Another snip from book #2 of the Tales of the Wovlen.
For those of you who are familiar with my book, this lends you a little backstory for a couple of the characters.
For those of you who aren't familiar with my book, I hope you find it interesting and enjoy the ride (but, if I were you, I wouldn't get too attached to the characters... Just sayin').
A dense fog lay strewn throughout a thick, black forest, blanketing the trees with its moonlit skirts. Two moons looked down, faces full and bright in the sky above. One shone in the East, the other in the West, giving the nighttime world ample light to see by. A tense silence hung in the air over the forest, giving the otherwise peaceful surroundings an eerie feeling. The fog stirred around trees before an unearthly shriek broke the silence and echoed around the forest. Two shadowy forms, clutching each other’s hand, darted around the tree trunks, labored breathing and fear lacing their movements. Both had drawn swords, and one of them, a woman, glowed as they ran in and out of the shadows of the forest. They paused, ducking behind a large tree for cover.
“They’re gaining on us,” a man said in-between gasps to the woman.
“They are shadows themselves. They are much faster in the nighttime,” the woman said. “We will be forced to fight them before the dawn.” A hint of sadness strained her voice.
“No.” The man rested his hand on her cheek and looked her in the eyes. “They’ll be forced to fight us.” He smiled and twisted his sword eagerly in his hand, though his eyes betrayed great fear.
Another shriek pierced the air. The man seized the woman’s hand with renewed determination and began to run again.
In pursuit were three darker shadows. They zipped across the ground, as ghostly hounds on the heels of prey. Only the sound of their smoky garb whipping through the air could be heard. The mist, excited by their presence, grew in size as they passed by, becoming more dense and climbing higher up the trees.
The light from the woman pushed the fog back and illuminated the path as they fled, keeping them from colliding with trees or tripping over logs.
The three black shadows spread out, and two of them surged forward. They dragged the denser fog with them until, in a matter of moments, it had surrounded the fleeing couple.
The man and woman slowed as they climbed up a hill and struggled to see. Even the woman’s glow was weakened by the growing fog now. Once on the hill’s summit, they stopped and stood back to back, each readying their sword. Everything became dreadfully silent again as the fog continued to grow thicker and deeper around them.
“Elarn.” The woman’s free hand found his and gripped it. “I love you.”
Elarn gripped her hand back.
“And I you, Venain,” he said, his voice tight, strained.
They released each other’s hands. Elarn gripped his sword securely, and Venain drew a second blade.
One shadowy figure appeared through the fog, gliding toward them. He was tall, his stride long and strong. He held a claymore sword of ancient make, and a large war crown adorned his head, resting over the top of a smokey blue hood that concealed his face. He raised the claymore higher and looked directly at the woman.
“Paladain…princess…” he hissed.
With an ear-piercing shriek, the other two shadows, shorter than the first, burst from the fog with raised swords and charged the couple.
Elarn raised his sword and turned, parrying the first blow before twisting out of the way as the shadow made a swift swing for his neck. Venain skillfully and lithely executed a series of parries and blows with the other shadow, quickly overwhelming it. She kicked it in the chest, knocking it to the ground. Jumping over the top of the shadow, she parried its futile attempt to nick her with its blade and stabbed her sword into its chest. With a scream, the creature exploded into a puff of black dust. With that, Venain turned to aid Elarn, who was struggling to defend himself. Blood flowed from several wounds on his cheek, arms, and side, gleaming in her fading light. He was beginning to stumble.
“Hey!” Venain shouted as she ran toward Elarn’s opponent.
The shadow turned, ignoring the man, and blocked her blows until Elarn stabbed it from behind. It unleashed a pain-filled shriek as black mist swirled from its wound. It swung its sword backward, nicking Elarn on the side of his neck. The dark creature twisted and leaned toward him, slamming the cross-guard of its sword into his mouth, knocking him to the ground. With incredible speed it turned and swiped away Venain’s attempt to stab her blade into its chest. It parried a couple more of her blows before backhanding her across the face with such force it sent her spinning.
"Venain!” Elarn attacked with renewed energy, swinging his blade for the shadow’s neck. The shadow parried his blow and made a counter attack, forcing Elarn away from Venain.
Venain righted herself, blinking the world back into focus just as the tall shadow with the war crown stepped into her vision.
“Princess…” it hissed.
She stared with wide eyes at the tall, king shadow and raised her swords in defense.
The king shadow arched his claymore around his head and beat against her smaller weapons, forcing her to bend under his powerful blows. He finally swiped away one of her blades. Before she had time to compensate, the shadow reached out with a giant gloved hand and wrapped his fingers around her throat. He squeezed and lifted her effortlessly into the air, letting her feet dangle..
Venain gasped and struck at him with her remaining sword, but he swiped it away and continued to hold her high.
The shadow stared at her, faint red lights flickering in the empty eyes of a metallic mask covering his face, deep inside his hood. He held her up in a conflicted fashion, seeming to sway and struggle with himself, compelled to do one thing, but wishing to do another.
“Venain!” Elarn screamed from across the clearing where he continued to struggle with the shadow from before. Making a desperate move, he sliced off his opponent’s hand, then jammed his sword up to the hilt into the shadow’s chest. He jerked his sword free and bolted toward Venain and the king shadow, leaving the other to scream and disappear in a cloud of dust.
Venain wrapped her small hands around the big gloved hand holding her. She looked past the shadow to see Elarn running towards them. The tall shadow pulled her closer to his face and spoke in a strangely remorseful voice. “Please, Princess. Forgive me.”
With those words, cold pain ripped into Venain’s gut. She glanced down as her body went numb. Crimson fluid flowed down the front of her dress, streaming from around the claymore blade jammed to the hilt in her abdomen. A cry rippled from her clamped throat as the shadow jammed his sword into a tree behind her, tacking her there like a rag.
Elarn screamed in rage as he came behind the creature. He swiped his sword across the back of the king shadow’s legs, chopping half way through them.
The creature fell to his knees in silence, his face turning up toward the woman. His shoulders were slumped as if in sorrow. Streams of black mist swirled from his wounds and circled around him like inky snakes.
Elarn pulled his blade back and roared as he thrust it forward again, sinking it up to the hilt into the shadow’s chest, giving it a vicious twist.
The king shadow arched his back in pain without a sound. He exploded into a pile of black dust which fluttered silently to the earth.
“Venain!” Elarn cried sorrowfully as he let his sword drop to the ground. He looked helplessly at her, tears filling his eyes. He wrapped an arm around her legs and supported her, removing most of her weight from the sword tacking her to the tree. He closed his eyes and gripped the hilt, tears falling down his cheeks as he tightened his muscles. Taking a deep breath, he ripped the sword from the tree, crying out as he felt Venain's body shudder in agony. He lowered her to the ground, cold chills rushing through his body as he looked at her glassy eyes and blank stare.
The sword in her gut turned to black dust, leaving an empty space where it had been. Almost instantly, Venain gasped for air and blood flowed freely from her wound.
"Oh, Venain!" Elarn mournfully scooped her broken body up onto his lap and pulled her close, clutching her in his arms. Tears streamed down his face as he put a hand over her wound, trying to staunch the bleeding. Her glowing, silvery-red blood squeezed through his fingers with ease.
He did his best to restrain a sob.
“You’re losing too much blood. I’ve–I’ve got to stop it. I can’t… I’ve got to,” he stammered.
"Elarn." Venain's voice started to fade. Using all her strength, she moved her hand to her chest and grabbed a black cord from around her neck, pulling a strange golden key from under her shirt.
"The key...it must go...”
“Don’t talk! Save your strength. You have to save your strength until I can stop the bleeding and find help.”
A tear slipped from Venain’s eye. “Elarn. My body…is dying. It cannot be saved.” She pulled the cord free of her neck and pressed it into his bloody hand “The key must…must go to Walneff…until Erewhon…is old enough.”
Elarn took the key and Venain’s hand, holding them both.
“Venain, you can’t die. Erewhon and Annaka, they are so young. I can’t raise them on my own—” His voice broke and he sobbed. “I can’t go on without you, my love!”
Venain, her eyes following her own movement, slowly raised her hand up to Elarn’s face, resting her cold fingers against his cut cheek.
“My loving Elarn. You must go on. Protect the girls. You must,” she whispered.
Elarn placed his hand with the key over hers, holding her hand on his cheek. “I will. I promise.”
A soft smile came to Venain’s lips. “Of all the long years I have lived, these few with you have been my happiest.” Her eyes flickered, but her gaze stayed on her husband. “Thank you for loving me.”
Elarn clutched her hopelessly, watching his beloved fade away. “Please, Venain, stay with me. Don’t go.”
Venain’s eyes closed, and her breathing slowed until Elarn felt the life leave her. He froze and stared at her peaceful face, searching for any sign or glimmer of hope.
“Venain? Venain?” He trembled as all his faith melted away. Horrible sobs ripped at his chest as he realized she was gone. He lowered her hand from his cheek and placed it over her chest. He stroked her cold face and brushed his fingertips over her soft hair. Finally, he pulled her in close, burying his face in her neck. He rocked her, clinging as he bitterly cried.
The key she had given him dangled from his hand, reflecting the highest moon in a single teardrop that slowly ran down the golden shaft.
After several minutes, a large, winged shadow passed in front of the light of one of the two moons and cast darkness over the mourning man.
Author of the fantasy series, Tales of the Wovlen, Kathryn spends a great deal of time in the world of her imagination, having tea with fire breathing dragons, writing books on flying space ships, and practicing her mad scientist laugh with gusto. However, on occasion,she returns to this world just to play with her dog and blog about her fun.
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