The Return of Tachlanad


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Once upon a time in the beleaguered land of Lothria… A princess under a magical aura, her absent-minded sorcerer grandfather; a conflicted warrior prince; a young ne’er-do-well who finds an unlikely friend while on an impossible quest; an imprisoned queen, her betrayed king, their enchanted son and his beautiful enchantress; half-human man-eating rebel slaves; a band of blood-thirsty assassins…and Tachlanad, the legendary Sword of Names, missing for generations. When the queen receives an omen, it can mean only one thing: the fate of all she loves hangs in the balance. The land and its people will topple into chaos if a tenuous alliance cannot be preserved. Her husband misled by sinister forces, her son gone missing, she sends her daughter and father on a journey far to the west to reach the impregnable stronghold of “the True King in Hiding.” There they will seal the truce with her marriage to the old king’s unwilling son and unite against the evil power that seeks to subjugate them. Unless the Imperon has his way. An epic fantasy adventure for young adult and adult readers, The Return of Tachlanad is the first book in the “Sword of Names” series.



Publié par
Date de parution 19 octobre 2015
Nombre de visites sur la page 5
EAN13 9781771455183
Langue English

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1The Return of Tachlanad Sword of Names - Book One by Kathy Fischer-Brown Uigital ISBNs EPub 978-1-77145-518-3 Mobi 978-1-77145-517-6 PUF 978-1-77145-516-9
Copyright 2015 by Kathy Fischer-Brown Cover art by Michelle Lee
All rights reserved. Without limiting the rights un der copyright reserved above, no part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in or in troduced into a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form, or by any means (electron ic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise) without the prior written permission of both the copyright owner and the publisher of this book. ForHarrison
Chapter One Lysienthe With a shiver of dread, the Queen of Lothria clench ed her hands on top of the tower wall and turned her gaze to the east. Far in the di stance—beyond steep, rocky cliffs, beyond the basin of a harbor below—sky and sea reta ined a dark oneness. The stillness in the air enveloped her like the cool mi st clinging to her skin. Then slowly, an orange orb crowned the horizon. A swath of luminous red crystals danced on the water in its wake, and dawn spread like flaming tendrils across the receding darkness. Her breath caught in her throat as night surrendered it s hold. The fine hairs on her arms prickled. Rivers will burn. “We have been undone.” Her voice rasped on a whispe r. “All is as I saw in my dream.” The old man at her side laid a warm hand on her sho ulder. His silence told her he had seen the omen as well, and yet he remained soun dless, watching. She looked up at the black outline of her father’s face in the brightening morning. “You must take my daughter now and do as we discuss ed.” “Lysienthe…!” The disbelief in his sighed reply sen t a wave of panic coiling into her very center. “The king…?” His voice hoarse with urg ency, he tightened his grip on her. “Did you not warn the king?” Hot tears surprised her with the harshness of their sting and suddenness. Where cold fear had restrained her as if in shackles, a p ang, deep and long, now rippled. “I could say nothing to convince him.” She turned away lest he see the weakness overcoming her in a debilitating wave. She shivered in her shift, hugging herself against the chill. The memory of her husband’s breath on her neck yet clung on her senses, its warmth rustling the loosened hair from the braid th at fell over her shoulder. His words, with their sincerity and single-minded resolve, res onated still on her aching heart. His smile, forever seared in her mind’s eye, moved her with its tinge of sadness mixed with resolve. The sweet taste of his kiss lingered on he r lips. “Wolthar says he has no reason to fear deception.” She labored for calm and closed her eyes, fighting back images in her mind. “He sai d his course is set. He said no price is too high for our chance at a lasting peace.” “Oh, my dear child….” The old man gently turned her around and opened his arms to her, the trace of his expression reflecting the anguish in his voice. Pressing her cheek to his chest, Lysienthe succumbed to her fath er’s embrace. For a long, silent moment, he held her close, warming her with his dar k cloak and his hands on her back. “Many years have come and gone,” he said in a quiet voice, “since you placed such faith in your gifts.” He took a step back, holding her at arms’ length, his large hands strong on her arms. “Why now?”
Fighting the panic that seized her, she shuddered. “It was fear for my children. Fear made thedenanthstrong in me…my gift…my curse….” The light of the red sky cast his face in shadows. His jaw tensed, then relaxed, and his eyes shone black as fenstones. “It has always b een strong in you, my daughter. True and wondrous gifts you have been blessed with and not a curse at all.” Lysienthe breathed deeply of morning’s raw chill an d, with its release, all fear and panic melted away, leaving her with a clarity of th ought she had never known. She had foreseen all that had come to pass, and that which had yet to occur. But she had no power to prevent the events from unfolding; she had not been blessed with that particular gift. “Then I beg you to trust me.” She raised her head a nd squared her shoulders. “Soon it will be light. Take Elthwen to my sister, by any means you see fit. I will distract her maid.” To Morolath…?”Her father backed away. “The girl will go kicking and screaming if she goes at all. I told you, if the plan was to see her to the fortress at Elyndrus, I would take her there.” “The Imperon will expect that. I fear he and his la ckeys will stop at nothing to prevent our alliance with Elyndrus.” She grasped hi s hand in her two. “See her safely to Morolath Island. That is all I ask. Protect my daug hter…” “You needn’t worry on that count. I would die before I let anything happen—” “…by any means you see fit.He stared back, eyes glinting shards of light. “Of course you do not mean—” By any means.” He drew in a slow breath and expelled it in a short burst. “I have taken an oath to the king, as have you.” “Oaths, it seems, can be broken. Youmust awaken your crystal. As your queen…. No….” She hesitated, reluctant but compelled to con tinue. “As aghathwen…I…I command you.” “If you put it like that, I have no choice but to….” Her father fell silent, head bowed in contemplation. “The use of such power has been outl awed. Surely, you—” She tugged on his hand. “I know what is at stake! Y ou know it as well. As soon as Elthwen is safe at Morolath, you will go to Elyndru s and plead our cause to the old king. He will listen to you. You are Nochlan, Eryth Rhant hir, a man of great gifts.” She added softly, “At least you were…once.” “That was long ago,” he said with a slow shake of h is head. “Now I am known as Old Nochlan, the queen’s doddering father. I hardly remember how to….” He sighed and then spoke with resignation in his voice. “And what of you?” He found her eyes with his shadowed gaze. “No harm will befall me.” “But your place—” “My place is here. My son needs—” “Elthric is lost.” He flapped a hand in the air to punctuate his words. “His uncle has twisted him. You said so yourself.”
She paused and said in a measured voice, “Then I me an to untwist him.” Nochlan, Eryth Rhanthir, raised his head and opened his mouth, as if he would protest. Instead he simply nodded with a forced sen se of duty. “As you wish.” He set his jaw. “My duty is to abide by the old laws.” He made a move to turn, but she could not bring her self to release his hand. “No, Father…I beg you, not as your queen, not as a pries tess of Morolath, but as your daughter….” She ached to tell him of her fear. For herself and her husband, for her children. For everyone. The anguish deep inside cri ed out to him, of the hopelessness and the darkness to come, all she had foreseen. She held her breath at the hope of comfort in the words she longed to hear. But the mo ment of weakness dissipated before she could give voice to her thoughts. His hand slipped from hers. For an instant, he ling ered as if sensing the unspoken turmoil churning inside her, waiting for her to spe ak, and then he hurried off, leaving her utterly alone and shivering. From high in her tower, Lysienthe gazed out over th e brightening harbor where the rising fog revealed shrouded forms of longships moo red along the quays. Dark forms scurried to and fro among them. “My dearest husband , my love, my lord,” she said softly, “may Nirmanath, Mother of All Things, watch over you.” * * * Lysienthe could not bring herself to protest such a n inappropriate display of merriment. For days prior to the king’s departure, tensions ran high in both the household and garrison. The unexpected arrival the previous day of an envoy from the Imperon of Nortlunde and his entourage added to the stress with their demands, their coarseness, and their arrogance. Yet none of her attendants—not even her captain of the guard—had reason to question a feast in honor of the truce to come that would mark an end to the rebellion in the north, even if, in her mind, all seemed more th an a little premature. A bit of levity, her own women agreed, was long overdue; she could n ot argue that point. Yet she sensed a more sinister undertone. Othreld, her husb and’s brother, showed none of the self-control, which now in retrospect screamed of h is deception. The longships had barely cleared the stone jetties at the mouth of the harbor when he announced his plan for a celebration. The last o f the vessels had yet to disappear over the horizon, its square sail emblazoned with t he blood-red dragon of Wolthar their king. A hundred oars dipped in unison into a dead c alm sea, the polished bronze of her crew’s shields and ornaments gleaming in the windle ss morning, until they vanished into the place where sky meets sea. But to Othreld, they were long gone. To what fate, even her gifts could not tell her. Evening dragged on before night settled at last ove r the great hall. By flickering light of the torches along the walls and braziers’ red gl owing coals, the revelry continued unabated. Sitting at her customary place at Wolthar’s table, the queen fingered the stem of her silver goblet and watched the blur of light shimmer in its contents. Voices
hummed in conversation and in raucous song, punctua ted by peals of laughter. By the sounds and sights in the great hall that night, all was as it seemed—nothing more than a celebration in a time of little cheer for the hop e to come. More than once she caught Othreld’s furtive glance. More than once she observ ed him in conversation with this man or with that, and even as he appeared at ease, his eyes smoldered with dark thoughts. Guilt perhaps? Second guesses? How longfore he reveals hisbefore he assumes his brother’s throne? How long be treachery? Despite her sharpened senses and renewed vigilance, not a hint of insidiousness intruded on the festivities. No messenger had burst through the door, short of breath and ashen-faced, his clothes stained with sweat and blood, to announce…what?A mutinous riot at sea. The king is dead. If she concentrated with all her mind, she could almost see the scene unfolding.Almost.quite with the clearness of vision she Not craved. Almost, as if from afar. Fire on water. The queen clenched her eyes shut and, resting her h ead against the ornately carved high back of her chair, allowed the strains of nearby harp music to wash over her nerves. The tune, an old Lothrian ballad from d ays long forgotten, sweet in its melody and idyllic of word, swelled above the surro unding confusion. At the very least, Elthwen is safe. But what of Elthric? She could not discount Othreld’s influence over her son. During the ten years abroad under his uncle’s fostering and tutelage, El thric naturally developed affection for the man he had come to regard as more than an uncle . Othreld had witnessed her son’s growth into manhood in Nortlunde, the land of his f ather’s father’s people, teaching him the ways of their lords and warriors. Nothing in her heart would allow her to believe tha t Elthric had knowingly involved himself in a plot against his father’s life and thr one. It was no secret that the Imperon had grown displeased with a host of events that con tinued to rattle his empire, not the least of which concerned Wolthar’s hereditary rule in Lothria. Such displeasure surely had some influence on Othreld and Othreld on her so n, but not to the extent that Elthric would…. Othreld owed his kinsman, the Imperon, more than ju st his lands and fealty. Perhaps his life, as well, hung in the balance. For the Imperon had never displayed any reluctance when doing away with even his most trust ed retainers, which he did on a regular basis, with unthinkable cruelty and enjoyme nt. Earlier in the evening she had observed her son dan cing. The youngest of her women, all clamoring for his attention, took their turns with him, never quite as graceful or as agile as he, never quite as exuberant. She ma rveled at Elthric’s confidence, his casual assurance, the joy in his eyes. How like his father he had grown in face and form, with his father’s full, soft mouth and his mo ther’s golden hair and eyes. No longer the fragile, sickly child who had shared her womb w ith his sister, he had long since
surpassed Elthwen in height and strength. She shudd ered when, more than once, he sought out Othreld with his gaze, as if for approva l. “I hope my mother is not bored.” The voice startled her from her thoughts. “Elthric! ” She could not help smiling at the sight of him standing at her side, an easy smile on his handsome, beardless face. “Come. Sit by me.” She patted the seat of her husba nd’s chair. Elthric pulled out the king’s high-backed chair and dropped into it with a carelessness that, had she not been so absorbed in premonitions of disaster, would have caused her to laugh out loud. “I saw you sitting here alone with no one to amuse you.” His flushed face glistened under a sheen of perspiration, the sweet, heady sce nt of sithleberry wine on his breath. “I thought you might be—” “Not bored.” Coercing a smile, she lifted her goble t and swirled its contents. “Only a little tired.” “It has been a day of excitement…for everyone.” Rather than speak her mind, she sipped her wine. “You look pensive,” he said in a playful tone, his leg draped over the arm of the chair, his words softly slurred. “Shall I tell you what you are thinking?” She shuddered at the prospect. “What would be gaine d by that?” Elthric shrugged and said with a lopsided smile, “If you are thinking boring thoughts, my efforts will be wasted.” He leaned close. “By mydenanth I sense sadness in your heart.” She forced a laugh that felt as hollow as it sounde d. “You were not given your gifts to use so lightly.” He leaned closer still. “’Tis plain to see, Lady Mo ther, and not a misuse of my… gifts. I thought only to make you smile, and I’ve s ucceeded.” He sat back in the chair, hands folded in his lap. She lowered her gaze into her cup. “’Tis no secret that I did not approve of your father’s mission.” The chair grated on the flagstone floor as Elthric dragged it closer. “You fear for him, and I tell you there is no cause.” Lysienthe met her son’s steady gaze. “When he retur ns safely, I will have no cause to fear for his welfare.” “Mother, I was there. I came back…and quite safely, too, I might add.” Confusion darkened his face. Surely he sensed her disquiet in the same way he kn ew she had not been completely forthcoming. Both shared some of the sam e gifts, among them the ability to seek and read the thoughts of others. In deference to her husband, she had suppressed herdenanthover twenty years, and Elthric’s long tenure i  for n Nortlunde, where such gifts were regarded with suspicion and misunderstoo d, had eroded his skills. An anxious pang squeezed her heart as he narrowed h is eyes and tilted his head to the side, as if to take issue with her evasion. “Ho w can I assure you that all will be
well?” He laid a hand over hers on the table and ga ve it a gentle squeeze. “My uncle went through great pains to arrange this truce at the Imperon’s bidding.” She shuddered. “Only a few short weeks ago a band o f armed Skaddock rebels attacked two outposts along the northern border, ki lling and plundering.They were armed and aggressive, Elthric!Their aggression against us was unprovoked.” “Now they will join with us in peace.” By the earne stness in his voice and innocence of his smile, he believed what he said. “Yes…of course. We will be at peace with those mons ters. And the Imperon will have his precious ore again to continue his wars an d conquests in the East.” His aspect lightened. “They were fierce, Mother, th ose armed Skaddock. But, after centuries of enslavement, who can blame them? I wil l admit that we all feared for our lives on more than one occasion, but they are not a s savage as you would think. Clenmoc, their war lord, received us with kindness and honored us with gifts.” He lightly fingered the intricate silver pendant dangling from the black ribbon around her neck. “Their metal work is extraordinary, is it not? I wa s surprised to discover that, despite our differences, they are very much like us.” “They are only part human, Elthric. Never forget th at.” “Why do you think they agreed to meet with my fathe r?” His face grew more animated, his eyes large and shining, their golden hue deepening in the flickering light of wall sconces. “To allay our doubts! Clenmoc hims elf said it makes no sense to commit all their resources to warring when it is su ch a hardship for them to simply subsist in that inhospitable region. They canlearnus. Mother, I was there. I tell from you there is no reason to fear.” She took his face in her hands and planted a kiss o n his forehead. “Then I shall sleep well tonight, my son.” She pushed herself out of her seat and stretched her arms. “I had not realized how late it is…and how tired I am.” She cast a glance at the table where her retinue, young and old, sat with a few of the male household, some chatting, some yawning. Inid, her personal attendant, nodded and began rousing the others. Elthric rose quickly, grasping her hands. “You prom ised I would see my sister this night. Why has she not come? Not feeling ill, is sh e?” He glanced over his shoulder in Othreld’s direction. His uncle had been watching th em at intervals from across the hall while appearing to listen to a group of Nortlunde o fficials arguing among themselves with a great deal of animation. In that instant, Ly sienthe met his gaze. Othreld’s face quivered into an uneasy smile as he rubbed his rudd y, neatly trimmed beard. “My uncle is vexed,” Elthric whispered with a laugh behind his hand. “He fears Elthwen and old Gamba have run off into the forest on one of their childish adventures.” He bent his head close to her ear, “I tried to tell him. But he does not know my sister as I do.” He let out a sigh. “I did so want her to com e tonight. I was hoping to have a special dance played in her honor.” A cold sticking sensation seized her heart as Othre ld strode around the tables toward the dais, meeting her smile of controlled co rdiality with a perfunctory nod. “Not to alarm my lady,” he said softly, “but no dou bt Elthric has expressed my concern that your daughter and the old man have dis obeyed the king’s edict.”
She took a moment to study his face, probing his mi nd for a glimmer of his intent. In the wavering shadows and torch light his hooded eye s betrayed no hint of feeling, his mind a jumble of conflicting thoughts. “I am aware of no edict.” “In my brother’s absence, no one is to leave the ci tadel. Conditions remain far too dangerous.” “Are you telling me that Elthwen and my father—?” “Your daughter’s maid informed me that my niece has not been seen since before daybreak.” Lysienthe cast a glance at the women assembled near the stairway. Young Ildra dropped her gaze to the floor. “Ildra knows nothing . She was attending me this morning.” “It would not be the first time old Gamba has becom e stricken with itchy feet,” Elthric chimed in with a laugh. “Is that not so, Mother?” Othreld’s left cheek twitched. “I have been told of the old man’s penchant for…shall I say ‘mischief’?” With narrow eyes, he held her ga ze. “Times as they are, no one is safe outside these walls.” Her back stiffened. “My father would never allow ha rm to befall her. The king knows this.” “My brother has long been infatuated with your kind and your ways. Still, he recognizes the danger.” “We all recognize the danger…and where it resides.” She leveled her gaze on Othreld’s face. His cheek a-twitch, Othreld met her eyes from under darkly knit brows. “Then, for the safety of all concerned, you must tell me where they have gone.” She bristled. “Must?onger queen, IUntil an edict from the king states that I am no l will take my own counsel regarding what I must or m ust not do.” Again he nodded. “Forgive me. I overstep my authori ty.” In more ways than one.“Besides,” she added with more self-control than s he felt, “I have no idea where they are. Have you looked for th em in the herbarium?” “We searched everywhere.” She emitted a short breath of dismissal. “For what purpose I cannot imagine.” “I will remind you that in his absence, I am sworn to uphold the king’s law. I intend to have them returned. At first light I will send o ut a search.” He turned to Elthric, who anticipated his uncle’s words with the eagerness of a puppy. “Elthric, you will accompany them.” How could she not have foreseen this turn of events ? A jolt of alarm constricted her heart. Elthric’s face beamed, and while she sensed the ripple of excitement that enlivened his otherwise carefree stance, he simply bowed to Othreld. Lysienthe sighed. “We all must do as we see fit. I expect no less of my son.” Again she felt Othreld’s probing gaze and she met it full y. “I will take my leave. The hour is late.” Elthric kissed her cheek. “Worry not, Lady Mother. We will bring Elthwen and our wayward grandfather home.”
She brushed away the shock of flaxen hair falling o ver his shining eyes, her hand lingering on the side of his brow. “My love for you is deep.” Then she added, “And so is my trust.” Without a glance at Othreld, she took her leave, fo llowed by Inid and the other women.