Snippet #1 from Chapter 1 Dimming Jewel
Kealin waited in the main hall. The survivors that had suddenly arrived spoke of something that brought the greatest drear he had felt in some time. Eh-Rin, the very city he deemed safe, the place where his and Alri’s baby brother was guarded, faced annihilation.
He had helped to get the host inside. They said very little and the original man he had met, the one from Eh-Rin, had actually taken a blade to his side in their escape but he was not the only one injured. Once Hunda had a salve in place on the man’s ribcage, the man was led to the great hall and poured a large glass of wine. The man slurped the beverage as many of the others took seats around him.
They were all eager to hear more of what had happened.
Kealin’s anger grew the more he thought of his infant brother. He would not let him die. He would not have the same fate as Calak and Taslun.
“They were all dead,” the old man said.
Surk and Lizk leaned in as he spoke. Brethor looked up from across the room as he tied a bandage on one of the other men. He then walked over to the table near the fireplace and poured a cup of tea.
“How close did you get to the River Valley?” Surk asked.
“I stood on the beach just before the ruins of the lighthouse. The stench of death was beyond explainable. I saw no green tree, no unburnt bit of grass or flowers. The ground and the mountains were blackened. The city of Vueric was nothing but smoldering ruins, but I, Dabar of Eh-Rin, had to see it for myself. I could not believe when word came to our gates that our armies had fallen and that our good sultan and his flying machine were lost.
“I had helped him when he began his journey to the secret place in the mountains. He had told me to protect the city if they failed. I laughed at him, saying what could stand against the might of Eh-Rin? He nodded to me but nothing else.”
Brethor brought Dabar a cup of tea to go with his wine, and the man, aged with gray hair and a less-than-fluid motion to his actions, took a sip.
“This is good tea.”
“If you would like to rest, that is fine,” Alri said, now joining them. “The others are lying down. I understand you came under attack before you even made it to the mountains.”
“We did. Our group was double what we have now. We took a secret passage out of the city and came up on the other side of a Grand Protectorate camp. They pursued us, and several of our men stood their ground while we fled.
“I remember that morning well. I had been meditating after being woken from the shaking of the earth and flashes to the east in the middle of the night. I knew the battle was happening and that there was nothing I could do. With dawn came silence, by evening we spotted a lone ship returning to port. There were only a few men of Vueric and an elf—that was it. The Drean’s sails appeared behind them. We got the men and the elf into the city, and our port defenses spun to life. We took at least twenty of the Drean vessels and tore them to pieces, but they began onslaughts of explosive attacks. We raised the city shields to protect our people. It was a few days later but when the first waves of legionnaires made their way down Amhe’s road and began to form, I knew the truth. All of our loved ones were dead.
“The strangest happening was the arrival of the Sanguine monks. We had not heard a single whisper from them after Amhe departed but then they appeared in the palace and spoke of you.” He pointed to Kealin. “They said to seek the half-elf. They told us that you were our only hope. I did not think any more of it. We gathered our supplies, the best of our men, and the ones who wished to follow us from the battle only a few hours before. Once we took the secret passage and evaded our captors, we went into the mountains. We told those that knew our way out of the city to seal the passageway. If we were caught, we did not want to risk any easy way into Eh-Rin.
“We knew none lived north of the valley. We had to believe that any survivors went south. This place was the first forest we found that seemed of liking to an elf.”
Kealin grinned. “I do not know why the Sanguine sought me. I am just one man.”
“There is power in your bloodline, a younger one, a baby—they have him. The Sanguine. They say he is the most potent of Dwemhar blood they have ever seen.”
Alri looked to Kealin and then back to Dabar. “He is safe, for now?”
“As long as the shield above the city is up.”
“A literal shield of metals or magic?” Lizk asked.
“It is an energy-based device. We have spinning crystals beneath the city powered by the magic of the moon, recharging every night when the lunar light shines down upon the city itself. But we have great fear. The Drean have a sorcerer called Aganim, a practitioner of blood magic. We are afraid he seeks the power of the Itsu gods to pull the light from the moon. Without moonlight, Eh-Rin will fall.”
“This name,” Frinda said, “Aganim, I have heard it but I thought he was dead. The man would have to be a few hundred years old.”
“He is very much alive and resides in one of the massive Drean cities in the far west. The city is called Ridda. It is the place of snakes, a shrine to their snake deity, where ritual sacrifices take place before the great cobras. It is a place devoid of the powers of life. Only death is there.”
Alri sat back in her chair. “We will need an army and the full power of magic behind us if we are to save Eh-Rin. My Mortua Beacon needs adjustments and additional infusions of dark magic, but we will move on to Fadabrin and then determine our next path.”
“I have delivered my message to the half-elf, and I assume from your similarities, you are his sister.”
Alri smiled. “Yes, Dabar.”
“Family is the most fortunate gift. You should do all you can to guard one another.”
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