following a…well, what would you call it? It isn’t a map. The Gat could have at least given us a proper map!”

Loni folded the disguised paper in half for Dovni and then opened it back up.

“It is a map…or a fragment of a map. We are here.”

He pointed again to the small “x”.

“And we are going here.”

He traced his fingers along the jagged line to the “x” at the top. He folded it again, showing off its lime green wings, and held it for Dovni to see.

“It is a Gat map,” he stated proudly.

Dovni shook his head.

“And what do you know about the Gat?”

“Plenty. Do you ever read?”

Loni stood and brushed the dirt off his pants. He examined the inside of the moth map and looked down the trail ahead of them. He folded the map, opened the side pouch of his bag and placed it behind several dozen other maps in the shapes of various moths and butterflies. He closed the flap, secured it and patted it a few times with his hand.

“I read…plenty,” Dovni protested.

“Well, then, you would know that Gats are secretive. They take great measures to hide their houses. It is written that a single Gat home contains more histories, potions, records of dark creatures and mysterious things than all the libraries in the great cities of men combined.”

“You mean there are more of them? I have only ever heard of Mattoby.”

“I think there used to be…a long time ago. Mattoby is the only Gat I know of, but the old books told of more.”

“Mattoby is old…ancient.”

“Yes, so he must have a treasury of things worth hiding. He has given us a map, or fragments of a map, to get us to his gate. We are exactly where we are supposed to be…one more day to go…seven more maps to find. We are NOT lost. You are a Drougerhead, but you are a nice one who shares your moldy bread.”

He grinned at Dovni, bumped him with his elbow, chuckled and started walking down the path.

“I am not a Drougerhead!”

Loni continued walking.

“What does he want with us anyway?”

Loni didn’t look back. He concentrated on the path ahead, matching his steps to the jigs and jags of the picture of Gat’s map in his head.

“Don’t know.”

“Loni!”

Loni picked up his pace along the dirt trail. Night would be falling in a few hours, and they would have to stop lest they miss one of Mattoby’s clues in the dark. He wanted to reach the next map piece, if possible, before dark and find a safe place to hide for the night off the trail. That should get them to the Gat’s gate before nightfall tomorrow. He wanted to leave extra time, just in case they did get lost, although he said nothing about that to Dovni.

“Loni!”

Dovni sighed, shook his head, scowled and jogged to catch up to his friend.

~

Chapter 1, Lost, from The Legend of the Lumenstones: The Lightbearer

words and cover art © 2017 Tanya Cliff

free eBook at Smashwords

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~

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