High Moors/ chapter 3/ Facing the Dark – book 2 of Emperors and Exiles

Ivan

Ivan

Chapter Three                          .

Highmoors

The sunrise was stunning over the high moors.  Mist rose off the river below and blended with the fog that poured slowly down from the hill to the north.  Ivan sat on the hillside watching the sun lift over the horizon.  Its light turned clouds to pink and gold.

He could hear the call of the White Geese as they prepared to launch upward to continue their migration north to the tundra fields that spread out at the feet of the Grava Mountains. Snow melt would create lakes and ponds that offered the perfect landscape for the birds of the north.  Spring had truly come to Ezeer.

TyKale stirred in his fur cloak and stretched.  Ivan let the Purtan wake up at his own speed today.  They had been running hard and today they had to cross a dangerous river; he wanted to cross it well rested.

Somewhere off to the south a Snow Fox started yipping, announcing that she had crawled out of her den.  She called her kits out to see the sky for the first time.

TyKale knelt beside the small fire and blew on the embers.  His breath alone made the embers burn up and flames curl around the bottom of the tea pot.  He poured himself a cup, then added more water before he joined Ivan on the hill.  He wrapped his fur cloak about him and held his cup, looking out to the sunrise.

Ivan glanced over and again was reminded of his friend, Shannon.  He wished for the quiet man’s counsel and wisdom.  Ivan wished for the chance to tell Shannon he still loved him like a brother and comrade, and that no matter what hell might have done to him, Ivan didn’t care. He sighed heavily and sipped his own little cup of tea.

“You know,” Tykale said, “when I sleep, I dream… I remember things.  I dream that I am home, that my mind is clear; then I wake and it vanishes.”  He sighed a little.  “Sometimes I wonder if that’s not better.  Maybe I shouldn’t know who I am.”

“A man is who is he by his actions, not by the name he was given as a ball of trembling flesh and gasping breath.  Purtans change their names at times because of that very thing.  You are surely not the man you where when that gate opened and maybe that’s the point; that if you knew, you would be so homesick you would not be here in mind.”

TyKale nodded.  “I was trying to figure out how long I had been in Ezeer… at least four years I think.  The first while is a little blurry. I think all the years had shut down a lot of the energy in my brain.  It could be longer, maybe a decade.  Maybe that is why I can’t seem to learn the language.  My brain is just a little… damaged.”

“Or maybe the gods woke you slowly so the shock did not hurt you too much. Shannon spoke with the whisper you use, you know.  Most of the time, anyway, but with friends he would drop it now and then. You don’t have to use it with me.”

“You’re a king, Ivan; of course I do.” He shrugged. “Besides, if I spoke without it, my voice might leave an energy signature that could be followed.  I would not want something so silly to get you found.”  He took a sip of tea.  “Does it bother you?”

“It just reminds me of Shannon and I worry for him.  He was in very bad shape when we parted.  I pray for him to the gods of Ezeer and try to send love beyond into the God of Purt to reflect back to Shannon, to just let him know he has a friend in the world.”

“I would like very much to meet a man you respect so much,” TyKale said.

“You will,” Ivan said.  “I am certain he will let you go to Norwood and it’d give me a reason to as well.  I would like very much to see the past.  I can only imagine the glory of his city with all the lights still glowing and the magics of Purt still alive.”

“Purt has fallen dark?”

“For a very long time,” Ivan said.  They watched a flock of Stone Cranes fly past them at their eye level, following the river below to their own nesting grounds.

“Shannon is a very dark name.  If you say it as Shan ha non, it means inconsolable grief.”

“I know.” Ivan got up to refill his little cup.

“If the city glows, then he is the true line of Norwood and given the keys by the Emperor.  How is that if the Emperor is lost?”

“Shannon was Tyredelle Von Armond before…”

“Before what?”

Ivan was very slow to sit back down, deciding if he wanted to tell the young Purtan what had happened.

“I don’t know the whole story, but his family, his wife and children, were all butchered before him and when they didn’t break him, they sent him to hell.  He’s not a mortal man anymore and I don’t think he ever can be.”

“Tyredelle,” TyKale whispered the name.  A great sadness crossed his face and he bowed his head.

“What?” Ivan asked.

“Sometimes it seems I can hear echoes of the past, but when I turn to listen, it is gone.  I don’t know why, but just saying that name makes me very sad.” He looked out at the land of Ezeer.  “We should get moving soon.”

They collected the small camp up and put the fire out.  Ivan set the sod back in that they had cut away for it, making the fire pit all but vanish.  They headed west, over the hills and toward the River Nanutuk.  It was a rough river at all times, but this time of year it would be raging.  They could hear it long before they reached it.  Mist rose up from the crashing waters.

Reaching the brink of a hill, they looked down at what they needed to cross.  It looked like an endless in-rushing tide.  It roared down the gorge it had long cut; boulders and deep stone walls contained it, but barely.  They were not the only ones there, either.

Down near the water, a small camp of Ezeerens had set up, likely wondering how they were going to cross the raging river.

“That’s…,” TyKale shook his head, not even sure he knew the right word to do it justice.

“Nanutuk,” Ivan said.  “It translates into Wild Woman or something like that. Untameable Female Power maybe is better.”

“I would not like to know a woman named such,” TyKale said.  “I think I like more peaceful sorts.”

Ivan chuckled and dropped a hand on TyKale’s shoulder.

“You might change your mind if you did.  A woman so wild hides such power in her heart, not on her face.  A river is more free to express itself openly.  All the best are houses of such glory.  Come, let us join them.”

They reached the camp just as the meal was being passed out and without a hesitation Ivan and TyKale were given a share.

Dur’ Rak met them with a smile and gave Ivan a strong embrace.

“How did you beat us here?” Ivan asked surprised.

“We know the way here well enough,” Dur Rak replied. “There is a small gold mine we have just up river a little.  The bridge has been cut, though,” he gestured to the stone pillars that should have had the twisted rope bridges that were used all over Ezeer.  “Not the time of year to try and cross at all, but without the bridge, we aren’t sure what direction to go.  There is a bridge further north, but to the south there is a place where the river can be forded; several days either way.”

“Perhaps we can think of something,” Ivan said, trying to get his mind and heart to accept he was speaking to his grandson.  He looked to the pillars as the meal of bread stuffed with meat and roots was complimented with a mug of ale a young man handed him.  He and TyKale walked to the pillar.

“The rope has been cut,” TyKale said.

“Hmm…. the churchmen, I would guess.  No Ezeeren would do such a thing.  Lives get lost running such bridges over rivers like this.”

“How do we cross then?”

“It will take us days to get to another place and that might also be cut off.”

“We don’t have days if we plan to make it in time for the festival.”

“No.  We don’t, and others behind us have even less time.”

TyKale knelt down and put his hand to the ground and closed his eyes.  He was still for a long moment, his meal forgotten in his hand.  He rose slowly with a slight scowl.

“I can build a bridge.  It will take me a day at least to set up and it will certainly leave an energy mark, but it will get the men over.”

“How much magic?”

“Not… too much of a mark. I think I can use the river to hide much of it, but I will need a day to rest after it’s built.”

“Do it,” Ivan nodded.  Turning to his grandson, he said, “TyKale will build us a bridge. We cross here.”

“He can?  How?”

“I’m not certain, but if he says he can, I trust he can.”

TyKale ate the meal he had been given, then gracefully ran through a set of training forms to settle his energy and prepare his mind. He sank down to sit cross-legged beside the stone pillar.

Ivan stood and watched the young man who did not move at all.

“He is in a trance, I take it,” Dur’ Rak said  as he joined Ivan with a skin of mead.  Ivan took a swig and passed it back.

“Yes.”

“You watch him very closely.”

“He reminds me of a friend.  Had I watched that Purtan and his magics more closely, perhaps much of the pain he endured would have been preventable.”

“You know many Purtans?”

“Not many,” Ivan said.  “Just one really, but as he is the King of Norwood, I think he qualifies as being rather remarkable.”

“You know the King of Norwood?” Dur’ Rak asked shocked.  “The Shadow King?  You know him?”

“Shannon,” Ivan said.  “Yes.” Ivan looked over at the younger man.  “No soul alive is of greater honor and strength.”

“And our young wizard reminds you of him?” Dur Rak asked doubtfully.

“Greatly.  The more I see him, the more so.  Does he not seem so to you?  You risked lives to find him and bring him in from the storm.”

“The seeress commanded it.  She sent us to find him when he first appeared and demanded he be treated with all honor due a great wizard, but all he has done for us is light fires and bring down Gerome’s men on us.”

“He fought in the battle, Dur’ Rak,” Ivan said.  “He was half the magic there.”

“The man who came… with the staff – who was he?  We thought he was the magic of the battle.”

“He is Tharadon Lords, King of Awens and my adopted brother.  He was half and TyKale the other.  Whoever that young man was in another life, he is indeed a powerful wizard.”

Ivan stayed and kept watch until TyKale rose just after dark, looking very tired.

“It’s almost ready,” he said and stumbled to the fire.  He sank down and sagged forward, dozing off almost at once.  Ivan woke him to offer him tea and another meat bread roll late that evening.  TyKale ate and drank, then lay over and fell asleep.  Ivan gathered him up and moved him to the bed he had made for the wizard and covered him.

“You should not be doing that,” Dur Rak said when Ivan returned to the fire.  “The boy might well be a wizard, but you are King of Ezeer.  Have one of us do it if it’s your will it be done.”

Ivan folded his arms over his chest and noticed the young storyteller who had stood at his fire in the yard of his hut not so long ago.  He had a scar across his left cheek that went down to his neck.  It was still mending and swollen, proving the young man had fought and nearly died.

“Gerome, the Black Heart hunts the true Emperor of Purt.  He sends demons, warlocks of all dark powers. He torments him through the torn and burned fragments of the bond once blessed between them.

“I have seen the Prince of Purt lift his hand to turn aside warp storms, bring stars down from heaven, and stand in defiance of the masters of hell, and I have seen him lift a child who has fallen and carry him on his shoulders.  I have seen him starve so that others might eat, I have seen him kneel beside a peasant woman and cover her with his own blanket that she might sleep better. If Tyredelle Von Armond, the Unbreakable, can pause to put up with a stupid gladiator from Dacan so he doesn’t end up dead, it is the least I can do to care for one of his people who clearly has been sent here by the gods.  Humility is not a weakness; it is a strength and true humility comes by choice.”

“Von Armond is dead,” one of the men said.

“Perhaps he is,” Ivan said, “but I have seen him none-the- less, and fought beside him and starved at the fire next to him, shivered in the cold and crossed the lands of Brackin with him.  I tell you, Norwood’s king is Shannon and Shannon is Tyredelle… or was before Gerome took him to hell.”

They stood quietly for awhile before Ivan turned away to find sleep beside TyKale, as both guard and friend. He really had nothing more to say to them and he was tired.

He was one of the first awake in the morning and built the fire up, started tea and waited. TyKale joined him looking a little tired. He took the offered tea and smiled weakly.

“Didn’t sleep well?” Ivan asked.

“No,” TyKale replied. “Dreams…” he shrugged.  He sipped the tea and let the last of his sleep fade before he went back to the riverbank.  Today he stood, settled his feet and closed his eyes.  With the slightest gesture of his hands, he began to shape and shift energy in his mind.

At first nothing seemed to happen. Then the ground sort of shivered.  The Ezeerens gathered to watch and the young storyteller pointed it out first.  The very boulders in the river were lifting, sort of stretching like soft clay.  Evenly spaced across the river span, pillars of stone began to lift upward.  It was slow work, but they all stood transfixed in awe.

As the pillars began to reach the height of the steep banks, they began to lean toward each other. Power burned like deep molten lava inside the depth of the stone and the more they moved and flexed the stronger, bolder and more visible those lines were.

When the reaching stones met, the lines flared and the building sped up.  Stones began to thicken, arches settled and walls of solid rock along the edges of the newly forming bridge-top lifted up, not just blocky and solid, but gracefully matching the pillars that held the bridge above the torrent of water.  Out from the ends, stone lifted up through the sod and created sections of road, binding the solid stone of the bridge deeper into the land so even over time erosion would not separate bridge and land.

TyKale lowered his hands and collapsed to his knees. Ivan was there at once offering support.

“I need to lie down,” TyKale said.  Ivan helped him back to the bed and covered him.  TyKale was already asleep.  Ivan walked back to the bridge and watched the glowing line of fire begin to cool and turn dark, but the lines themselves remained there, visible as if carved into place.

Ivan looked to Dur’ Rak, who stood in awe.

“I’d let that cool overnight,” Ivan said, “but thanks to our Purtan wizard, we can cross now and for a thousand years or more to come.”

“I never… he ….how…” Dur’ Rak stared, still in disbelief of what he had seen.

Ivan put his hand his grandson’s shoulder. “Never underestimate a Purtan.”

The camp was empty. The men had left just before dawn, letting Ivan stay with TyKale.  As Ivan made a small meal for the two of them from supplies that were left, he watched the river roar and rush under the great bridge of Nanunuk.  It was beautiful.  The stone was flawless, smooth and sculpted.

Not only were the lines from the magic still visible, there were images of all the bears of Ezeer, snow cranes and white geese, mukluks and the village of Kennar next to its silt field river. It looked as if some dwarven master had spent a hundred years to carve it all in with the faintest lines, just enough to see when the sunlight hit it just so.

TyKale slept all day and was still asleep when another group of men arrived just after dark. They were men Ivan had never seen before, but clearly his people.

They seemed to be from a village farther north and had not been at the battle of Kennar.  They greeted Ivan and joined him unaware he was the king.

“So that’s the seeress’ boy?” one asked as he turned a goose on the fire.

“TyKale,” Ivan said.  “He just built the bridge,” he gestured.  “Needed a day to rest, so I stayed while the others ran ahead.”

The men were suitably impressed, but they were hungry and sat down to talk of home, hope, and food.  Ivan listened to them and enjoyed the pointless chatter.

The men who had arrived went to bed early and took off before dawn again while TyKale slept on.  He woke with the sun and joined Ivan to get a cup of tea.

“Feel better?”

“Rested,” TyKale said simply.

They cleared the site as best they could before taking to the bridge.  They crossed the solid stone.

“You didn’t have to make it pretty,” Ivan said

“I didn’t exactly.  When you touch the earth of a place like that, it is hard to master fully.  It wants to express itself in the things of that place.  Only a master can make stone flow smooth.  It was all I could do to try to keep the demands of the architect of a strong bridge in my mind.  It did the rest.  You could say the stone took energies out of the air and expressed them though the images in my mind that matched.  If you ever go to Purt and you see the smooth walls, you will understand the utter command of mind and magic the masters of old held.  To control your mind that clearly is impressive enough, but to do it while holding such power is beyond anything of this age.”

“Thank you.  I am fairly certain Ezeer has nothing so grand; a true display of the friendship between Ezeer and Purt.  There is a certain power to it being out here.”

“I hope it helps.”

They paused near midday for Ivan to dig edible roots and TyKale to get in a quick nap to help his further recovery from the great expenditure of energy used in creating the bridge.  He was still asleep when he felt the scan and the magic building up.  Rolling up, he shook off sleep.

“Ivan?” he called out as he got to his feet and felt the magic.  He ran from where he had napped.  Over the rise of the hill he saw Ivan with several other Ezeerens.  They were all on their knees and clearly in pain before a woman.

He knew at once she was a blood wizard, a sorcerer, and   hinted at the magics of a necromancer. Tykale gathered his own power as he raced down, just as Ivan collapsed forward fighting to not transform into the golden bear despite his pain.

If she forced Ivan to reveal his true power, she could feed on that instead of just his flesh.  TyKale slammed power at her to knock her off balance and shatter her focus as he ran.  She stumbled and turned her eyes on him.  He hardened his shields as he neared.  Her power slammed into him, driving the air out of his lungs, but he didn’t miss a step and came into a defensive stance before her, in between her and Ivan.

Tykale reached into the vault and felt a sword in his hand.  He didn’t even think about it.  She was going to have to fight him both in magic and physically.

She was, without a doubt, Awens and power.  She sneered at him.

“Stay out of his,” she told him in Awens.  “Step down and I will be merciful.”

He shook his head at her and answered with a blast of power which cracked down at her as lightning, nearly shattering her shields, forcing her back.  He didn’t let up and hammered on her, blast after blast, as he came at her.  He’d drive a sword into her if he couldn’t break her magics.

She yelled spells at him as she waved a wand, desperately weaving her magic before her shields were broken.   But it was of no use, as TyKale shattered her shields. His magics came at her as an explosion of fire that TyKale had to shield himself from.  He could smell that his hair was singed and his face felt a little hot, but he didn’t let up.

Her next magic was a little more powerful as the air tore and a demon rushed him.

It sank its claws into the shield and ripped at them.   The weight of the demon was suffocating and nearly dropped him to a knee.  His magic felt weighted down, as if he was trying to lift a weight too heavy with his arms pinned down.

Gasping for air, Tykale reached deeper inside than he even had dared with the bridge building.  There inside his chest he found his deeper reserve and drew it up until he was certain he had enough. Then, as he began to see spots from lack of air, he unleashed it as a burst of strength, freeing his arms.  The demon was hurled away, but TyKale was on it; magic engulfed the demon, drawing it into TyKale’s grip.  The tables had turned and the demon was caught, snared by the magics that seethed around TyKale like vines of light and lightning.  TyKale forced the demon down at his feet, stepped over it and drove his sword into it, pumping golden power into it.  The demon screamed and thrashed for a moment before it imploded into shards of black crystal and smoke.

TyKale lifted his eyes to the woman who stood with both shock and fear on her face.  She took a step back. Tykale moved to rush her, to cut her down. She stumbled away and vanished into a portal just as his sword met her.  He staggered and nearly fell, but his sword had blood on it.

He turned, allowing his magics to settle and calm.  He reached a hand down to Ivan, who took it shakily, his nose bleeding and eyes bloodshot.

Ivan put TyKale’s hand to his forehead in a massive gesture of respect and gratitude.  He got up, still shivering from the magic used on him.

“Who was she?” TyKale asked.

“A vile woman,” Ivan said, “sent by Gerome to kill me.  Thank you.”

TyKale looked to the other men. “Are they alright?”

Ivan moved to them and helped them up to their feet.  They bowed to TyKale.  He nodded to them with concern.

“We should move from here,” Ivan said.  “Where did you get a sword?”

TyKale looked at it.

“I… from a vault maybe.”

“Well, keep it.”

TyKale nodded; he had already planned to keep it and the blood on the tip would allow him to find out whom he had just fought.

They left as a group to get away from the battle site.

***********

TyKale wiped the blood off the tip of the sword with his fingertips and water.  He smoothed the flakes, which were melting with the water, between his fingers like he would any object belonging to someone in order to find them in a game of hide-and seek.  He set the magics free.

Closing his eyes he saw her.  He saw that he had cut her upper abdomen, but not deep enough to be fatal and she had pulled on magics to heal it well enough. He could read her, know her, see things about her that only the touch of blood allowed. He used it all, burning it up to nothing and flicked away the vile touch of it.  He looked to Ivan.

“Kaullie Lords,” he said her name.  “Mother of Tharadon.  She is an evil woman, Ivan.  A very powerful and evil woman and she will come again, but will not be taken so easily.”

“Theo’s mother?  No wonder he ran away,” Ivan muttered.  “Did you hurt her?”

“Another step and I’d have killed her, but she is alive.”

“We deal with our own king first, then we deal with her.  If I have to hunt her to the depths of Purt, I will.”

“She has been dethroned,” TyKale said.  “Her power base is shuddering as if she was tied into her very fortresses. Some sorcerers do that, but at the risk of losing a great deal if they lose their strongholds.”

“Good; maybe Theo has her on the run.”

“Maybe, or maybe she is desperate and hunting you as part of a deal.  The blood of Ish’Haven is no small prize.”

“She recognized you,” Ivan said seriously.  “I saw it in her eyes.  She knew you and was scared.”

“How could she?  Maybe she just thought she did.”

“Maybe you look like your family enough that she saw it.  Or maybe she recognized the magic you used.  Either way, she was scared of you.”

“Good,” TyKale grinned. “I hope she doesn’t sleep tonight.”

“To TyKale!” one of the men exclaimed, lifting his mead flask. “Wizard of Ezeer!  Gods bless him.”

TyKale laughed. “Ivan! I understood that!”

Ivan laughed and lifted his own skin. “To TyKale, my little brother.”

They drank and relaxed as they shared the meal.  None of them wanted to go to sleep and none of them did.  They stayed up till dawn telling jokes and doing anything to forget how close to death they had come. They debated staying together, but to hide the energy of all of them heading toward Immerish, it was wiser to stay in small companies.

“To Immerish,” they nodded to each other and set off.  Ivan and Tykale gave them a head start, then followed at a walk.

“You alright?” Ivan asked.

“I’m good, Ivan… just worried about what she might try to do next.  I need to think how to build up shields for you and for me.”

They left the higher fields of Ezeer and reached the Vales that were the ancient beds of glaciers, long melted away.  Ivan had looked forward to reaching this area of Ezeer, as here trade was always active, fires always cooked meats and the river beds were lush and full of life, but when they got there his memory proved to be only that… a memory. The land had been conquered. Ivan stood looking at it sadly.

Where once there had been stretches of wet lands, silt fields and endless bounty of edibles, plants and creatures, there was now turned-over fields.  The water had been drained and forced to follow a straight cut channel that ran directly down the center of the valley, spanned by stone bridges and flanked by roads and homes.

Ivan remembered fishing in the waters here and now there were only muddy fields and ugly rows of stone houses.  All birds, all the fish…, all the life that had once flourished here had been stripped away.

TyKale put his hand on Ivan’s back, seeing the pained expression.

“One thing at a time,” TyKale said.  “A little paint and it won’t be so bad.”

“It takes centuries to make a healthy wetland.  Look what he did to it.  No crop grown here will compare to the bounty that once thrived by the grace of the land and the gods.  Why?  Why would you strip away the natural wealth to replace it with burdensome labour and not nearly as much food to be gained.”

“Why would a man beat a beautiful woman down?  To prove he owns her, Ivan,” TyKale said.  “Every person here was born here.  This is the Ezeer they know.  This is the face of their mother.  You can’t just tell them it’s ugly.  Teach them to see with new eyes and find the true Ezeer.  You are their father; show them a better way.”

Ivan drew a deep breath and nodded.  “You’re right,” he said.  “And I for one would like a bath, so down to the village we go.”

They walked down from the hills and across a muddy field to the road that took them past a number of horrid little homes and to the larger village itself.  They found a single-story tavern that they entered, kicking mud off their boots.  The place stank of smoke, sweat and long-unwashed bodies.  Nearly every chair was taken by the saddest looking group of Ezeerens Ivan had ever seen.

They were all shaved with their hair chopped short, wearing worn and flimsy cotton fabrics that were stained, layered, and falling apart.  As they entered, the two of them in furs and leather, Tykale and Ivan certainly stood out.  It was clear none of the others were travelers but were locals by the looks they received.

TyKale shifted, a little uneasy as every eye turned to them.

“We are going to be remembered,” he said to Ivan.

“Can you sing?”

“Uhh… yeah, I guess.”

“Good. We’ll be performers headed to Immerish for the festival.  Just smile and trust me,” he said with a jolly chuckle and walked into the place as if he owned it.

“Brothers,” he nodded to a man who looked like he might spit at Ivan for looking so like a heretic.  “Two meals and baths, ale,” he said to the man who controlled the food and beverage at the back of the room.  He dug for coins and swore under his breath at his lack.

TyKale stepped up and spun a silver coin on the counter top.

“Tell him to buy the house a round,” TyKale said.

“A round for the house,” Ivan cheered.  The tavern keeper snatched up the coin to study it carefully, then nodded.

“Aye,” he offered a wary smile.  “Welcome in, strangers.”

The crowd cheered up at once.  A keg was tapped and the drinks started to pour.  Ivan greeted the men and shook their hands as he leaned back on the counter next to TyKale.

“Stay close to me,” Ivan said in Purtan.  “I don’t want them to think they can rob you.”

“I had the same thought,” Tykale forced a smile.  “But I need a bath, Ivan, and so do you.”

“These stinking furs,” Ivan said to the man pouring ale.  “You have a bath house about?  Decent clothes?  Our costumes grow too warm with the turn in the weather.”

“Aye. Bath in the back,” the man nodded toward a door in the back of the building.  “Clothes I can get fetched while you bath up.”

“Save us some ale, brothers,” Ivan laughed as they moved to the back door.

The bath was a single large pool of tepid water that made TyKale pause on the idea of a bath at all.  Ivan, on the other hand, stripped down and got in, grabbed up a worn bar of soap and scrubbed.

“Ivan,” TyKale said doubtful, “I can’t bathe in that.”

“Why not?”

“It’s… filthy.”

“It’s better than sweat and fleas.”

TyKale muttered and threw his hand out: the water boiled with power, started to steam, and Ivan scrambled out in startled concern. The water settled clear as glass and steaming with warmth.

“You can’t just throw magic about, Kale,” Ivan objected.  “They will find us that way.”

“I’ll take that risk,” Tykale said, peeling off his clothes.  “I need a bath and I am not swimming in a soup of Ezeeren skin flakes and sweat; thank you, no.”

Ivan shook his head and climbed back in with a sigh of relief at the heat of the water.

“Oh, that’s nice,” he said.

They bathed and soaked until clothes were brought.  They were better quality than most of the clothes in the room beyond, but the same style and fabrics.  They changed and tied up their hair in tight braids that they tucked under their vests.  The furs and old clothes were bundled and packed out.

The room was getting rowdy and everyone was relaxing. Tykale paid for another keg and for the baths, clothes, and a meal.  They ate and then slipped out with the tavern just getting into the second keg.

“It’s nice to be clean,” Ivan said.

“Very,” TyKale agreed as he put his furs on over his clean clothes to ward off the chill the night promised.

“So you boys headed to the festival?” a man asked them with a mug in hand.

“Aye, indeed,” Ivan said with a laugh.  “You going to make it to Immerish as well?”

“No; time to plant, but we’ll drink up a bit here on the day.”

“What role do you play?” another man called to them.  “Why not share with us on your way.”

Ivan spread his arms and laughed    “It is I who paid for the ale and now I must also sing the songs?” he laughed.  “Truly you are my brothers.”  He held up a hand and suddenly took a very serious expression. “Have you heard of Ivan Ushard?” he asked them.

“No,” several said.

“Now, Ivan, he is an Ezeeren.  Born on the moor, he decided he hated farming,” Ivan said, “and he set for Dacan.” Ivan told a grand story of how the hero Ivan had arrived in Dacan, not speaking the language and coinless, but how he had come to achieve the rank of gladiator and held more gold in his hand than most men do in a lifetime.  The men applauded and cheered, and Tykale bought another keg.

“And you, master Purtan,” the owner asked him, “what do you have to offer?”

Tykale could feel tensions that were being hidden under the ale and the laughing, but he could not quite locate it and that meant magic.  He needed to ease their worries and make them friends.

He hopped up on the closest table and held his hands out.  They slowly grew quiet for him.  He drew a breath and began to sing in Norwood.  Within a single line the men were silent and caught up in his singing as he spun out the magic of his empathy, building a sense of trust and familiarity towards him. Once that was in the air, he began to offer out a sense of powerful hope and light within their hearts.  He focused on the glory of the sunrise over the moors, praying his song would work.  At the end of it, they all stood staring at him with tears in many eyes and awe on their faces.  Even Ivan had tears in his eyes.  He wiped his cheeks and began to applause.  The tavern exploded in cheers, table pounding and feet stomping.

Tykale took an offered mug and held it up.  “Here’s to Ezeer!  The land of the midnight sun where the men and the women are as wild and untamed as the rivers!”

The toast was met with roaring approval and everyone drank.  The cheer was spread and many songs were sung as people around the room took turns starting one after another.  Ivan threw in several from around the world, all of them of women and various fun things to do with them.

It was very late when they left the tavern, knowing they would never get sleep.

“That was a powerful thing you did, Kale,” Ivan said as they walked.

“It’s very illegal to do that unless you have a bard guild badge and all that.  It’s absolutely a bad idea for an empath as powerful as I am to do that.”

“So you did use magic then?”

“They needed to trust us.  I am sure Armond will forgive me.” His smile faded and he was quiet.

“What is it?” Ivan asked, once they were out of the village and back into the wilds along the top of the hill between vales.

“My father sang that song.  He used to sing to us in the garden.  I remember him, I just…  The song woke the memory.  I know I had siblings, but… I don’t know, Ivan, it’s just been a long day and too much ale, I think.”

Ivan put a hand on Kale’s back.  “I will get you home; we will unravel this riddle.”

“Thanks, Ivan,” he said.

“Shall we run?” Ivan asked.

“No,” he laughed.  “I have had more ale than is wise to run with in my belly.  I might have minor healing ability, but I am not able to purge fast enough to run just yet. Give a man a few hours.”

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One thought on “High Moors/ chapter 3/ Facing the Dark – book 2 of Emperors and Exiles

  1. Pingback: High Moors/ chapter 3/ Facing the Dark – book 2 of Emperors and Exiles | Modern Mountain Woman

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