Well, I got the first part of Bound to the Flame that I’m going to post written. And to you long-term readers of my blog who absolutely loved The Hero’s Dream and were following Battlefield of the Soul, no, I have not given up on the Shifting Tides series. It’s just that I’ve encountered technical difficulties, Jango Fett, and a headache. Sorry!!! (I was in a fantasy mood, all right? And while the THD incarnation of His Royal Highness [Kenobi, I mean] is nothing short of wiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiicked awesome, I still wanted fantasy. Besides, Rowan started life as the same character, half-crippled and transplanted to the Scottish highlands… Please forgive me? @_@)
Also, I have some concept artwork for Bound to the Flame done, and there is more to come. But you have to read the chapter first. ;-P
Bound to the Flame
Adyn giggled as he hid from his guardian. “Adyn! Adyn, where are you?” Rowan’s frustrated voice rang out, quickly accompanied by unsteady-sounding, one-sided footsteps. Adyn stuffed one hand into his mouth to stop another fit of giggles as Rowan’s irritated tirade continued, aimed at a non-existent audience. “Special, my foot! Royal pain in the backside, more like it.” Suddenly, he switched from sotto voce to a startlingly resounding stentorian shout. “Adyn, get out here this instant, or else!” Adyn giggled again, and folded himself even deeper into his hiding spot, if that were even possible. Suddenly, a long, slender, sinewy, elegant hand darted in through the opening between the two slats and dragged Adyn bodily out. Adyn was too startled to kick and scream for the first few seconds. “Gotcha, you little scalawag!” a voice grated close by his ear.
“No fair!” Adyn screeched, half-incapacitated by giggles, struggling futilely in his captor’s iron grip. However, the young man was far stronger than the five-year-old; all the child’s struggles were in vain.
“Yes, fair,” Rowan Jaentyr Caerlen, Prince of Ertraia, growled in a dangerously velvety tone. “You can fit into spaces I can’t; you can move faster than me. Therefore, I am permitted to practice deception, simply in the interest of evening up the playing field.” The five-year-old stuck his tongue out at his caretaker.
“Can I use de—dewhatsit on you?” he asked impudently. Rowan kept a firm hold on the miscreant.
“Yes, provided you ever gain the subtlety to do so,” he said, smiling to himself. “Whether I am actually deceived is another matter entirely.”
“Will you pretend to be deceived, even if I don’t man-gage to do it?” Adyn asked, giving Rowan the benefit of a melting glance from his enormous blue eyes. However, Rowan had been dealing with Adyn since he was three, and as such was proof against such innocent looks.
“Hmmm…” Rowan said, pretending to mull over the proposal. “No.” He grinned at Adyn’s disappointed look. He had his charge firmly by the shoulder now; there would be no escape for the young rascal. “Come. It’s time we worked on honing your skills—and your control—my recalcitrant young friend.”
Late that afternoon, Rowan was making his way along the Hall of Images with the aid of a staff. He slowly walked along one wall, fingers brushing lightly against its surface, pausing beside the various images of his ancestors. The frames of the pictures and robes of the statues proclaimed their life stories—red for a warrior, green for a scholar, deepest blue for a healer: the robes spoke in silence. Gold for a ruler, silver for a spouse, opalescent white for a prince or princess, jet black for an heir who had died young; so the robes were trimmed, and the paintings framed.
The hall was arranged as two long wings located on either side of a rotunda; as Rowan reached the rotunda, he paused on the far side of the rotunda, the place that marked the exact center of the gallery. Rising from the center of the floor before him was a tall, shapely, slender silver-white pillar; toward the top, it branched out into a flowering tree, with silver leaves and gold flowers; hanging from the lower branches were many small, gilded lanterns, each with a candle set therein. Rowan flicked his fingers quickly outward, kindling the air currents to momentary fire around the candles’ wicks, instantly igniting them. Quietly, he turned to face the wall beyond. From floor to ceiling of the rotunda, wrapping around every inch of the walls, was emblazoned a single, enormous mural, made up of thousands of smaller scenes. Much of the kingdom’s history was here depicted, but only one section caught Rowan’s eye. For an enormous expanse, there were rows upon rows of the scenes portraying battles, peace, great deeds of arms, noble works, great causes, extraordinary works of skillful healing; the latter predominated; layered and interwoven, but Rowan was not interested in any of these small panels. All around the room, these scenes from Ertraia’s history were drawn out as fresh as the days they had occurred, but not at the back of the rotunda. Here, spanning a huge stretch from floor to ceiling, pillar to pillar, there was one gigantic painting of a single action. A huge iridescent veil, shimmering with all the colors of the rainbow, rent with a single monstrous, dark tear. In the darkness beyond waited some vile, atrocious creature of evil, its unseen body blacker than pitch, blacker than the deepest night, with two hard eyes of blazing flame. Holding the fell beast back, there stood in the riven gap in the veil a small figure, robed in white, tiny, yet wielding a great and terrible yet beautiful power, pure as ice, hard as conviction, radiant with a luminance that, though it did not pierce the blackness beyond, seemed to be by some mystical hope drawing the torn veil back together, mending the rift.
Softly, Rowan exhaled, then swept a hand through the air in a wide arc. A sickly-colored dust suddenly became visible, covering the painting with a pallid shroud. As if exhausted, Rowan slumped forward, but he caught himself again with one long, slim hand laid directly over the white-robed figure. He straightened up again; his hand slid down over the mural, leaving a bright trail. Rowan sighed.
“The dark is gathering again, then,” a soft, kindly baritone intoned from behind him. The boy wiped a tear off the curved-T scar on his cheek. He turned slightly to face Halbryn Jaentyr and sighed.
“I guess so, Father,” he murmured. Halbryn cupped his son’s face in one large, strong, calloused hand and turned the boy’s face up to look at him.
“Speaking to the Guardian again, Rowan?” he asked gently. Rowan half-smiled, though his large, tawny dark eyes—his mother’s eyes—betrayed his inner worry.
“Well, not exactly. I guess he—she—whatever—well, it’s almost like… he’s in here, too.” Rowan tapped his forehead lightly. The big man smiled.
“In a way, I suppose he is,” Halbryn said quietly. “It’s almost time you knew…” The king broke off before he had finished his thought. “Well, you’re growing up quickly, son.” he amended. Rowan looked down at his bad leg. Halbryn followed his son’s gaze downward and sighed. He put his hand on the boy’s shoulder. “We did it to protect you, you know,” he said softly.
“I know,” Rowan replied.
“All life is not in feats of arms, son,” Halbryn said. “You are already the best healer in all the known lands. And your mother and I are very proud of you, even if you can’t be a warrior.” Rowan smiled ruefully and limped quietly away. Halbryn stayed for a while longer, staring at the still-faintly glowing, ugly dust, and the one clean, bright shimmering smear, and suddenly he wondered if it was a sign.
Did you enjoy the post? I hope so. 😉 Thanks for reading, and God Bless!