Stravor could see his father. The obsidian block was opaque and felt soft to his touch. He pressed hard against them, and the stone bent, but he could not push through them. “This … I must be inside the walls.” Looking down at himself, he was whole, and without clothes. “I feel nothing from my body; not shame, nor arousal, not cold or warm.” His thoughts were jumbled. “I … I must find my way.”
His mind struggled to right itself, to understand this new place. He realized he must accept that in here was not … out there.
Slowly turning away from the wall, Stravor saw … nothing.
All was in blackness and shadow. He felt a niggle of fear deep in his gut.
He leaned back against the blocks because he knew they were real. Stravor longed for a deep breath but try as he might, he could not. Fear clawed its way from his belly to his brain. He put his hands over his mouth.
“You must calm down, master.”
Stravor heard the soft voice. “Keter?” He cast around and then focused as a dim outline became brighter. So bright he had to shield his eyes with his hands.
“Aye, Sir. It is me.” Keter finally took shape.
“You are alive in here?”
“We are not alive, but nor are we dead.” Keter smiled gently. “We fight the demon. Tell me, out there, could you see it? Could you see any proof that what we do is working?”
“Yes, Father and I could feel it.” Stravor nodded. “It seems Hemothracene struggles. The Hall is crumbling.”
“That is good news. Stravor …” Keter reached out.
Grasping the boy’s hand, the Searcher drew the lad to him. “God’s teeth, boy. I have … I have missed you. What I did ….”
“No. What I did. I pulled your hand, and the Sword knows only its desire. You had little choice, Stravor.” Keter gazed up into the Searcher’s eyes. He frowned a little, blinked and then said, “You are … I have missed you also.”
“We could have run.”
“No … no, we could not. This creature … this demon we fight, was slowly killing the good and the righteous, for they are what feeds his evil. We fight him, but we need your help.” Keter hugged Stravor harder. “Will you help us?”
“Aye. Aye, I will help.” Stravor held his lad close. “Will this be our end, boy?”
“Not if we hurry, master. Not if we get things done.”
“Aye, Sir.” Keter turned and waved his left arm before him. Slowly lights twinkled, becoming brighter, and soul upon soul appeared, each taking human form.
Stravor gasped and whispered, “There are hundreds.”
“There are, and each of these good souls fights with us.” Keter stepped back and grasped Stravor’s hands. “We fight and we are so close now, but we need you.”
“Aye, you. Once we are through his shields, only you will be able to get close enough.”
“Why would he allow it?”
“Why not? He … it … is a demon. They are strong and evil, but not smart. You served him for years, you have given him no reason to doubt … he will let you in.”
Stravor pulled away and paced along the brick wall. “All right, if I can get close. But I have no sword, no weapon with which to stop him.”
Keter stepped in front of his master. “Around your neck.”
“What?” Stravor halted. He lifted his hand and felt the amulet. “How?”
“Magic.” Keter grinned. “I am a witch, after all, Sir.”
The Searcher stared and a slow smile reached his lips. “So you are, boy. So, you are.”
“Come, there is little enough time. I need to prepare the killing blow you will deliver, Stravor.”
The lad grasped Stravor’s hand and they walked together through the darkness. They whispered to each other as they did.
“I miss you, boy … perhaps there is time to ...”
“Sadly, our bodies do not work that way here, master.”
Stravor grunted. “God’s teeth. It is hardly paradise then, is it, boy?”
Keter’s laughter disappeared as the lights of their souls did.
Stravor sat and watched as his boy worked his magic. Keter had taken their amulets and used the Fathril to fashion a weapon. It was a small slim blade.
“That … that tiny thing you think will kill him?”
Keter spun to Stravor, who recoiled slightly. The blue eyes were deep navy, the gentle brow furrowed, the sweet mouth was a slash of anger. “It will kill the beast; his ugly, diseased, beating heart will crack like smashed glass. Every soul he has brought to this undead place will cause him agony.”
Stravor reached out and touched Keter’s shoulder. “Lad?”
The anger slipped from the witch as did the skin of Paskmin grapes. Keter reached and grasped Stravor’s hand. “Master … I am sorry.”
“What was that? More, what are you?”
“I am only myself. Keter, the boy—”
Stravor stood up. “Do not lie to me. You think me foolish … yet, you will find I am not, boy.” The Searcher reached for the comfort of the Sword. His hand found nothing. “Damn my soul!” He grabbed Keter’s shoulders. “You will tell me what you are.”
Keter raised his eyes to meet Stravor’s. “Sir … Stravor, your eyes!”
“My eyes? What are you saying? Do not lure me from your truth!”
“No … I will tell you, but your eyes are no longer black.” Keter rose. “They are green.”
Stravor sat with a thump. “Green? Once … when I was younger. Much before I became a Searcher.” He sat quietly lost in thought for a moment. “Do not try to change the subject, boy. Green eyes or no, what are you?”
Keter smiled gently at the soul of the man before him. He moved to Stravor and then knelt between his lover’s knees. “I am still who I was. I am that boy you walked with, lusted with … the boy you love. I am he still. Yet, I am more. The dreams … finally all came to make sense.”
The lad reached for Stravor’s hands. “I am Keter of the Magoph Coven. Charged to be the deliverer of souls. Souls of those taken by that creature you call a god. This I am because I am the last of my people.” Keter clambered to his feet. “For this, you and your father killed the last of my brothers and sisters in the Hall of the Dead.”
“The Ones Who Watched?”
“Aye.” Keter moved again to Stravor. “I did not plan to have … to feel anything for you.”
Stravor reached for the slim boy’s hips and pulled him close. “Sit here with me and tell me your story, boy … Keter.”
Keter sat, comforted by his man’s embrace. “The souls here … held within these walls, never rest. Always they have worked to power the creature’s light. Without them it has no power, no strength. Stravor, when it speaks to you … it is they speaking, for this thing has no real voice of its own, no power of its own. The demon has only what we foolishly gave when it first told its stories. Tales of an easy life we wanted to believe. But it is like a naikon worm, sucking the life from its hosts, while they do its bidding.” The boy started to cry. He got up and paced. “They are not free, they are prisoners … dead but not. Dead, but there is no Paradise for them.”
Wiping his eyes, the boy returned to Stravor, who held him tight. “It has to die. Then we need to free these poor souls from the dark living horror they suffer in these damnable walls. Then, and only then, can we also be free.”
The Searcher nodded. Still he held Keter tight as he whispered, “Tell me what to do, Keter, last of the Magoph.”
Stravor walked alone. He walked in seemingly never-ending darkness. Before him was nothing, beside, above and below there was no road or sky. Only black. Yet, here and there were flashes of light, like blinking stars.
How am I to find him? There is nothing. Then aloud, Stravor said, “Just walk, Sir, the boy told me. Just walk and you will come to it.”
And Stravor continued to walk. There were no points of reference, no way to know how much farther there was to go, or how far he had come. His anger and frustration built as he thought about it. “But what choice? God’s teeth!”
This time he used to prepare his mind as his father had shown him. That the Sword of Harman was far away eased the process. He recalled his father’s words and repeated over and over the mantra he’d been taught: Quiet is the fulfilled mind. In the world we find beauty, peace and contentment. For there is truth and in it, beauty; in our pain we find our peace; in love, dwells contentment.
He walked on, feeling neither tired nor hungry. “This place is limbo. You are neither alive nor dead. There is no pain, but there is no pleasure. There is nothing but him.”
No sooner had his thoughts filled with the God of Death than in the distance he could see a pulsing red light.
He clenched the Fathril blade in his left hand.
Finally, he reached the throbbing light. There was no hall but before him were a flight of stairs and a platform. Upon the dais sat a throne of sorts and on that ….
“God’s teeth,” Stravor swore softly under his breath. Then loudly he said, “My Lord, Hemothracene.”
Quiet, is the fulfilled mind.
Whatever it was on the throne, moved slowly. It was not shaped like a man. It resembled an oblong, quivering mass of red cells. The voice that came from it was wet and anemic. Stravor could think of no other description.
“Searcher, you have come to me.”
Stravor cocked his head. This was not the usual voices; this one was familiar. He blinked and replied, “Aye, my lord.”
In the world we find beauty, peace and contentment.
The creature slipped from the throne with a loud slap. A blood-red jelly oozed from beneath it.
Stravor felt ill and looked away from the thing.
“I will become a more suitable form.” Hemothracene moved, rolled and slithered, slowly becoming human-shaped. “You have come here to me. Why?”
“This is where I am needed, Lord.” Stravor peered at the man-shaped thing. That voice. It now sounds … like my own. He climbed the stairs, moving slowly. “Out there all is crumbling, so I am here.”
“They turn against me! Me!” The demon stood on thick legs. It waved stumps that morphed into arms, hands and finally, fingers. The voice had been deeper, now the pitch raised. “After I give them eternal life here in these walls. Do you conspire against me?”
For there is truth and in it, beauty.
“LIAR! You try to hide it, Searcher, but I can feel your lies.” The creature changed from one countenance to the next until it was his father who stood before him. “I can be anyone.” The beast gurgled happily. “See who I am next, Searcher!”
Stravor swallowed and kept his nerve. His gaze fixed on his Master. He took each step purposefully. “Lord, I understand. It is why I have come … to help.”
Hemothracene was now fully formed, opaque and human shaped. The grin was too wide, and bloody strings of drool dripped from the mouth.
Stravor could see the beating heart clearly. He held fast to the Fathril knife.
“You are faithful, Stravor the Younger.” In a second the creature swung its gaze from the Searcher. “You serve me well.” A caricature of Dayson stood before him now. The hand stroked an obscenely oversized penis. “In so many ways.”
Stravor closed his eyes and took a deep breath. “You are He who protects us all, my Lord.” Stravor moved forward two steps while the demon’s attention was elsewhere.
In our pain we find our peace.
“Then why do they not believe?” His father again stood before him, and then sat on the throne. “Why don’t you, my son?”
Stravor looked past his father’s visage into his God’s eyes and saw it for the first time. “I do believe.”
The Searcher’s long strides took him quickly before the creature.
It jerked its eyes upward fixing on Stravor’s. “What? What do you intend?”
The Searcher held up the small blade.
“Stravor, Stravor my son, I love you.” The beast morphed into Elinor. “My boy, you know you cannot kill me.”
The big man stopped. It was his mother, petite and beautiful. His love for her gave him pause. “No, Mother. No, I could never kill you.”
The Elinor on the throne laughed then. She laughed and pointed at her son. “No, you never would be able to. You are weak.”
In love, dwells contentment.
“No, you are right. I am not strong enough to kill my own mother.” Stravor raised his hand and then plunged the blade into the god’s … his mother’s … chest. Pushing it in up to his wrist. He hissed, “But you are not my mother, you foul waste.”
Hemothracene’s screams could be heard beyond the walls, beyond the Hall. In the stable at the inn, Shade whinnied and kicked. In Nabrook, the townspeople fell to their knees holding their ears.
The Searcher held fast to the knife; the sound made his head spin. The dizziness so severe he had to fight to remain on his feet.
It took minutes for the screaming to die away.
The dripping red creature stared up at Stravor. “You kill me.”
He stared at his hand in the chest of the beast; the pulsing of the heart slowed. He laughed. “Look at you. You are what I feared, chose to give my life to. What I killed for, followed, believed in. You are nothing. Not without us. You were nothing but false. All the death and pain you caused just so you might live ….”
Stravor did not release the weapon … not until Hemothracene moved no more. When he could no longer feel the beating heart, he yanked his hand from the cooling body.
The Searcher remembered Keter’s words. Stravor, beloved, do not leave the blade behind. His hand was covered in blood and gore. He gazed at it for a moment and then dug it back into the dead bloody sludge and pulled out the precious Fathril.
“I have it, boy,” the Searcher said aloud. Grasping the blade tightly, Stravor shook as much gore from his hand as he could. As he walked down the staircase, he paused and gazed around and asked softly, “Is it lighter?”
“Aye, Sir, it is.” Keter appeared at the bottom of the steps. “You killed it.”
Stravor held out the dripping Fathril blade. “Your weapon worked well.”
“I heard.” Keter took the gross dagger. “We need this to get us home. Come, Sir.”
Stravor watched as Keter refashioned their amulets.
“Here, Stravor.” Keter stood behind his seated lover and tied the amulet around his neck. “Now we can return to the Sword.”
The Searcher fingered the string around his neck. “Can we? How is it possible?”
Keter pushed his way onto Stravor’s lap. “It is only possible because of the Fathril; because our shells wear it out there.”
“Then let us go, boy. We do not know if the stone and sword remain.” Stravor glanced at his lad. “We require them still, don’t we?”
“Aye, we do.” Keter slipped off Stravor’s knee and grabbed his hand. “Come.”
Together they walked, and as they did, souls floated around and beside them. Their voices filled their ears. The words were sad and also full of fear.
To Stravor they had walked miles and hours, but time and distance, had little meaning inside the walls. He was glad when Keter finally stopped.
“Where are we boy?”
“Where we need to be, Sir. The wall is just behind us. We will soon go, but first I need to speak to these lost souls.”
Keter’s form brightened and became clear. “Listen. Listen to me now … all of you! So many here were brought wrongly to this evil place, and before their natural time. You have slaved here for a master that is no more. If I could, I would right this wrong.”
Before the pair, many soul’s lights began to shine; they flickered and took their human shapes.
“I cannot right it. But I can set you free. I can send you to Paradise,” Keter continued. “To do this I must leave you and return to the mortal coil. I promise you, just as I promised the demon’s death; you will be free!”
Around them the souls flew. There was no loud cheering, just whispers of thanks and pleas for help as their lights flickered out.
And then Keter and Stravor were alone again.
“They are in much pain, boy. How can we help them?”
Keter reached for Stravor. “I know they are, Sir. Once we are out and home, we can have a special ceremony. The one the Witches used when souls get stuck and dwell sadly in a place. We will help them move on to Paradise where they can be happy again.”
Stravor nodded. The melancholy in this place was enormous and it stole his words.
They grasped hands, turned, and before them was the wall.
“Stravor, come. You must go first.” Keter held his master’s hand tightly.
“Will you follow?” Stravor bent to kiss the boy, who answered with his soft lips.
“Yes, I promise. Your father knows what to do.”
Stravor’s glanced sharply at Keter. “How does he?”
“Do you truly not know, my love?”
“He is your father and loves you truly. He sent you here and now awaits you.” The boy smiled.
Keter pulled Stravor closer to a crack in the wall. “Here. Reach out and put both hands here. Think of life, and I will ….”
Stravor did as he was bidden, then twisted around to glance at Keter. “What?” No answer came as he felt the mighty shove on his back.
Stravor the Elder and Dayson stood inside the Hall of the Dead by the monolith. They were safe under the spell of protection that surrounded them. It did not protect them from the smell of decay and death in the place.
After placing the Sword of Charist into the stone, they had wrapped the corpses of the Ones Who Watched and lay them in a sheltered place outside. They would be buried later.
Now returned to the inner hall, the two men waited.
“It should be soon, Day,” the Elder said. “My visions were strong today.” He watched his Life Sword as it sat in the monolith. “It will sing when the souls come back to us.”
Dayson cast his gaze around. “It had better be soon, Sir. This place is crumbling to dust.”
“Yes, without the Ones Who Watched supporting it, the Hall will fall. Let us hope the boy and Keter were successful.”
Dayson grinned as he considered the Elder’s words. Stravor has not been a boy, for any number of years! Nodding his agreement, the innkeeper said, “Aye, let us hope they were.”
The two men stood in silence.
Time passed, and they had each slid down the wall and the column of stone to sit on the obsidian floor.
Each sat with his own thoughts.
And then it came. It started as a low hum. It grew louder, and deeper. It penetrated all, like a living fog, yet it was sound.
Dayson and the Elder stared at each other until the noise grew and even their hands or arms over their ears did not stop it. The men groaned in pain. It was agony as the sound tore at their insides and threatened to halt the beating of their hearts. It shook their guts and organs leaving them wan, dizzy and confused. It was some time before they could speak.
Finally, Dayson raised his head, nausea made his stomach roil. “God’s teeth! What was that?” Dayson managed to croak.
The Elder pulled himself upright. “It was the death throes of a god. I can feel him no longer.”
“Do you think they really did it? Killed him?”
“Aye, Dayson. Tis why I sent Stravor to help them kill that monster.”
Day nodded. I’m not sure I could kill my own son for any purpose.
And they waited.
“It shouldn’t be much longer now, should it?” Dayson had begun to pace.
“No … no, it should not.”
Minutes seemed like hours but finally the Sword of Charist became white and then glowed orange.
Dayson, who was again sitting, now scrambled up and helped the older man to his feet. “They return!”
“Aye! Aye, they do. The purple light is the first.”
The soul travelled the blade and stopped three quarters of the way up.
The two men waited. They watched.
“Damnit! Where is the other?” Dayson slapped his thigh. Dust puffed upward and then settled slowly to the floor. “Do you think maybe ...?”
“That one is gone?” The Elder grasped the hilt and stood as if listening. “No, the Sword is waiting. It will not allow me to remove it.”
A moment later they watched a bright violet light move up the blade. Once it reached the first, the light stopped and faded. The Sword of Charist sang softly and then its light too, dulled. Stravor the Elder, pulled it from the rock.
Dayson checked; above them stonework from ceiling started to fall. “We need to get out. Our luck will not hold for much longer, Sir.”
“Aye, let us leave this place.” The Elder sheathed his weapon. “First to Stravor.”
The two men hurried through the crumbling building. Then made their way back to the Silverhide Inn. The streets cleared somewhat as they moved away from the Hall.
“It is as if all the winds for a year came together and blew through.” Dayson moved a door that had been laying on the path.
“Aye,” the Elder agreed. “Yet, at least we are free of the beast, Hemothracene.”
“Aye, as you say.” Dayson held the inn door open for the older man. “Go up to Stravor. I will be there in a moment.”
The Elder nodded and made his way carefully to the staircase.
Inside the bar was chaos. Tables and chairs were strewn everywhere. Dayson called to Arei. “Let’s get this place righted. We need to open. Come here all of you … please!”
His little staff—Arei, Mina, Galeth, and Casec—gathered. Dayson smiled at each of them. “The worst is past. People will come here to gather and talk. Let us right this place and serve what we have. They will need us this day.”
“Sir?” Mina asked. “What has happened? I feel odd.”
“Aye,” Arei agreed, he too was quite pale. “That sound earlier ….”
Dayson held up his hands. “Hemothracene is dead. We are free of him. We will feel lost while we get used to our own thoughts once more. Let us get about our work.”
“I will set up the bar.” Arei stepped away. “We’ll get it ready to open, Day.”
“Thank you all.” Dayson spoke then to Arei. “Take no payment this day, mind. Today we help those who need. God’s teeth … Arei, are there unbroken barrels in the cellar?”
“I’m not certain, Dayson. I’ll go down now and check. Casec, please join me in case we need to move some of the barrels.”
“Aye.” Casec followed the night manager to toward the kitchen.
“Thank you. Mina, please see to the kitchen and what we can serve to people.”
“Yes, Sir.” Mina turned and followed Arei out of the main bar.
Galeth looked around at the now empty room. “I’ll right the furniture, Dayson.”
“Good. I leave it with you for I am needed upstairs.”
“First, please, Day … are you all right?” Galeth laid a hand on Dayson’s forearm.
“I am. Come here.” Dayson pulled Galeth into his embrace. “Are you?”
“Aye.” Galeth held on to the innkeeper. Then pulling back, he pressed his lips to Dayson’s, who responded. “I am glad for I was worried.”
Dayson smiled. “It’s over now. Things will be better. I will see you later in our room.”
Galeth nodded and stepped away. He picked up a chair. “Aye. Until then ….”
After another quick kiss, and a smile, Dayson turned and walked up the staircase.
The two men stood by the bed where Stravor lay. The body appeared to be sleeping, but it did not breathe.
“Now what do we do?” Dayson gazed at the Elder and then at his friend. “Can it be undone?”
“So they say. I have never seen it myself. But we must try.” The Elder unsheathed the Sword. “Day, open his shirt.”
“Aye.” Day undid the ties of the shirt of the unconscious man. I’d imagined doing this again one day, but not for this reason. Finished, Day stepped back. “I hope this will work.”
The Elder moved forward and placed the blade on the left-centre of his son’s chest. As he put slight pressure on the weapon, he heard Dayson whispering. The older man stopped and said, “What are you saying?”
“Just praying this works.”
“Dayson, that was no mere prayer.” The old man stared. He removed the Sword’s tip. “What were you saying? Tell me!”
The innkeeper put his hands on his hips. After a breath, he raised his head. “It is a spell.”
“A spell?” The Elder slid the weapon back into the crystal scabbard. “I think it best you tell me what is going on, Dayson!”
“It is a long story. You know me, sir. You know I love your son.”
“Aye, boy. I do know these things. Yet, it seems I have missed something else.”
Dayson sighed. “I am of the Magoph.”
The Elder stared at the young man he’d known for many years. “You? You are a witch?”
“Yes … but my father was not, so my mother and I were sent away. I am … I was not pure, so, unwanted. Mother is a full witch, so taught me many spells. I am unpracticed, but this I remember.”
“It is that foolishness about purity that finished the Magoph in reality,” sighed the old man. “So then, you have the magic?”
“I do. Sir, the story is long, but in short it seems that Keter knew of me, of my mother. He alone escaped when the Stone Men arrived and wiped out the Coven. He came to me by way of slavers. I knew then who he was … my cousin,” explained the innkeeper. Dayson gazed at the Searcher. “Sir, my spell is an old one … of reunification. The Magoph knew of soul transference, but sometimes the souls need help moving back. This is why I offer it.”
Stravor the Elder listened with wide eyes. “I did not know. I was a fool, thinking that, that god had no influence over me. It seems he had more than I’d thought.”
“It matters not any longer, Sir.” Dayson put a comforting hand on the Elder’s bony shoulder. “But Sir, all this talk, we must reunite Stravor with his soul. If you do not trust me, or want me away, simply say so.”
Again, the Sword of Charist was drawn and placed on Stravor’s chest. “No, stay and say your spell.”
“I am ready, Sir.”
“Aye, now.” Stravor the Elder held the hilt with both hands and pressed.
The Life Sword slid through flesh and bone until it rested in the heart. The metal glowed orange and the purple light moved down the blade and disappeared beneath the skin.
Dayson spoke the spell, "Return this soul to its rightful place, see it safely return to grace. Make his body and soul as one; be it though it was ne'er undone.
The purple spread through Stravor’s body, it glowed, flared and then slowly faded.
The two watched, holding their breath. Each silently begging for the body to move or show signs of life.
Dayson sat on the bed and took Stravor’s hand. “Come on. Breathe … come on.” He squeezed harder.
Then it came; a sharp intake of air.
Dayson grinned and glanced up at the Elder, who nodded. Tears of relief sat in the old man’s eyes.
On the bed, Stravor sucked in air. His natural colour flooded back. He squeezed the hand which held his. Then finally his eyes fluttered open. He saw both his father and Dayson at his bedside. His mouth was dry when he uttered, “Ale.”
Dayson still sat holding Stravor’s hand. “Ale? You have been killed, brought back to life and all you can think of to say to us is that.”
The Searcher blinked and grinned. “I have a thirst, innkeeper!”
“I will get you a drink.” Dayson rose and moved to the door. As he passed the Elder, he squeezed the old man’s shoulder and smiled.
From the bed came, “It had better be the good ale!”
When Dayson entered again, father and son were talking together. Stravor was sitting up.
“You seem a bit better.” The innkeeper handed his friend a tankard.
“Thank you … it best be ale.” The Searcher peered at the contents and seemed satisfied. He drank it down. “Better.”
Dayson simply stared.
“What are you looking at?”
“Your eyes …”
“Aye, they are the colour they once were.” Stravor the Elder said. He patted his son’s thigh. “You must rest. Day and I will go and reunite the boy with his soul.”
To his father Stravor said, “I am coming with you. I will be there when my boy is come back.”
“God’s teeth! Stravor! Why must you be so stubborn?” Dayson took the empty vessel and put it on the small table.
“Tis good you know I am, for I need not explain it.” Stravor swung his legs over the side. He stopped for a moment and grasped his head.
“Too soon, son. Please rest. Day and I will go. You can be with him tomorrow.”
Stravor drew in large breaths. “Is the pony and cart still here?”
“Aye, but Stra—”
“Ready it, Day. For I will be with my boy when he awakes, even if I must crawl.” The big man got unsteadily to his feet.
Dayson stepped forward and pushed Stravor back down. “Aye … fine, but you will sit and rest at least while all is readied.”
“Agreed, I will … I will wait.” Stravor sat on the edge of the bed.
“Good. I will return soon.” Dayson left the room shouting for Galeth as he did.
A few minutes later Mina knocked and entered. She carried a bowl and bandages. “Dayson asked me to come and dress a wound?”
The Elder pointed to his son. “His chest.”
“God’s teeth. I need no nurse or bandages,” Stravor growled from the bedside.
“Sir, you are very pale and your wound seeps.” Mina moved closer and set her bowl on the table. “I will clean it quickly and bind it.”
Stravor only nodded. He liked the woman, so he suffered her ministrations.
Mina worked quickly and smiled at him when done. “There. Please go slowly, Sir. You do not look well. Rest soon.”
“Thank you, Mina. I will, very soon.”
With a final smile and curtsey she left, nearly running into her employer as she did.
“Slowly, Mina!” Dayson said with a grin. Once she’d passed, he walked to Stravor. “All is ready. Let’s get you down and into the wagon. Do up your shirt!”
“Aye.” Stravor glared but did so. Then he struggled to stand, but was aided by both his friend and his father.
Outside stood a wagon with a large horse in the harness. Shade was tethered to the rear of the wagon. Stravor stopped briefly to greet his faithful companion.
“Tis good to see you, small one.” Stravor patted the thick neck.
The little creature snorted and the large ears swiveled toward his master’s voice.
Dayson climbed in the back and helped the Elder get Stravor in. Once the Searcher was settled, his father sat next to him and Dayson got into the driver’s seat.
“Come on.” Dayson tapped the horse with the long reins and they moved off.
The wagon rocked and jolted its way over the debris in the roads.
Perhaps ale was not the best idea. Stravor’s stomach threatened to reject its contents, though he would not admit it aloud.
People were out and starting to clean up around their homes and shops as the wagon moved slowly by.
Dayson called to them, “The inn has food and drink if you are needy.”
The glassy-eyed, shocked people smiled and nodded, and offered their thanks.
The roads slowly smoothed as they neared the border. All were glad of the shade when they took the bend onto the forest road to Stravor’s home.
“Father, not home … we must go …” Stravor struggled to speak. “God’s teeth, am I tired.”
“Yes, son. We go to the crypt first. Then we will take you both home so you can rest.” The Elder patted his son’s forearm.
Stravor nodded and then let his eyes close.
"Whoa." Dayson stopped the wagon near the crypt. He climbed down from his seat.
“Day! Here are the keys, lad.” The old man tossed them to the young man who caught them deftly.
“I’ll get this unlocked,” the innkeeper said. Once done, Dayson tucked the keys into his pocket. “This deed must be finished sooner than later.” He jumped onto the bed of the wagon and helped move Stravor.
“Will you not wait here?” Dayson tugged the man toward the back of the wagon.
“Perhaps I should since I will have an arse full of splinters soon!” Stravor shrugged off the help. “I can get myself out.”
“Fine.” Dayson reached out to help the Elder. “Worse than the nagging of a wedded-one.”
Stravor the Elder put back his head and laughed.
The Younger struggled to the edge of the wagon and then hopped down. His knees buckled and he grabbed the vehicle for support.
Shade danced out of the way as Dayson moved quickly to rescue his friend.
“Come, my friend.” Dayson helped Stravor stand. “Come and I will get you first down the stairs, then your father.”
“Aye … thanks, Day.
After several trips up and down the stairs, Dayson stood beside each Searcher in the crypt. It was cool but the air of death made the innkeeper shiver.
“Shall I unwrap the bod … Keter?”
“Aye … nay,” Stravor said. “It should be me.” He reached out and carefully pulled back the sheeting until the boy’s upper torso and face were exposed. He examined the chest wound and the raised widened eyes to the others. Stravor ran his hand over the boy’s nearly healed chest. “I killed him. He was dead. How can this be?”
The Elder gazed at his son. “Nearly everything was planned I’m sure. The boy had to have known.”
“He did. As he sat upon the altar in the Crystal Cave, he was weeping and afraid. But then he looked deeply at me, and said I know. And then … then he pulled the blade into his own heart.” Stravor stroked Keter’s soft blond hair. “He did it to save me pain … because I am of his heart …”
“Aye, Son.” The Elder moved closer to the body and drew his Sword. “Let us have him come back to us.”
Stravor nodded and stepped back. “Yes, Father. Get on with it.”
The Elder raised the weapon and lay the tip on Keter’s chest. It brightened and slid into the boy, stopping when it reached the heart. The violet light slipped down and into the lad.
“Dayson, your prayer.”
“Aye.” The innkeeper stepped forward and repeated what he’d said for Stravor.
“Prayer, Day? Since when do you pray?” Stravor asked.
“Since souls are in need of help.”
Stravor held Dayson’s eyes. He could still hear the sadness and pain of souls they left in the Hall. “They are in need … more than you can know.”
All eyes were on the altar as the Elder removed the blade.
The trio watched in awe as the boy’s skin became violet and then slowly changed to its normal colour.
Stravor glanced wildly at Dayson and then his father. “Why is he not waking?”
“Stravor, take his hand and squeeze. Talk to him,” the Elder said. “It took you several minutes to come back to us.”
The Searcher grabbed Keter’s hand. “Boy. Wake. Come back to me, boy.”
Author's Note: I hope you are enjoying this story. I'd love to hear what you think. If you have a moment please let me know. You can write to me at: email@example.com
Thank you for reading!!