Jim Melvin

The Death Wizard Chronicles

Book 6

Darkness as deep as emptiness flows over Triken like a tsunami. The end is near, but what will it bring to the survivors of the great war?

 

Dawn never arrived. The unnatural darkness rushed over them and hungrily consumed the stars. But on the battlements of Hakam, Ott, and Balak, there was light aplenty. Large quantities of Maōi, worth a fortune times a fortune, had been arranged along the wall walks and set aglow. The milky illumination sprang into the opaque firmament like a spear. Elu guessed that it could be seen for dozens of leagues.

Healed by HopelowNone among them comprehended the purpose of the blue-black cloud. Certainly this was an event unheard of in all of recorded history, as frightening as it was mysterious. The cloud had surged toward the fortress from the direction of Avici; therefore most saw it as yet another evil creation of Invictus. But Elu wasn’t so certain. What sense did it make for a Sun God to give birth to darkness?

The Svakaran wished that Torg, Jord, or Peta were around to shed some light of their own. He hadn’t seen the wizard or Faerie since their encounter at LakeHadaya, and the ghost-child Peta had since departed the fortress, leaving Elu and Ugga alone. Though the Nissayans had been friendly and even servile, the Svakaran still felt lonely. Recently he had buried his best friend in the world with his own hands; another man he had grown to love was no longer a man; and the rest of his friends—those who still lived—were scattered far and wide. It was enough to make Elu want to cast himself off Hakam.

The bear nuzzled the Svakaran’s hand with his wet nose. Elu looked at him and offered a sad smile. The beast’s small eyes resembled Ugga’s in eerie fashion, containing the same gentle expressiveness.

“I wish you could speak,” Elu said. “You always had a way of warming the hearts of those around you. Few have such skill. I miss you so much, my dear friend.”

The bear snorted, and then to the Svakaran’s surprise stood up on his hind limbs and wrapped his front paws around Elu’s neck. There were gasps and shouts of dismay from nearby knights, but these soon changed to laughter when the bear leaned down and began to lap his companion’s face like an overexcited dog. Elu squirmed and spluttered but lacked the strength to push the beast away. Finally Ugga stopped of his own accord and dropped back down. Then he sat and stared, his long red tongue lolling goofily.

“You see!” Elu said, wiping a gob of spittle off his face. “Even now you’ve found a way to cheer me up.”

The bear yawned, laid his snout on the black stone, and fell instantly asleep. Elu studied him for a moment and then resumed his silent stance, staring outward into the pitch darkness. The light from the Maōi created the same effect as a well-lighted room at night; if you looked out a window, you were blind to anything beyond the length of your arm.

A black knight approached the Svakaran. Essīkka was her name, and earlier she had provided him with a change of clothing and then offered to outfit him in black armor, the latter of which Elu had refused. Ever since, she had hovered nearby, as if assigned to keep watch on him and the bear. But the Svakaran suspected otherwise. When Essīkka raised the visor of her helm, there was a glint in her eye. Before the vines had gotten hold of Elu, his physical appearance had pleased most women. Apparently the return to his original body was not without benefits, even if he wasn’t quite as happy-go-lucky as he used to be.

“How did you know?” Essīkka said.

“Know what?” Elu said.

“That the darkness was coming. You must have known, or you would not have ordered us to display the Maōi.”

Elu snorted. “I would never order such great knights to do anything. I barely had the courage to ask politely. As for knowing in advance, I can’t lay claim to that. The girl is the one who knows everything. I just did what she told me.”

“Is the child a witch or demon? One moment I was staring at her, the next she was gone  . . .  poof!”

“Whatever she is, bad isn’t part of it.”

Essīkka removed her helm and placed it in the crook of her arm. Her long black hair swirled in the chilly breeze. Despite her armor and the thick padding beneath it, she shivered and leaned closer to Elu.

“So many are dead,” she said in a near whisper. “My mother, father, and two of my three brothers were slaughtered by newborns at Nissaya, and my remaining brother never returned from the Green Plains. I am alone in the world, as are many. At least I am unwed and without children. I could not have borne to see my husband, sons, and daughters butchered in such horrible fashion.”

“I am truly sorry,” Elu said. “For what little it’s worth, I too have lost many who were dear to me.”

Essīkka removed one of her gauntlets and wiped tears from her eyes. “I am alone,” she repeated, then brushed the side of his face with her damp fingertips.

Elu did not respond, but neither did he draw away. She was beautiful, after all.

They stood together above the gate of Hakam and watched as a trickle of people, attracted by the light, entered the fortress and gathered in the courtyard inside the third bulwark.

“They are standing just a few paces from where the snow giant fell,” Essīkka said. “When the time comes and this evil is no longer, Nissaya would be wise to turn the ‘death area’ into a shrine. But we are too exhausted to consider such things now. The great gates must be repaired and peace restored before we will have the strength to turn to other matters.”

Elu shivered. The air seemed to grow colder with every breath he took. “I never met Yama-Utu, but Torg spoke highly of him at the Privy Council in Jivita. It was a terrible loss—yet one among many. In just a few weeks I have seen more horrors than I could have believed possible.”

“As have I,” Essīkka said. “Yet I have never felt more alive than I do at this moment.”

Then she leaned forward and kissed Elu on the mouth. When she finally backed away, the Svakaran could see the reflections of Maōi glittering in her irises, which were as black as her hair and skin.

“You have been long on the wall,” she said. “You must be hungry and tired. Will you accompany me to my chambers? There is a pen nearby that I believe the great bear will find comfortable. I am sure I will be given permission to leave my post for a spell, as long as you are with me.”

Then she took his hand.

Elu did not resist.

About The Author

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Jim Melvin was an award-winning journalist at the St. Petersburg Times for twenty-five years. As a reporter, he specialized in science, nature, health and fitness, and he wrote about everything from childhood drowning to erupting volcanoes. Jim is a student of Eastern philosophy and mindfulness meditation, both of which he weaves extensively into his work. Jim is the author of The Death Wizard Chronicles, a six-book epic fantasy for mature audiences. But he and his agent are now actively marketing book 1 of an epic fantasy trilogy for ages 12 and up titled Dark Circles.

About my Publisher

The Death Wizard Chronicles is being published by Bell Bridge Books, an imprint of BelleBooks, Inc. Bell Bridge Books is known for nurturing emerging fiction voices as well as being the “second home” for many established authors, who continue to publish with major publishing conglomerates.