Posts Tagged ‘serialized’

© 2010, Patrick Hester.  All Rights Reserved

Chapter Twenty-Five

Eli was lost.

The keep had fifteen levels once you got inside and each one felt to him like a labyrinth of twists and turns designed to make it impossible to know where you were or where you’d been.  Signs were posted in most places but the light was poor and most of those signs were dull and faded making it that much harder to find his way around.  The tapestries on the walls only made it worse; they all seemed to depict mighty battles but one looked like the next after a while, just as the red and black carpets seemed to have the same patterns from one to the next, causing them to blend together in his mind.  Jaycn hadn’t been any help, disappearing almost the moment they stepped into the keep and his own friends were struggling as much as he was.

He paused, staring at a tapestry that had an odd battle depicted.  Men in blue uniforms were fighting men in gray uniforms-neither of which looked anything like the uniforms he’d ever seen.  The entire thing was badly faded, the colors muted with time, but they seemed to be fighting in close quarters, with sabers and knives fixed to the ends of their rifles, which he’d never heard of before.  He tried to make out the flags of the enemy armies but he didn’t recognize the red, blue and white of the one, nor the orange, blue and white of the other. (more…)

© 2010, Patrick Hester.  All Rights Reserved

Chapter Twenty-Four

The road itself was wider than he thought it would be, easily capable of having six or seven horses ride side by side without bumping or jostling each other.  Eli kept his horse as near the middle as he could, keenly aware of the sheer drop awaiting him over the edge.  Luckily, Jaycn kept talking, and concentrating on his voice made it easier to ignore the fact that they were climbing higher and higher with every step forward.

“We won’t see much trouble today,” Jaycn said.  “I’ve only heard of seeds making it this far over the Wall, never seen it with my own eyes.”

“All right,” he said, trying not to notice how high they were already; the pier below was beginning to fade behind a haze.

“It’s always rough when you’re new.  You’ll get caught up really quick.  Just do what I say when I say it, don’t mouth off to anyone.  Everyone needs everyone here.  Don’t make enemies.”

“I hadn’t planned on it,” Eli said.  Jaycn grunted.


© 2010, Patrick Hester.  All Rights Reserved

Chapter Twenty-Three

“You look nervous. Are you nervous? I’m nervous,” Narut asked.    Eli tried to smile at Narut, but he couldn’t quite manage it.  He did feel as nervous as his friend, more so thanks to a night filled with strange dreams and little rest.  His head throbbed just thinking about that.

To take his mind off it, he started rechecking his horse and gear.  It seemed a fine animal, better than he thought he would get; a bay dun that frisked while he checked the straps for the fourth time since saddling her, almost as if to say to him, ‘Leave it, already’.  Honestly, he was simply looking for something to do with his hands.  Forget the Wall for a moment, he was nervous about riding, as he’d never done a lot of it before, and most of that as a child.  During training, he’d gotten a refresher course, and then it was only enough to keep him from falling out of the saddle.  It seemed a silly thing to worry about now, yet he did.

He had his saddlebags in place, stuffed with extra clothes to layer on as they made their ascent.  For now, the sun was warm enough that he had only his uniform jacket on with his shirt unbuttoned.  His sheepskin gloves were tucked just under the saddle near the pommel where he could grab them quickly if he needed them and his bedroll and water skins were behind the saddle, tied to his duffel.


© 2010, Patrick Hester.  All Rights Reserved

Chapter Twenty-Two

Eli dreamed.

He stood before an ancient looking stone temple, overgrown with creeping vines and shrubs.  The air smelled fresh and clean like he’d never known it and the sun was warm though not uncomfortable.

He tried to move forward but found that his feet were not listening.  Trying to look down, he realized that his head would no longer move.  His eyes were locked on the temple before him.

“Go away,” growled a deep voice behind him.  That voice chilled the air, dimmed the sun.  Even the vines fixed upon the stone of the temple seemed to quake and pull back and away from it. There was pain and passion in that voice, anger and rage.  Eli began to sweat and it wasn’t due to the sun’s heat above him. (more…)

© 2010, Patrick Hester.  All Rights Reserved

Chapter Twenty-One

Eli stood in the chill night air staring up at the Wall.  Sleep would not come this night, but he wasn’t alone.  He’d stopped counting the other men from his squad who’d been tossing and turning in the barracks before he stepped outside.  It seemed that everyone had the same thing on their mind.

The Wall.

It loomed.  How something black as night could still be seen was beyond him.  The whole thing was beyond him.  A Wall that tall, wrapping around an entire island… It was just too incredible to believe.

“They grow it,” said a voice that made him jump.  Turning, he saw the outline of an older man standing in the shadows of the barracks across from his own.  The man moved into the weak light cast by the lanterns hanging on the pole at the crossroads between buildings.  He was older than Elias, by at least ten years.  His hair was dark but there were flecks of gray in his mustache.  Elias moved to meet him at the pole.

“Jaycn,” said the man, offering his hand.  Elias took it, not surprised at all at the firm grip of this obvious veteran.


© 2010, Patrick Hester.  All Rights Reserved

Chapter Twenty

Elias’ first view of Evermist was indeed through a misty fog that had rolled in while they crossed the channel.  Like the dream, the temperature had dropped, the wind had died and the only sound was that of the oars in the water.  Unlike the dream, there had been no attacks by giant trees; only a sailor high up in what Narut told him was the eagles nest, shouting something every few minutes until someone out in the fog started shouting back.  Then a light appeared in the distance that would wink in the fog.  Each time the light appeared, the ship shifted her course slightly towards it.

As the mists parted, he saw an impossibly tall wall of black stone that stretched as far as he could see left and right and high into the sky.  Far above, on the edge of the clouds, he could just make out a keep carved within the rock of the Wall.

Eli stared up, finding it difficult to swallow.

The Seaspray slid in next to an ancient stone pier that stretched far out into the water.  Several buildings were clustered here, but Eli found his eyes creeping back to that impossible wall.  However it had been made, there did not seem to be enough stone in all the world to have built it, and that bothered him more than he could say.  He squinted, trying to see the seams of the stones or some sort of discoloration that would indicate stones from a different quarry the way bricks sometimes looked.  There was none that he could see.


© 2010, Patrick Hester.  All Rights Reserved

Chapter Nineteen

Elias stood on the bow of The Seaspray, staring out into the fog side by side with several other Militia.  If he weren’t nervous enough about Evermist, this fog only served to make it worse.  And the quiet!  There was no wind, no breeze, only the sound of the occasional cough from those around him or the oars splashing in the water pushing them towards the island.  Or was it pulling?  He’d need to ask Narut about that.  The crew had taken to the oars as soon as they entered the fog and the winds had died.  Looking up at the riggings he didn’t see the slightest hint of a breeze touching the ropes or the sails, but he could make out the frost on the masts.

Rubbing his hands together for warmth, he marveled at how quickly the temperature had dropped – had it always been this way, did the island itself somehow make it colder?  Corrac’amor had been cold, but this was worse, cutting through him as if he wore nothing at all and from the looks of the others huddled around him, cutting through them as well.  His breath misted in the air and he wondered if he didn’t have a little frost on his cheeks to match the masts above.  He looked around for his friends, but they were nowhere to be seen.


© 2010, Patrick Hester.  All Rights Reserved

Chapter Eighteen

“Dear Millie…”

Eli stared at the small piece of parchment.  He’d bought several sheets just in case.  Narut was right, Adia had agreed to carry the letter herself and without hesitation when they asked.  She even offered to carry others as her duties brought her back to Evermist.  But he still had to write them and that was where the difficulty began.

He didn’t know what to write.  Telling Millie that someone had just tried to kill him seemed strange.  How do you start that off?  What do you say?

“I miss you,” he wrote instead.  Simple enough and he meant it.

He thought about Millie for a moment, about her fair hair, the way it framed her face and fell across her shoulders, about her smile and how it melted him because she rarely smiled for anyone the way she did for him.  For just a moment, he could still feel the warmth of her body next to his, bringing a smile to his face.  Then there was her scent, that mixture of fresh herbs and sea air that quickened his pulse.  One of his shirts still had a hint of that scent on it.

He’d refused to launder it.


© 2010, Patrick Hester.  All Rights Reserved

Chapter Seventeen

In the Tower of Valles, where the walls are covered in cream and gold and the floors are of the finest marble inlaid with silver patterns that swirl and intertwine in intricate designs that delight the eye and mystify the mind, the Magistrate stands before a crystal sphere suspended within a gilded frame.  Beside him, the diminutive man with the horse-shoe of silver-white hair adjusts his spectacles before returning his gaze to the image inside the misty interior of the sphere; a ship can be seen tying off at a black pier that he recognized at once.  That was the pier at Corrac’amor, northernmost point of the island and the last refuge for any on their way to Deisarch Dain, the Southern Keep of Evermist.  The smaller man nodded thoughtfully.

With a dismissive noise, the Magistrate touched the frame with a finger, careful of his lacquered fingernails and the image faded back to a mist that roiled within the sphere.

“Much needed reinforcements, my Lord?” ventured the small man as he pushed his spectacles back up his nose with one finger.

“This last attack was the worst in my memory, Valenz.  He very nearly succeeded this time,” the Magistrate said with a sigh.  He moved away from the sphere, stroking his dark beard as his gaze wandered out the windows and towards the sea.

“I don’t understand Him, Valenz,” he said quietly.  “But then, I never have.”


© 2010, Patrick Hester.  All Rights Reserved

Chapter Sixteen

Eli lay in his bunk, a bandage wound tightly around his head.  Everything was a jumble in his mind.  Narut sat on the edge of the bed with a cup of something foul smelling that the medic had ordered Eli to drink twice a day for the next week.

“Putting it off longer isn’t going to make it taste any better,” Narut laughed.  “In fact, I think it gets stronger the longer it sits.  Like peppers.”

Eli groaned, then took the cup and drained it without a second thought.  He used to watch his little sister pin his little brother in the garden, then make him eat dirt.  He imagined even that tasted better than this.

“What will happen to them?” he wheezed.  It was burning on the way down.  He shuddered.

“Probably execution.  Or just send them to Evermist and let the island take care of them, I don’t know,” Narut sighed.  “If that happens, we will have to watch for them.”  He stood up and stretched.  “You recognized him?” he asked.

Eli nodded, remembering, then saw stars and doubled over.  “I did,” he squeaked when he could catch a breath again.  Headaches, they told him?  He’d never had a headache so bad his stomach turned queasy.  How hard had they hit him?