The Freemen and the Stone

Status: 1st Draft

The Freemen and the Stone

Status: 1st Draft

The Freemen and the Stone

Book by: R. M. Keegan

Details

Genre: Fantasy

Content Summary


This is the third book in the Crystal Scepter series. It finishes the story of Evaughnlynn and sets up another series of three books involving a young boy. It is very rough, having been written
during a series of illnesses from which I have finally, I think, emerged. Please feel free to tear it apart. R.M.

 

 

Content Summary


This is the third book in the Crystal Scepter series. It finishes the story of Evaughnlynn and sets up another series of three books involving a young boy. It is very rough, having been written
during a series of illnesses from which I have finally, I think, emerged. Please feel free to tear it apart. R.M.

Chapter Content - ver.0

Submitted: July 05, 2020

A A A | A A A

Chapter Content - ver.0

Submitted: July 05, 2020

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Chapter Twenty-nine

 

Brother Knobu watched the inn’s entrance and courtyard from the window of a building several blocks away with his teeth clenched.  Ridiculous.  That fool. Drogo has turned his failure into preeminence over me!  From the moment Brother Fulradt arrived he had acted as if Drogo were the more accomplished of us.  Ridiculous!  Drogo was only elevated to sorcerer a year ago, and only because he was put in charge of a herd of gremlins.  I’ve been a sorcerer for over five years, and elevated based on many successful missions.

The position of rector at one of the order’s main temples, or even one of the three training facilities should have been mine after this mission.  Now?  Instead of going with Brother Fulradt to assist in the upcoming attack, I’ve been left behind to ensure the witch remaines in Bar Dor.

He leaned against the window frame and sighed.  How am I going to bring down that fool Drogo?  I must make Brother Fulradt see his mistake, but without obviously manipulating the situation.  He smiled and shook his head slightly.  Drogo will probably prove his own incompetence right in front of Brother Fulradt.  He’s failed all his assignments on this mission.

Movement pulled his eyes back to the inn.  He immediately leaned forward when he saw a girl in a white robe walk down the steps with a guard.  The innkeeper said she was going to the base hospital by coach.  What’s happening?  Then he realized it was a young girl, not a woman, and that the man with her was not that tall.  That’s the piglet who nearly trapped my mind in Bar Elam.  His eyes narrowed as he watched the couple walk across the courtyard and out the gate.  There is power here, but not the power of a stone.  And that has to be Drogo’s dwarf with her!  Killing him would avenge the brotherhood.  Following the witch to the hospital accomplishes nothing.  But killing them will.

He turned and hurried down the stairs to the street discarding various curses as unworkable until he reached the door.  He looked out and saw the couple walking a block ahead.  Drogo tried to control the dwarf’s mind and lost his stone.  Brother Banag’s curse rebounded on him when he attacked the secret wizard.  I will have to kill them with physical force.  Her first, so she can’t attack my mind.  I’ve survived many battles.  He’s a mere dwarf and a youth, no match for me.  His hand instinctively dropped to the sword his disguise as a trader had required.

The couple ahead turned the corner and he hurried after them.  They were headed directly toward the center of the city and the military headquarters.  It was much too crowed there to attack.  He would have to wait until he could get them alone to have any change of escape after they were dead.  He continued to follow at a distance.

The two youths reached the area of the headquarters but turned into the park across the street instead.  Knobu sighed in relief and crossed the road.  He lingered at the corner as he watched them cross the empty park.  Suddenly, the young girl laughed.  They have no idea how close to death they are.  He smiled.  A feeling of wellbeing washed over him.  He started into the park when the girl and boy reached the far side.  Everything is going to work out.  They’re going into that shrine—the Warrior’s Temple, it’ll be empty this time of day.  He almost giggled as he hurried across the park and up the three steps.  His future suddenly looked bright.  His anger at Drogo faded.

The interior was composed of polished black stone walls covered in Freeman glyphs and set at various angles, creating a kind of maze inside.  The temple was lighted by oil lamps.  He reached out with his mind and quickly sensed no one was in the building except the two youths.  They were in the rear of the large building.  As he moved forward he heard the girl say, “You start at that end and I’ll start here.  Do you remember my uncle’s name?”

“Yes.  And my father’s name was Schade.”

“I remember.”  She giggled.

Knobu stepped around the wall and looked toward the rear of the temple.  The girl had her back to him and was moving her hand over the names carved into the wall over her head.  She had to go up on her toes to reach the upper names.  The image struck him as simple and beautiful and for a moment he couldn’t move.  Then she looked to her right and smiled.  “I found them.  They’re together!”

Beauty radiated from her and Knobu’s eyes locked on her face.  He was overcome with a sense of calm.  She’s so beautiful, so innocent, so—his mind snapped to the image of another young girl.  He was standing in the Belenus temple looking at her.  The rector stepped behind her and held the drawing crystal to her right temple and a clear crystal to the other.  Her eyes went wide and her mouth snapped open.  A moment later she had screamed.

“No!”  Brother Knobu was back in the shrine.  He ran at the girl.  His sword held high.  His pulse hammered in his head.

The dwarf stepped out from behind one of the walls between him and the girl.  He held a long knife in his right hand.  Knobu couldn’t stop.  He tried to snap his hips sideways.  He stumbled and struck the point of the dwarf’s blade.  A stinging pain went through his chest.  The dwarf’s face was only inches away, eyes wide and his mouth shut tight.

Knobu felt himself spun by the impact and fell, sliding almost to the girl’s feet.  She looked down at him, not with fear, but sadness.  Vertigo struck and his vision telescoped until darkness closed in.  He thought he heard a little girl say, “He’s yours now.  Be kind to him.”

 

 *** *

 

Evaughnlynn was talking to several dru when an officer entered briskly and approached her father.  The officer whispered in his ear for a moment and her father jerked around.  “Is Neima all right?”

“Yes, sir.  We’re holding the dwarf who killed the man.”

Evaughnlynn said, “Excuse me,” to the dru she was talking to and hurried over to her father.  “What’s happened?  I heard Neima’s name.”

Her father turned to her with a rigid face.  “Apparently, Gunther killed a man in the Warrior’s Temple.”  He shook his head.  “This is very bad.  Killing on sacred ground is blasphemy.”

“We must go there immediately.  Gunther wouldn’t kill anyone unless he had to.”  She felt a terrible sense of foreboding and strode out of the hospital with her father behind her.

She was halfway down the steps when her father caught up.  “Evon, wait.”

When he reached her, he gripped her arm.  “At the temple say nothing.  You shouldn’t even go inside.  That alone will be considered blasphemy by many.”

She nodded and scrambled into the coach.  All she could think about as the coach raced through the streets was that Gunther wouldn’t understand.  He knew next to nothing about the Freemen and if someone had tried to hurt Neima, he would react violently.

Her father gripped her hand.  “Neima’s with him.  She’ll keep him calm.  Don’t let fear make it worse than it is.”

The moment the coach stopped Evaughnlynn bolted out the door and up the steps.  Two soldiers blocked her entrance at the large bronze doors, now closed.  “My apprentice and her guard are in there.”

“The temple is closed to the public right now.  Sorry, miss.”

Her father came up behind her.  “Has the Captain General been notified?”

“Yes sir.  He’s on his way.”

Her father nodded.  “Who was killed inside?”

“Sir, I’m just a guardsman.  I was told to keep people out of the temple.  Other than that…” The soldier shrugged.

The sound of horses caused Evaughnlynn to turn.  The Captain General and several of his staff officers rode up and dismounted.  The moment the group reached the top of the stairs, Evaughnlynn stepped between them and the door.  “I need to get into the temple.  Neima and Gunther are in there.”

“Miss, this is a very serious matter.  Violence on sacred ground—very bad business.”  He shook his head.  “There’s no excuse for this.”

Evaughnlynn’s head went back.  “Even if they were attacked?  That’s ridiculous.”

The Captain General glanced at the guard and then back at Evaughnlynn, “After I know what happened, I’ll talk to you again.”  He turned to the officer standing beside him and nodded toward the temple doors.  The officer started forward and the guard in front of the bronze doors pulled them open.  The moment the doors opened, Evaughnlynn sensed evil.  A dark stone of power was in the temple.

“Stop!”  She turned to her father.  “There’s a dark stone of power in the temple.”  Her mind flashed back to what she had seen in Cailean’s mind when he was helping her learn about magic.  The stone had possessed the woman who touched it and had nearly destroyed the village.  “I must go in by myself.”

“Ridiculous.”  The Captain General waved his hand toward his officer, who turned back to the door.

Evaughnlynn gripped the officer’s arm.  “A moment, please, Captain.”  The officer stopped and she turned to the Captain General.  “If that dark stone gets loose in the fortress it will do a lot of damage.  None of you can face it, but I can.  So, if you’re determined not to let me in the temple, bring out your men so I can see them.  If any of them has touched the stone, I’ll know.”

Ragnon reached out and touched the Captain General’s arm.  “When I report my experiences here to my lifelong friend, Benami, will I report that you took all precautions to protect this fortress, or that you put hundreds of people at risk because you hate foreigners, even those who have been your country’s allies for generations?”

The Captain General didn’t move.  His whole body seemed to vibrate for moment, but then he was as still as a statue.

Evaughnlynn was shocked for a moment before she realized what had happened.  She turned to the officer by the door.  “The Captain General’s mind has been tampered with by a dark wizard.  Not today—some time ago—before we arrived.  He’s been conditioned to hate and hinder us when we try to help your people.  That’s preventing him from ordering you to call your people out, which he normally would do.  Right now he’s unable to move because of the conflict.  Bring them out and it’ll break the spell.”

The officer looked from her to the Captain General and back again.  Then he stepped over to the door.  “This is Captain Kenan!  Everyone come out of the temple!”

A few seconds later two civilians and four soldiers walked out of the temple.  Neima, Gunther, and a sergeant walked behind them.  Gunther pointed back into the building.  “There’s a dead wizard in there.”  He pointed at the sergeant.  “He wouldn’t let me destroy his stone of power.”

The Captain General staggered forward several steps.  He took several deep breaths before turning to her father.  “Your Majesty, my apologies.”  He looked around, breathing quickly.  “I feel like I’ve woken from a dream.”  He turned his whole body so that he faced King Ragnon.  “Your Majesty, I had no idea my mind had been entranced.  Your people have been our closest allies since we arrived in Ellisland.”  His right hand pointed toward the bronze doors.  “There are more Hawklander names in this temple than all other foreign peoples combined.”  He turned back to Evaughnlynn.  “What do you recommend?”

She looked at Gunther.  “My friend, Gunther, has destroyed a dark stone before, which means he can touch one without being susceptible to its power.  I suggest we have him do it again.  However, I think we should witness the stone’s destruction.”

“I agree.  Is it safe for me to enter with you, or does my recent---ah spell, put you at risk?”

Lieutenant Bullnose was standing a few feet away and she recalled his suggestion when she needed to examine her guards’ minds for tampering.  “Captain, if you’ll allow me to examine the palms of your hands I can determine if there are any residuals from the spell.”

The Captain General’s hands came up in front of him and she looked at the palms while examining the surface of his mind.  The compulsion to hinder her and her father was the only compulsion she saw, and that was now broken.  His normal positive view of Hawklanders had been freed.  She smiled at him.  “You have a very strong mind.  The sorcerer, and it was a sorcerer, could only influence your attitude slightly.  That’s why the spell broke as soon as it was called to your attention.  There are no residuals.  Your mind is clear of infection.”

“Then, let’s destroy this filth.”  He waved toward the open temple doors.

Evaughnlynn turned to Gunther, standing by the sergeant.  “Please lead us to the dead sorcerer, Gunther.  Then, if the sergeant will lend you his dirk, you can smash the dark stone with the pommel.”

“Yes, Milady.”  Gunther bowed and turned to walk back into the temple with the sergeant following.

The dead wizard was lying on his back with Gunther’s knife thrust up under his rib cage and into his heart.  Gunther and the sergeant stopped by the body.  Both looked back at the Captain General and Evaughnlynn, who stood several feet away.  Evaughnlynn pointed at the body.  “Gunther, search him and find the stone.”

Gunther pointed at the man’s chest.  “I already did.  That’s what I was doing when the sergeant came in.  I knew he had to be a dark wizard when he attacked Neima.  The sergeant thought I was robing him at first.  But when he saw the sword on the floor, and the gold chain with the stone, he called the guards and closed the temple.”

Evaughnlynn nodded.  “Very wisely done, Sergeant.”  She turned to the Captain General.  “With your permission?”

“Of course.”  The Captain General motioned with his hand toward Gunther.  “Sir, if you would.”

Gunther jerked the golden chain from around the dead man’s neck and held it up.  The pale, red stone attached to it swung back and forth.  Then, he lowered the stone to the floor and slammed the pommel of a knife down on it.

Evaughnlynn heard a scream in her mind, but to her shock, Neima started to cry.  Evaughnlynn stepped over to the young girl and put her arm around her shoulders.  “Are you all right?”

Neima looked up at her.  “That poor girl.  She was in pain for so long.”

Evaughnlynn squeezed Neima’s shoulders.  “She’s at peace now.”  She let her go.  “Did you find your uncle’s name on the wall?”

Neima flashed a smile.  “Yes.  We found Gunther’s father too.  His name was carved right next to my uncle’s.  The names are added by incident, so Gunther’s father died in the same battle as my uncle.”

The soldiers moved forward and covered the dead sorcerer’s body with a white cloth.  The Captain General turned to King Garthen, bowed slightly, and waved toward the bronze doors.  Shell we?”

“Indeed.”  Garthen tapped Evaughnlynn on the shoulder.  “Time to go, my dear.”

She nodded and started for the door with Neima.

 

  • ****

 

Faolan reached the fortress gate and dismounted.  The barrier was down and a guard was checking each person trying to enter or leave.  After several minutes Faolan was next in line.

“I’m here with a message for King Ragnon and Princess Evaughnlynn of Hawkland.”

The Sergeant of the Guard put his hands on his hips.  “And who might you be?”

“Faolan of the Accetani and a blacksmith in Bar Krouth.”

The sergeant’s head went back.  “You’re a bit tall for a dwarf, aren’t you?”

Faolan glanced at the sky for a moment.  “I was adopted by the Accetani clan.  I was originally from the north.”

“Ah.”  The sergeant nodded his head.  “You’re Iceni by birth then.”

“What’s going on?  I’ve been in and out of the fortress half a dozen times this week and the gate was never maned.”

“We didn’t have a dead wizard then.”

“What?”  Faolan’s stomach dropped.

“Fifteen minutes ago I was ordered to check everybody coming in or going out because some wizard snuck into the fortress and got hisself killed.  Tried to sword a young girl, he did.  Her guard killed him.”

“A wizard?”  Faolan shook his head.  “Tried to kill a girl with a sword?”  He looked at the sergeant with his head cocked to the side and his eyes drawn together.  “Who?”

“Don’t know her name.  A young dru girl.  I heard she was at the Warriors’ Temple looking for a family name when the wizard attacked.  Fort’s been on alert ever since.”

“Look, two men I suspected of being dark wizards left Bar Dor yesterday.  I followed five of their men out of town today.  They headed for West Mercia and then curved back toward the east, just as the others had done before them.  I think they’ve gone to join up with the forces who’ve been attacking from East Mercia.  I think I should report to the Captain General.”

“Your probably right.”  The sergeant stepped back and waived Faolan through the gate.

Faolan rode as quickly as he could to the base headquarters but stopped and looked across the park at the Warrior’s temple.  A group of soldiers stood on the temple steps.  Then King Ragnon and Princess Evaughnlynn came out of the open temple doors.  A moment later the Captain General followed them, along with Neima, Gunther, and some soldiers.  Faolan rode through the park toward them.

“Your Majesty.”  Faolan dismounted and bowed quickly then turned and nodded.  “Captain General.”  He instinctively pointed toward the front gate.  “I’ve just returned from following five men who’d been watching Princess Evaughnlynn while she was in the city.  They met twice with two men claiming to be West Mercian merchants, but I think they were dark wizards.”

The Captain General went rigid and his eyebrows scrunched together.  “Why didn’t you report this?”

“I had no proof.”  Faolan sighed.  “And I saw you meet with one of them yesterday, so I wasn’t sure I could trust you.”  He ignored the sick look on the Captain General’s face and waved toward the front gate.  “Look, the sickness here was meant to draw Princess Evaughnlynn to Bar Dor.  I was trying to find out why.  I think there’s a major attack coming.”

An officer standing next to the Captain General snorted.  “If they attack they’re in for a surprise.  Over a thousand very angry sailors will be here in a few days ready to kill whoever caused them to lose their annual leave.”

Evaughnlynn started to smile.  Her father had told her that the sailors were the most experienced warriors in the Freeholds.  Then, she realized that echoes of that knowledge were what had troubled her.  She looked at the officer.  “Where are their ships?”

“In port for the storm season.”

She turned to her father.  “That’s why they wanted me here.  They don’t want to attack me, they want me out of the way.  They’re going to attack Bar Krouth.”

Her father glanced at the Captain General and then at her.  “Why would they want you here?”  He shook his head several times.  “If dark forces plan to attack Bar Krouth, they have to break through the defenses at Bar Chof.  Then they have to sail up the Adara river and do the same at Bar Krouth.  If the dark has sufficient forces to mount such an attack, one white wizard isn’t going to slow them down, let alone stop them.”


© Copyright 2020 R. M. Keegan. All rights reserved.

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