The procession wound its way from the shrine to the estate on the edge of the city where the sick were being cared for. When it reached the gate an elderly dru came down the front steps of
the mansion with his hands over his head. “Thank God you’re here at last!” He dropped his hands and lowered his head. “We’ve lost two more children today and several more are near
Evaughnlynn stepped out of the procession party. “Please, take me to them.” She more sensed than saw Neima follow her. She couldn’t help but notice the beauty of the house as she
entered the foyer with its marble floor and the fountain against the back wall, but she followed the old man as he hurried across the room, holding his long, white robe up enough to avoid the
The dru led her down a hallway and into a large room now filled with the moans and coughs of young plague victims lying in six rows of beds. Candles on tall stands had been placed against the
wall to light the room, and her stomach dropped at the number of victims. She felt her cousin behind her. This was going to take more power than she and Roselyn could possibly
expend. “Oh, Sorcha, how can we save so many? They’re all so ill!”
Evaughnlynn felt a surge of power enter the room. She turned around. Roselyn, right behind her, was already looking over her shoulder. Neima, surrounded by a pale blue aura, stood
in the doorway. There were tears in her eyes.
“Quickly,” Sorcha said. “Put your hand on her shoulder and have her touch each of the sick.”
“Roselyn, put your hand on Neima’s shoulder.” Evaughnlynn walked quickly over and put her hand on the young girl’s shoulder. “Neima, I want you to walk slowly through the room touching
each of the sick with your hand.”
Neima looked up at her. “They’re so sick.”
“I know, dear. Just put your hand on each patient and think about them getting better.”
They walked from bed to bed, then from row to row. Neima touched each child on the forehead. Power drained from Evaughnlynn with each touch, yet she didn’t feel tired. Something
took its place. A different kind of energy. Finally, they reached the last patient. Neima touched the young boy on the forehead, then turned to look at Evaughnlynn. “They’re
better now,” she said, and collapsed. Evaughnlynn and Roselyn caught her. Roselyn carried her to the door where the old dru stood transfixed.
Evaughnlynn said, “Neima needs a room to rest. She’s very tired.”
“We are too,” Roselyn added. “We need food and rest.”
The dru stepped back and waved a servant forward. The young man took the limp girl from Roselyn and said, “Follow me. We have rooms prepared for all of you.”
As Evaughnlynn started to follow Roselyn down the hall, the old dru grabbed her arm. “I saw…I saw.”
Evaughnlynn looked into his wide eyes. “Yes, you did.” She smiled. “The power of your god is strong in her. She will be a great dru.”
Alone in her room a few minutes later, Evaughnlynn lay on the bed physically exhausted. Yet what had happened kept replaying in her mind.
Sorcha whispered, “He must have seen all three of you bathed in the power that dwells within these people. I sensed it all around you.”
“All three of us?”
“Yes. And it still dwells in you and Roselyn. It’s changed both of you. Made you more powerful than you were before.”
“More powerful? What does that mean?”
“Remember the potion Sir Lares taught you to make so you could leave your body and project your image elsewhere? You no longer need the potion.”
Evaughnlynn wanted to try projecting her image now, to see Faolan, but was too tired. Tomorrow. I’ll go see him tomorrow. “Sorcha, what is this power that has attached itself
“It hasn’t attached itself to you. You’ve attached yourself to it. But don’t worry, it is a power of the Light.”
“I don’t understand.” Sleep began to gently wrap itself around her thoughts and she felt the tenseness leave her mind and body.
“The light is always there, everywhere, but most don’t seek it. A few do, like Neima. If they persist, the light reveals itself. It is very strong here in the land of the
Freeman because their laws were designed by one who knew the power of the Light. Most people don’t understand or seek the light, they simply accept what is. Imagine Doran, a slave, who
sought the Light so strongly it filled him and guided his life. He must have been a very unusual person.”
Evaughnlynn walked alone down a narrow, twisting dirt road through an empty landscape of sharp hills and twisted trees. The sun burned down and the air shimmered in front of her eyes.
There was someone standing in the road a short distance ahead. As she approached she saw the figure was an older man with long white hair and beard, dressed in a trail-stained white robe
leaning on a gnarled walking stick.
“It seems we’re traveling the same road,” the man said as she approached. “It’s nice to have company for a while at least. I’ll walk with you as far as Bar Dor, if you don’t mind.”
“This is the road to Bar Dor?” She glanced around. “I thought the city was in a fertile valley.”
“It is. But our road to Bar Dor will be difficult and dangerous. It’s always so. Darkness always attacks the Light. The stronger the light, the more intense the attack.”
“I have faced the darkness before.”
“Yes, you have.” The old man waved her forward and they began walking. “Much has been asked of you, and much more will be.” He looked at her with sad eyes. “You have sought
the future that can be if you persevere. But remember that darkness does not always appear as darkness. You have denied your own desires for the benefit of others, which is
admirable. But you must also love yourself. Denying your own desires can lead you down the wrong path. Emotions are both your greatest strength and your most vulnerable point.”
They approached a fork in the road. One fork ran down into a valley and the other up into the hills. “We must part here,” the old man said. “But both roads lead to Bar Dor.”
His right hand came up in a palm-out gesture. “Fare you well, Lady of the Light.”
Brother Drogo sat up and looked around his cell. Light and air were coming into the small room from the barred window high on the wall. He remembered his time as a guard in the Master’s
dungeon. It had been lighted only by torches and the air had been foul and filled with the screams of those being questioned or punished. He smiled at the memory of being questioned by
the guard before being brought here. He had been searched but not struck or threatened. Good thing I left my wand in Bar Elam. Carrying one is a little dangerous here.
The scene replayed in his mind. He had claimed the Dwarf had stolen his necklace and smashed the stone, a ruby birthstone his mother had given him. He was simply a merchant from Cymru
who had come to Bar Krouth in search of bargains after the quarantine had been lifted. As to the Dwarf’s claims? He had no idea what he was talking about. “Me, a wizard?
Ridiculous!” He had laughed and added, “How does one sound like a wizard?”
These fools will let me go. They’ll do nothing without precious proof, and they have no idea of the proper way to question prisoners. But the Master will not be so kind. I have
failed him again. Yet I have information of value. The warrior he is hunting is hiding here as a simple blacksmith and in addition to the badger he is known to travel with, he now has a
very unusual dwarf for a companion.
The dwarf is the final proof I needed. No mere dwarf could withstand my mind. Only a member of a sorcerer’s coven could, and this warrior/blacksmith has an animal companion,
additional proof. He is, therefore, a sorcerer, and a powerful one to kill another sorcerer with a rebounded curse.
He scratched his face and looked around for the water bucket he had seen the night before. It was next to the cell door so the guard could add water to it through the bars. He dipped
the cup hanging above the bucket into the water and drank deeply, emptying the cup. He walked back to his bed and sat. By now they’ve checked my room and found my letter of credit
from our trading company in Cymru. With my stone smashed there’s no way to prove I’m a wizard, let alone a full Sorcerer in the Belenus Brotherhood.
Brother Drogo was hungry and wondered when he would be fed. Just then the guard came down the hall and opened the iron-barred door. The guard was empty-handed. “You’re released,
Master Drogo. But don’t think we won’t be watching you. You’re an accused wizard, and while there’s no proof, you’re not cleared either.”
Drogo bit back the reply that sprang to his mind and stood. “Thank you, guard. I’m glad this horrible mistake had been cleared up.” He walked to the door and stopped to look
directly into the guard’s eyes. “Oh, and tell that dwarf fellow, I don’t know his name, I bear him no grudge. He must have been foully treated by that wizard for him to have reacted as
Brother Drogo walked, head held high, out of the prison and down the steps. When he reached his inn, he went directly to his room without eating. He was hungry, but the loss of his
stone of power made him feel powerless and exposed. He wanted to think but was too restless to sit. He paced back and forth nervously, absentmindedly slapping his right hand against his
Suddenly, the light seemed to be sucked out of the room and he went to his knees.
Darkness formed into the shape of the Master, and the deep voice he knew so well snarled, “As I expected, you failed.”
“No, Master, I didn’t fail you.” Drogo cringed, expecting pain, but nothing happened.
“The warrior lives, the people live, and your stone of power is destroyed. How have you not failed me?”
“I have found the one you seek, the child of Erispoe—and he is a powerful sorcerer.” He knew his knowledge of the Master’s search would shock him.
“What child of Erispoe? There were no rumors that his wife was pregnant. And even if she were, the child could be a girl.”
“Master, I was visiting the temple in Anglia when Brother Padraig talked to Brother Voldar about the two most dangerous men in all Ellisland, and I know how Padraig earned his stone of power.
Padraig had to be talking about Lambert and a young warrior. I was also at Ardara when it was taken and saw the bodies of Lambert’s wife and children, so it was not Lambert’s son. The
only survivor of the royal family was Erispoe’s wife. I think she reached Ellisland and went to Hawkland to find fellow Jutes. Lambert joined her there, clearly. I think the
warrior with him in Anglia must have been Erispoe’s son.”
He had not been struck down, nor hit with pain to make him stop, so Drogo stood up. “Lambert was a powerful sorcerer when he fled Jutland. He has made his nephew a wizard as well, and a
powerful one, since he turned a curse back on its caster. Only a strong sorcerer could do that. His companions are my proof. We have heard the warrior travels with a near-human
badger. Now he has added a dwarf who can shield his mind from us. Only a member of a coven can get that kind of protection from a wizard, and only a powerful sorcerer could so shield a
When nothing happened, Drogo quickly added, “So the Hawkland warrior has to be Erispoe’s son. Naturally, you seek his death.”
“Speak of this to no one on pain of death.” The shadow seemed to grow darker for a moment. Then pain struck, and Drogo went down. “Listen carefully, Brother. You will go to
Bar Dor and wait for Brother Knobu to join you. I am sending my most trusted follower, Brother Fulradt, who will be in charge of this campaign. There the three of you will confront and
kill the Hawkland witch. She will surely come to treat the sick.”
“Yes, Master. As you wish.”
“Did you at least find the warrior in Bar Krouth?”
A quick smile flashed over Drogo’s face. “Yes, Master. He’s hiding under his own name as a blacksmith. His shop is near the gate.” Drogo bowed his head. “Master, I
have lost much in gaining that information for you. My stone of power was destroyed in your service.”
“I am aware of that. Brother Fulradt will bring you one. Not a mere replacement, but one of unusual power. The girl was of noble birth captured when the Jute capital fell. I
reward loyal service.”
“Thank you, Master.” But the Master was gone before he had finished. Well, so much for the son of Erispoe. The Master will deal with him. He shuttered
slightly. Better him than me.
© Copyright 2020 R. M. Keegan. All rights reserved.