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Morgan Fitzsimons

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Featured Book
Fantasies Are Murder
by TJ Perkins

Book 1 in the Kim & Kelly Mystery Series. Kim & Kelly get themselves in hot water when they witness a real murder at a Murder Mystery Resort and become the next victims!..  
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Featured Book
Shadows from a Time Long Past
by Brian Hill

A Fantasy novel set in the distant past. At a time when magical objects still exist and differences are settled with the sword...  
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Category: 

Fantasy

Publisher:  Fitztown ISBN-10:  1448665663 Type: 
Pages: 

336

Copyright:  aug 7, 2009 ISBN-13:  9781448665662
Fiction

Decathla is threatened by a fast spreading evil from the depths of Erishkigal. Arawn rules his dark domain, spawning twisted creatures from the Deep to fight for his cause. A single light shines in the dark. Lilith the Light Bearer is the last defence against the power of Arawn, the Lord of Belgatan.

Faye, a headstrong Knight of Savarin, fights to unite the realms of Decathla. She is determined to see her sister’s plans for peace become reality. Her life is thrown into chaos the day she meets the Lord of the Glades and her journey to save her world begins.

Tiernan is a warrior and a leader of a strong, proud people. Gladesmen fight for their own and their women take care of their holdings. When Faye of Savarin comes to Belvale to ask for an alliance between their people, he is faced with a decision that will change his life and the fate of Decathla.

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Lord of The Glades


fantasy novel


Excerpt

Prologue
The Oath

Everywhere was dark, the only movement the gentle sway of tree branches in the soft night breeze. The young boy was unafraid, moving stealthily through the trees. Surrounded by the quiet hush of night, he searched for the warrior. He had followed him from the castle fortress and out into the Glades. They had come some distance and the warrior was on horseback. The boy had run through the trees, tracking the horse. He was well used to travelling this way. Most Gladesmen were brought up to move at fast speeds through the Glades on foot. He had been intrigued, wondering where the warrior could be going at this time of night and to tell the truth, he wanted a little adventure. He was a fair distance behind the warrior but eventually he caught sight of the horse, standing with down bent head and the reins loose. Puzzled, he slowed down to see a dark shadowy figure, lying still on the ground. He panicked then and ran with his heart in his mouth. The warrior lay with blood dripping from a dagger protruding from beneath his shoulder blade. A scabbard still lay across his back with the great sword half drawn. Hastily, the boy bent over him and the man struggled to turn over.

“Unbuckle the sword belt boy,” he gasped.

The youth struggled to obey, laying the scabbard down. The Warrior was bleeding badly from a second wound in his side. The blade that made it was completely buried in the flesh with just the handle visible.

“We haven’t much time boy, so listen,” the warrior said, wincing at the pain his words brought. He went on to tell the boy who had wielded the daggers that were killing him.

“Bring the sword boy,”

The youth grasped the sword and pulled it with ease from the scabbard. He gazed at it in wonder as he took it to the dying man.

“How is it I can draw it? I never could before.”

“Because it’s yours now,” whispered the dying warrior. “Read the words written on it.”

The boy obeyed “I am the sword hammered and wrought for the Lord of the Glades.”

“Now you must claim your birthright boy,” he said, his breath labored. “I must leave you to tread a hard path without me. You are Lord of the Glades now. Swear you will deal justice to Carthak.” He went on to whisper some more words into the boy’s ear as he bent over him. “Swear on the Sword to keep these words in your heart. Swear to obey my last command, swear to keep this promise.”

“I will do as you command father,” the boy said horsely. “I swear on the Rune sword.”

Tears were running over his cheeks as he watched his father die. Even as he rose to go for help, he heard the sound of at least two approaching. Carthak came into view and beside him, one of the devil’s spawn from the Deep below Belgatan, the Mountain of Darkness. They were startled to see the youth but the sword Carthak coveted was there in the boys grip.

“Carthak,” the boy said contemptuously. “You are the one who killed him.”

“Nonsense boy! Give me the sword and I will take it to Lady Belitha.”

“Why didn’t you take it when you killed him?” the boy spat, his eyes narrowing. “It wouldn’t let you would it? You weren’t able to pick it up.”

The boy smiled at Carthak and it was a most unholy smile for a youth of his tender years. He lifted the sword and Carthak gasped at the ease with which he did it.

“Did you seek to take it and so remove the power from the men of the Glades? Did you really believe you could take the Deathsinger from the warrior line it was made for?”

He stood still watching them both. “You are deluded Carthak. The only thing to negate the sword’s power would be if the Lord of the Glades broke an oath made upon it and I intend to keep all mine.”

The other creature had inched its way to the other side of the boy, and now they both moved slowly toward him. The boy raised the sword and began quietly to speak all of the runes that were inscribed on the blade. The runes were written when the sword was made, at a time when the world was beginning. The Enchantment of them was linked for all time with the Lord of the Glades. Each Lord learned from the cradle to recite the runes against such a day as this. As the boy uttered them, he whirled on his feet. Both sword and boy became one with the chant as the utterance became a crescendo of sound and the boy’s movements were guided by the sword. Carthak and the dark one with him turned to run too late. The sword slashed through one, then two in one movement of the boy’s arm. Carthak lay dead in the same place as the warrior he had murdered. The boy stopped to look down at them.

“I told you I would keep the oaths I made Carthak.” He put his head back and looked up at the stars above him. “I kept the first oath my father. Carthak no longer breathes the air of the Glades as you decreed.”

He bent over his father’s body for the last time and kissed his brow. “I will bring my mother now, and we’ll take you home.”

A boy had gone out that day to follow a warrior, a boy seeking an adventure, and a man returned to mourn his father before taking up the mantle of the Lord of the Glades.

Chapter 1
The Glades




The Gladesman sat astride his great warhorse, pausing for a moment to give the animal a brief respite from the hard, fast pace. It was a magnificent creature. The rider was a warrior, garbed in leather and chain mail, his chest protected by a decorated breastplate. His mighty arms were bare, save for twisted bracelets of precious metal and the wide gold decorated leather bands at his wrists. They were arms well used to wielding the double-edged sword strapped across his back. Horse and rider were for that brief moment motionless on the skyline, staring down at the woodland below, before plunging down into the trees. The warrior had seen the dark clouds gathering and knew the shadows of twilight would soon be about him. If he rode hard, he might reach the safety of Belvale before total darkness fell. Riding alone was foolish, but right now he had no other choice and he was almost there. He had been separated from his companions, all of them warrior Gladesmen like himself. He raced on through the trees, crouching low in the saddle, man and beast as one. As he rode, he heard sounds up ahead that were all too familiar, the sound of sword meeting sword and the hoarse cries of his bestial enemy, the Dagon Soul Takers. He slowed down to move cautiously forward, toward the open glade ahead. The horse seemed to know exactly what was expected of him, treading quietly and carefully, enabling his master to see what was happening. It was something they had done many times before. The enemy was there all right. They were yelling ferociously in their own tongue, unmistakably Dagon. Their huge bodies were encased in dark leather and dark shining armor. Fearsome helmets added to their nightmare appearance as they surrounded their prey.
The prey in question was surprisingly not fellow Gladesmen as the warrior expected. His quick glance took in several bodies on the ground, surrounded by many of the enemy dead. Two warriors still held off their attackers. Even as the Gladesman came, another went down leaving one lone defender, obviously intent on selling his life dearly. The Gladesman recognized the weapons and insignia of the Knights of Savarin as he charged into the clearing. The dark wine red tunic over the armor was quite distinctive. The Dagon warriors barely had time to turn and meet the terrifying and unexpected challenge. The great warhorse pounded forward with the warrior Gladesman chanting the defiant battle cry of his people. It was a familiar cry to the Dagon, who had learned to fear it. He hurtled among them, swinging the great broadsword that flashed and slashed as he came, leaving a trail of blood and smashed bodies behind him. He had taken them completely by surprise, cleaving his way through four of them, leaving three still to face him. With a blood curdling yell he leapt down among them. The well-trained horse headed for the trees and the Gladesman laughed joyously, swinging the great sword high and wide. One after another, the monstrous creatures went down. Unfortunately, the lone knight left was caught a stunning blow from a heavy shield and fell as the Gladesman reached him. He leapt astride the fallen knight, both protecting him and taking on the last two Dagon, thrusting and evading, finally striking the one in front. With a swift deft stroke backward the Gladesman drove his sword into the last of them. Victorious, the warrior leaned back against a tree, catching his breath. His roving eyes alighted upon the dead and his gaze was sorrowful as he encountered the four dead Savarin knights. They had accounted for twenty two of the enemy before they fell. His admiration for these knights increased tenfold. He ignored the seven dead by his own hand. Out of the corner of his eye, he noticed that the last Savarin knight to fall was still moving. Beside him in an instant, the Gladesman carefully raised him. He was of slender build as were most Savarin knights. His breastplate was of strong leather, over which he wore a tunic. His mail and accoutrements were much lighter than those of the Gladesman and the helmet covering his face was equally delicate. The sword, still gripped in the gloved hand, was beautifully forged. Of many-layered metal, it was as strong, in its own way, as the mighty weapon carried by the warrior of the Glades. He wondered briefly why these Savarin knights were so far from home. This one was definitely breathing and there was no blood as far as he could see. It seemed the force of the blow from the shield had felled the knight. There was no obvious damage to his armor or clothing to suggest a flesh wound. He noted the knight had been in the centre of the group which could mean that they were protecting him for some reason. He lifted him, frowning. The Knight of Savarin was even lighter then he had expected, a youth perhaps. He looked about him marking where he was before moving forward. Carefully, he disappeared into the undergrowth with his burden, the large war horse following. He moved through the tangle of leaves and briars unerringly, finding the path he sought until he came to a large bank of huge trees that seemingly went no where. He went through an archway of branches, formed from an old tree, entwined with tentacles of twisted, thorn covered undergrowth. It led into what seemed to be a dark tunnel, at the end of which, was a tiny flickering light. The Gladesman moved cautiously through the dim shadows, almost feeling his way. The horse still followed. The tunnel widened into a larger area and the horse came to a halt, ambling to a water trough beside the wall. The Gladesman ducked his tall frame to reach the source of the light. Laying down his burden, he fumbled in the dimness until he found what he sought, a small cone of metal filled with some mossy substance. He held it to the small light and instantly the tiny flame flickered into a larger one. Holding the flame high, the torch sent dark shadows dancing around the earthy walls. He searched for the usual small bowls in nooks and crannies. Touching each one, he allowed the room to fill with light. A vaulted chamber was revealed and a doorway leading to several other chambers. He immediately went back to the horse, leading him into one of these chambers. He quickly rubbed him down and removed the saddle before returning to the knight. The horse was precious, both as a friend and a vital means of speedy travel to out run the enemy.
He returned to the young knight, bending over him. Surprisingly gentle for so strong and large a warrior; he made the knight comfortable on a mossy bed. He loosened the sword belt and removed it. Carefully he drew off the helmet, sitting back in astonishment as a riot of fiery red gold hair tumbled down, covering the breastplate. He pushed the hair back revealing a face, delicately beautiful, with dark lashes, shadowing pale cream skin that was dusted with red brown freckles. Gently now, he removed the tunic and the breastplate. The knight’s eyelids began to flutter and curve upward, revealing hazy grey green eyes, not quite able to focus. The Gladesman had removed his own sword belt and laid it beside him, but the girl clearly thought she was still fighting the enemy. She tried to rise, prepared to bite and scratch if need be, only to subside, gasping as pain caught her.
“Where is this place? Who are you? Where are my companions?”
The Gladesman shook his head. “Dead lady!” he said bluntly as was his way.
Her eyes closed for a second as she digested that. The pain of their loss flooded her whole being. She wanted to cry and scream her hurt but she didn’t allow her feelings to surface.
“I remember. You came just before that creature from hell thumped me with his shield.”
The Gladesman nodded, still stunned by the revelation of this female in warrior’s garb.
“You are a Gladesman?” she whispered.
“I am my Lady and you are in an old Elphin warren,” he said, answering the one question left.
“Why did you bring me in here?” the female knight asked.
“It is safe. The Dagon have never been able to find these Elphin Warrens. I couldn’t care for you out there. It is much too dark now to travel on to Belvale Fortress. I presume that’s where you were going. We must stay here now until first light.”
“That seems sensible,” was the quiet reply.
He bent over her then, checking her face and the bruise on her temple. She stared at her rescuer who completely ignored her, intent on the extent of her injury. He was a tall man, well over six feet with the broad shoulders of a warrior. His powerful muscles gleamed in the half-light, yet his waist was slender in comparison to his thighs and the breadth of shoulder. A mighty man indeed, he had moved with large easy strides, which had not changed when he carried her. His dark hair was long and thick, waving down over his shoulders and falling over his breastplate as he bent his head. The skin was tanned to a color somewhere between copper and bronze and his eyes, when he raised them to her, were bright blue, cold as glittering stones in the strong face. The bold jaw gave an instant clue as to his temperament and measure, a formidable warrior as she had briefly seen. His hands gently checked her bones, and her cry when it came was sharp as he found the worst source of pain.
“Something may well be broken but there is no blood from the mouth so all may be well. That blow from the shield may just have bruised you badly. It could be worse tomorrow if that is so.”
He brought a blanket from his saddle. “I will keep you as warm as I can but I can’t build up a fire. It does get very cold and you are in shock. I can’t be sure the ventilation is working without a daylight check. The warren hasn’t been used for some time, though some Elphin keeps the light burning.”
He sat beside her. Sweeping the blanket over her he proceeded to draw her protesting figure close to him under the enveloping warmth of the fabric.
“Don’t argue, my Lady. It’s going to be freezing in here shortly, so just try to relax like a good little girl.”
It was said in such dismissing tone that despite her pain she was driven to anger. She answered him as frostily as the air now surrounding them.
“I’m not a child Gladesman. I am a Knight Commander of the High Order of the Light-bearers of Savarin. I can tolerate a little pain and for your information I do not like company when I sleep.”
“Well I do like a little comfort and company,” was his quick reply, “but a Knight Commander isn’t my style.” His mouth twitched a little. “And as you can see there is no one here but me and no one living commands me my lady so you will have to wait until you find someone of your own to command again!”
He saw the pain in her eyes and realised he had reminded her of the loss of her companions. He was instantly contrite and with a swift gesture of comfort he held her against his chest while she regained her composure. The knight was too weary to protest further.
“Tell me why you are so far into the Glades? Were you planning to add us to your conquests?”
“We were going to Belvale,” she said.
“Any particular reason?” he was curious
“I can’t see that it’s anything to do with you, but yes, there was a reason.”
“I am interested and talking will pass the time,” he answered mildly.
“I am taking a message from my sister Lilith to the Lord of the Glades.”
“Your sister,” he was surprised now. Whatever he had expected it wasn’t that. “You mean the Light-Bearer Lilith?”
“You are surprised we are sisters.” Faye nodded. “We are not alike. She is a healer and I am a knight. We differ greatly in temperament and appearance.”
“I have heard of you,” he said, a tinge of mockery in his tone. “Champion knight of Lilith, fighting her battles. What does she want with Belvale if you are not come to fight us all?”
She ignored the taunt. “To win this Lord of the Glades to our cause. She sends me to persuade him to fight with us against Arawn the Dark Lord of Belgatan.”
“So you want Gladesmen to fight your battles for you brave knight?” His tone was derisive.
She struggled free of him, her pain ignored as she glared into that mocking face.
“With us!” she corrected, “we would have you fight with us.”
“Then I hope you are prepared to stay awhile if you have hopes of persuading the Lord of the Glades of a need to fight with you,” the warrior commented. “It could take some time.”
“Gladesmen are cowards then? They will not fight?”
“My lady you have already had an example of my cowardice at least.” He spoke gently.
She was ashamed then of her outburst. The knights of Savarin were renouned for their fairness and integrity. This Gladesman provoked her to anger far too easily. She had to admit that but for his intervention, she would have suffered the fate of her companions.
“Forgive me,” she said formally. “I owe you my life and I am grateful for what you did today.”
Smiling, he dismissed her words and drew her back against his shoulder. She resigned herself to the necessity of contact. She felt so cold.
“Graciously said my Lady but quite unnecessary.”
“What is he like, this Lord of the Glades?” she asked curiously. “I have been told your Lord is difficult to please, that he is a law to himself and will not heed others.”
“Not a bad summing up of him I suppose,” he said, smiling above her head. “What else have you been told?”
“That when he isn’t fighting, he’s drinking and bedding women. I have to admit, I would have little patience with such a man, and little understanding either.” Her tone left little doubt as to her opinion of both the Lord of the Glades, and the females in question.
Faye looked up at him, annoyed by his towering frame and the closeness of the man. She felt somehow threatened, which was a feeling she rarely had. The extraordinary power he demonstrated in every movement disturbed her. She had met no man like him before.
“Is he like you, this Glades Lord?”
“Some might say so,” he replied, his brow furrowed.
Her heart sank. This one was disturbing enough.
“Then I definitely will not like him if he is as arrogant and self assured as you seem to be,” she said decisively.
He seemed to be more amused than offended.
“If you dislike the thought of him so much, how then will you go about persuading him to join you? I suppose if he likes women you may be able to persuade him, but then again, can a warrior knight have what it takes to appeal to such a man? The fiery hair is unsual but the rest of you may not be to his taste.”
“If that’s what it takes to get his attention then I really am wasting my time.”
“I did warn you. Besides, you already seem to dislike the man.”
“I don’t have to like him to persuade him to anything!”
“Now who is being arrogant? Tell me how you propose to go about this mammoth task little warrior.”
“I can explain the many advantages of uniting our people and our two armies against Arawn. I will stress the need to protect those who cannot protect themselves, appeal to his better side. Surely he would see some value in that?”
He laughed. “A better side he hasn’t got Lady Faye, any more than I have.”
“You mean he wouldn’t care about those unable to defend themselves?” Her tone was scornful. “He would feel no responsibility, he would not protect them?”
“You clearly have not met a Gladesman before my lady.” He spoke impatiently. “A Gladesman will defend his own, even to death, and the Lord of the Glades is no exception. He will fight for the most insignificant creature in the Glades if need be.”
“Then where is the problem?” she was puzzled.
“I have said it. He will fight for his own but he will not fight for anyone else Lady Faye, why should he?”
“But you fought for me. Why did you?”
“You are here in the Glades, and I was in the mood for a fight. I would not stand by and watch the Soul Takers take a brave man if it cost me nothing to stop it. If the odds had been too great, I would not have bothered. I’d have left you to die and don’t mistake that.”
Faye smiled into the shadows, amused at his arrogance regarding the outcome of the encounter. Somehow she felt that this man would fight any number of his enemy, despite the odds. He claimed not to care and despite her initial uneasiness, she knew that here and now she had nothing to fear from him. Her instincts told her that she could sleep safely in this warrior’s presence. It was a shame that he was so antagonistic. She could perhaps have even liked him in other circumstances.
“What were you doing out there alone?” She asked sleepily, not really expecting an answer.
“I was separated from my companions,” he answered quietly.
As she had been, she thought, remembering the dead knights who had fought so hard to keep her alive. The memory brought her sorrow again.
“Arawn wants everything doesn’t he? He will not rest until he has control over all the realms. Can you not see we must join together to fight him?”
“Must we? I am a Gladesman. Why should I care for realms I may never see?”
“Whether you care or not matters little. Coming together will make us stronger and the more Realms we unite, the less chance Arawn has of succeeding,” she replied.
“Wherever he gains a foothold, he isn’t going to gain it here, which is all that concerns me. Arawn may practise his demonic sorcery and mutter his incantations anywhere but here, which is all that concerns any Gladesman. He can send out his monstrous army in the night, but we have their measure and are holding our own.”
Faye moved and felt pain wash over her. She felt as if every rib was shattered. It was annoying that she should have to meet one of these warriors when she was in such a weak position. Lilith needed her to make a good impression. Arriving alone and hurt, and clearly dependant on one of them, however temporary, was not a good beginning. It seemed that she was going to find the task very hard indeed. He adjusted his position and the light fell across his face. It was a handsome face and he was like no other male of her acquaintance. There were both male and female knights in the order. Their status was equal, and rightly so. All had the humility and dedication required of a Savarin knight, though to be truthful, humility didn’t come easily to her. She had to work at it. The rules of their order required them to have compassion for those weaker than themselves, to show courage in the face of the enemy, to be truthful always among friends and enemies, and always to be courteous in their dealings with others. It was going to be very hard to be courteous and humility would be impossible, if all Gladesman were like this one. Still, all Gladesmen need not concern her. It was only their Lord she need be concerned with, though it seemed more and more that it was an impossible task that Lilith had set her. Right now she was warm and comfortable and needed to rest. She would face it all tomorrow. Her eyes gradually closed and at last she slept. The Gladesman looked down at the sleeping knight and felt a stirring of compassion and admiration too. She had shown courage and skill fighting the monstrous beasts and he always admired courage. He had been unfair in his comments, he knew that. She was a fascinating creature, this warrior maid, and no man could fail to be intrigued. She had spoken of their common enemy, Arawn. The name was enough to send a frission of fear through heart of even the most steadfast of warriors. His creatures were a dim shadow of the malevolence that Arawn projected. He had not always been a monster. Arawn had been a Light-bearer of Savarin just as Lilith was. Ancient and powerful, the Light-bearers had existed long before the Realms had come to be. Arawn’s path had changed with one simple choice. The decision to go to Belgatan Fortress, to learn from Atron, had been the first step towards a darker future. The old man had been seduced by the darker side of his nature. Atron became fascinated by mysteries that were forbidden and Arawn’s doubts were dismissed by the desire to embrace the teachings of his new mentor. Arawn transgressed against the code of Savarin. He became arrogant, succumbing more and more to the darker side of his soul, just as Atron had before him. Banished from Savarin, he returned to Belgatan to find Atron ready for death. He passed on his knowledge and abilities to Arawn. The taint they carried marked Arawn with the evil that had overtaken Atron. Any trace of the man Arawn had once been drowned in festering hate. Arawn’s evil infected everything he touched. The people of Savarin felt responsible. He had been one of them. Arawn was imprisoned in his fortress with Light-bearers to guard him until he once again came under the rule of Light. One by one, he brought all Light Bearers to rebellion and darkness, failing only with Lilith and old Torfinn. All those who turned away from the light were no longer able to heal. They were known as the Beliar, masters of the dark mystic arts, servants of their dark master Arawn.
The fortress of Belgatan was an ancient one but beneath it within the mountain, was the place known as Ereshkigal, where there was nothing but dark vast caverns, within which a multitude of evil creatures dwelled. The beasts of Ereshkigal were the things nightmares were made of and they all served Arawn. At the heart of Ereshkigal was the place known as the Deep, a bottomless pit in which the Belili dwelled, the most feared of all the monsters of the night. Arawn found affinity with the things that dwelled in the darkness. He learned to control them and to use them to his own advantage. Instead of serving the people of Decathla as the Light Bearers had, the Beliar of Belgatan, were totally devoted to self and their master Arawn. He had fashioned his own beasts, the Dagon or the Soul Takers as some called them. Some were almost human; others were grotesque monstrous beings who preyed on enemies of Arawn. They reveled in the darkness of night, when Arawn’s powers were strongest. The Dagon had once been men and women, taken from all the realms of Decathla, but all trace of humanity was erased by service to the Beliar Lord of Belgatan. Both Gladesmen and Savarin Knights fought him, each in their own way. The fate of any captured alive was torture, death or worse still, conversion to a Dagon. They took possession of the souls of their broken captives using the mysticism of the Beliar, creating new soldiers for Arawn. They had been held at arms length, rarely seen in the Glades but Arawn’s power grew and now Lilith saw the need for an alliance.

When Faye awoke she was alone. She sat up swiftly, catching her breath as her battered ribs protested. Slowly she rose, wondering where her rescuer was. His tall frame filled the doorway, and she was unprepared for the relief she felt at sight of him. He picked up his leather sleeveless tunic and put it on without bothering to fasten it.
“We must prepare to leave.”
He was gathering her arms and leather protection as he spoke and as she watched she realised she could not put them on herself.
“Will you help me please?” she asked politely.
“So the female knight isn’t too proud to ask the help of a mere male?”
“Don’t be ridiculous. I am a Knight of Savarin, not a fool. I cannot do this myself and I must try to keep up appearances for Lilith’s sake when I arrive to meet this Lord of yours.”
Without a word he helped her don her trappings and breastplate. Her dark red tunic was bloodstained but it didn’t show too much and she insisted on wearing it. She bit her lip so that she wouldn’t cry out and disgrace herself.
“Do you never think of the future if Arawn should win?” She could not resist asking.
“Think of tomorrow?” he shook his head as he led out his horse.
She walked out behind him wincing as the movement hurt.
He went on speaking “We live for today. Amid all this strife, why dwell on tomorrow? There may not be one for me. Tomorrow could be the day I make a mistake, the day I die, the day I am caught out and overcome. Why waste time thinking about what might be when I need to live today?” His tone was matter of fact.
He left her then and did not return until he was properly clad in all his warrior trappings. The thought of the next day being this man’s last, disturbed her. He was so vibrantly alive. She pushed away the thought.
“You will have to share my horse. Yours has long gone.”
He mounted and reached down to swing her up behind him. She gasped in agony as he did so. They rode in silence past the dead Dagon. The bodies of the knights were gone, and she knew then what he had been doing while she slept.
“I buried them together where they would not be found. It didn’t seem right to leave them with that carrion.”
“My thanks to you Gladesman,”
“I’d do the same for any brave warrior.”
“Even a female one like me?” she asked impulsively but he did not answer.
He did not because he could not. Her words left him feeling suddenly bereft. The thought of finding this fiery creature dead one day seemed insupportable. Why should that be? He had not known her before today. She was like no woman he knew, yet the possibility of her being struck down brought inexplicable dismay. He shook his head. A lack of food was obviously playing tricks on his senses.
The ride was proving most uncomfortable for Faye, and she was relieved when they at last sighted Belvale. Tall pale towers rose high above the trees and she sighed at its beauty. It seemed so incongruous that she could go so quickly from a scene of death and dead comrades torn, their life blood staining the grass, to appreciating the serene beauty of this fortress in the sunlight of a new day that they would no longer see. Suddenly, the combination of pain and loss left her feeling so alone and somehow vulnerable, that the Gladesman now assumed the only familiarity in this unfamiliar world.
Impulsively she spoke, “I would have you for a friend Gladesman, for this is a strange place, and I am without friends now.”
“You will have no need of my friendship little warrior. You will have no difficulty fascinating everyone here. They will love your beauty and your courage.”
“I’ll fascinate people?’ she asked, staring up at him, unsure whether or not to take that as a good thing.
“I warn you though; they will not see you as a warrior knight. Women in the Glades are cherished as the centre of the home. They aren’t warriors, though come to think of it,” he reflected, “some women have that aggressive passion needed to make a good warrior. The thing they would find difficult is probably obedience and discipline.”
She did not answer that. It was an unfair comment and false where most of her female comrades were concerned. Yet it was the very thing she struggled with herself.
“They will see only a beautiful young female,” he went on, “different, but enchanting never the less. They will applaud your courage and some will wish they were as brave, but they will think you foolhardy for not taking advantage of being a woman, to be cared for and protected.”
“Even your Lord of the Glades could be fascinated?” she asked mischievously, not taking him seriously. “I thought you said I had nothing to offer him.”
“Oh particularly him, little warrior! I confess I wasn’t exactly truthful. He will love the red hair,” he answered carelessly. And there was no time to say more as they approached the imposing entrance to the castle fortress of Belvale.




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