Authors: Richard S. Tuttle
Tags: #Fantasy, #Science Fiction & Fantasy, #Young Adult
Book 4 of Sword of Heavens
Richard S. Tuttle
Copyright © 2002 by Richard S. Tuttle.
All rights reserved.
All characters and events in this book are fictitious.
Any resemblance to persons living or dead is strictly coincidental.
Sapphire of the Fairies
: Five Collapse Children have been gathered by Garth and Kalina, who were discovered to be Alex and Jenneva Tork. Two of the Collapse Children are the Children of the Ancient Prophecy, but their identity is not yet clear. Calling themselves the Alcea Rangers, the group has managed to restore the Sapphire of the Fairies to the Sword of Heavens. Clear skies have replaced the Darkness over the area once known as Cordonia, but with the sunshine comes the pinpointing of their location to the forces of evil. General Gregor had been released from prison and he now labors to build an army in preparation of the Heir's return to Tagaret. Niki has met with Dalgar, who professes to be her real father. While acknowledging that he is a high-level Black Devil, Dalgar sows the seeds of doubt in Niki's mind.
restored to the Sword of Heavens, the Collapse Children are off to search for the Diamond of Edona. Fredrik and Niki have left the group and decided to stay in Tagaret. Arik, Tedi, and the mysterious Tanya are still accompanied by Alex and Jenneva, but the Heir to the Alcean throne has finally accepted his place in the struggle to defeat Sarac.
Abuud: the One-Eyed God
Arik and Tedi are seperated from the Rangers. They are joined by another Collapse Child, Wylan, as they seek to secure a statue of Abuud to redeem for the Diamond of Edona. Niki is also seperated and teams up with the mysterious Master Khatama where she is taught a form of magic that deals with animals. Tedi's mother is discovered to be alive, but Master Khatama collapses mysteriously when the Diamond of Edona is set into the Sword of Heavens.
starts exactly where Abuud: the One-Eyed God left off.
Arik stared up at the night sky as he reclined on the beach. His eyes panned the black sky as if he was trying to memorize all that he saw.
“It is an awesome sight,” Tanya said softly as she slid down beside him. “It is hard to believe that even someone as evil as Sarac could wish to obscure this beauty from everyone. I shall never tire of seeing it.”
“Nor I,” smiled Arik. “Soon this will be visible all over the world. It will be a message of hope for all people.”
“It will also be a warning to Sarac,” reminded Tedi. “As the areas of Darkness become less, the Dark One will know right where to find us.”
“It certainly will be a beacon for Sarac’s Ravens who are following us,” agreed Tanya. “Perhaps we should get some sleep so we can depart early in the morning.”
“Wise words,” commented Alex from the darkness of the palm trees lining the beach. “The hole in the Darkness will not go unnoticed by Sarac’s Ravens. I do not want them to descend on Barouk so we should leave at dawn.”
“Who are Sarac’s Ravens?” asked Wylan.
“A large group of Sarac’s henchmen,” offered Jenneva as she watched the last of the curious villagers disperse from the beach where they had gathered to watch the magic unfold. “They number around one hundred with twenty of them sure to be mages. We had a conflict with them on the way here.”
“And it was not a pleasant conflict,” interjected Alex. “They can disrupt the flying spells of our unicorns. We managed to get well ahead of them, but no tracks can be completely covered, and they have good trackers. You boys must be exhausted after your ordeal today.”
“We are,” nodded Arik, “but who knows when we shall see such a night sky again.”
“Perhaps never if we continue to sit here and watch this one,” frowned Tedi. “I vote for bed. Where are we heading in the morning?”
“A good question,” mused Jenneva. “The townsfolk have gone back to their homes. Why don’t we utilize this time to see where the Sword of Heavens will send us next?”
Arik nodded and rose. He withdrew the glass bead from his pocket and walked towards the campfire where Niki sat quietly staring at the flames. As everyone followed Arik, Niki saw the group approaching and stood up to see what was going to happen. They gathered around the fire while Arik drew the Sword of Heavens and then tossed the glass bead into the flames.
A brilliant white cloud of smoke rose over the campfire. The smoke spiraled upward and mushroomed. As the group stared at the white smoke, an image began to form within the cloud. The image shimmered at first, but soon stabilized. Several intakes of breath from the gathered Rangers broke the silence of the night’s still air.
The image that was formed in the bright cloud was a large circular room with several tunnels branching off of it. The walls were covered with colorful paintings depicting dwarves at work in their various professions. Other paintings pictured dwarves and elves working side-by-side. The walls were also adorned with weapons and armor fashioned in both gold and silver. Three quarters of the room was filled with tiered benches in a circular arrangement. The last quarter of the chamber featured a platform with two golden thrones upon it. Sitting in the thrones were a pair of dwarves wearing golden crowns adorned with rubies. The male dwarf’s crown was intricately carved with rubies seated on each upswept pinnacle, while the female’s crown was a simple golden circlet with a single ruby placed is the center over her forehead.
The benches were filled with dwarves, and they all stood as the king and queen rose. The king was clearly taller than the dwarves in the audience, but the queen even towered over him. Another dwarf entered the chamber and walked solemnly towards the thrones. He halted in front of the king and bowed low. When he rose, he extended his hand towards the king and opened his clenched fist. The king nodded regally and reached out to take the large red ruby from the dwarf’s outstretched palm.
The dwarf delivering the ruby bowed again and took his place in the audience. The king stared at the ruby for a long moment and then held it up for all to see. The king’s voice startled the Rangers as he spoke softly to the audience of dwarves.
“You are all aware of the significance of this gem,” declared the Dwarven king. “Your duty to our people is to protect this ruby with your life. Let no dwarf remain alive while it is imperiled, for when it is gone, so too is the small protection we receive from it. Without that protection, we shall succumb to the evil inherent in the Darkness. I ask you all to recite the pledge now.”
In unison the entire roomful of dwarves began reciting the pledge.
The Ruby holds the Darkness back
And keeps the Dwarven people safe
Its power foils strong attack
The Ruby makes the Dark One chafe.
Abruptly the vision in the cloud winked out, and the bright white smoke instantly dispersed. The Rangers stood silently for a long time before anyone spoke. Alex stiffened as he heard a noise from the bushes behind him. He signaled to Arik, Tanya, and Tedi and then drew his sword and swiftly swiveled. Tedi, and Tanya smoothly spread out and drew their swords while Arik hefted the Sword of Heavens. Wylan picked up on the tension and drew his sword. He looked around the campsite for intruders and saw none. Slowly he moved close to Arik to protect him.
“It will be easier on you if you come out of the bushes slowly,” Alex demanded of the unseen foe. “Make no sudden movements and keep your hands clear of your weapons.”
“It is me, Bin-lu,” sputtered the young Lanoirian as he stepped clear of the bushes with his hands high above his head. “I am a friend of Master Khatama’s.”
“Do friends sneak up on other friends at night?” accused Niki.
“He does know Master Khatama,” offered Tanya.
“I was not sneaking,” frowned Bin-lu. “I have business in the morning with Master Khatama, and I did not wish to walk back to my uncle’s farm to sleep. I often sleep near the beach. The light and noise awakened me.”
“Bin-lu is a friend,” smiled Arik as he sheathed the Sword of Heavens. “It was his boat that we destroyed. Without his help we would never have made it to the Island of Storms.”
The campsite relaxed as Alex slid his sword into its sheath. The Rangers gathered in a circle and sat on the sand to discuss the vision. Bin-lu eased into the circle and sat next to Tedi.
“It appears that your theory is correct, Arik,” offered Tanya. “The gems are proceeding in the order you described. The dwarves did not appear anxious to lose it though. Do you think they will really fight to the last dwarf to keep it from us? That king sure sounded like giving it up was not an option to them.”
“That king was King Tring,” offered Alex.
“And his wife was Queen Trana,” added Jenneva. “We have been in that chamber not twenty years ago. They welcomed us warmly the last time, but much has changed since then. We also do not know if the vision represented the present or the past. King Tring may no longer rule the dwarves of Dorgun.”
“At least we know where to go,” interjected Alex. “The dwarfs have tunnels into the Southern Mountains on the border with Sordoa. We will leave for there at first light.”
“Then we will be heading straight towards Sarac’s Ravens,” frowned Tanya. “Shouldn’t we try to go around them?”
“We will if we can,” agreed Alex, “but they will not be expecting us to be coming towards them. Perhaps we can use that to our advantage. Let’s all get some sleep. It will be an early start.”
The Rangers split up and proceeded to catch some sleep. Only Tedi and Bin-lu remained sitting near the fire.
“I am sorry about your boat,” apologized Tedi. “I really thought we would bring it back safely. We almost did, too.”
“I heard the story,” Bin-lu nodded solemnly. “It was not your fault. From what I heard, you and Arik are great sailors. There are not many in this city that would have even attempted the journey. You should be proud.”
“I am glad you are so understanding,” replied Tedi apprehensively. “Is there something I can offer you for my necklace back? I mean, I know we had a deal, but that necklace means a great deal to me. I will give you anything you want. Anything that I have or can get.”
Bin-lu’s lowered his eyes to the sand and slowly shook his head. “I too have failed in my promise,” Bin-lu said softly. “The necklace was seized by the Emperor. I was foolish and let it be seen by the wrong people. They arrested me and took me before Emperor Hanchi. I had no choice. I could give them the necklace and go free, or let them kill me and take it off of my dead body. I am very sorry that I have failed you.”
Tedi’s eyes moistened as he pictured the necklace. It was his only memento of his mother who had been kidnapped years ago. He felt a rage boiling inside him as he thought of losing the necklace. It had been his only prized possession. As he turned to look at Bin-lu again, he saw the young Lanoirian with his head bowed in disgrace. He remembered how the loss of his mother had nearly destroyed his father. Tedi realized that some things might be better remembered in a less intense way. Tedi swallowed the lump in his throat and forced a smile to his face. He put his arm around Bin-lu and comforted him.
“You did the right thing, Bin-lu,” soothed Tedi. “I valued that necklace over all of my possessions, but it is not really worth your life. Perhaps it is better this way. I do not need that necklace to remember my mother. She will always be in my mind.”
Bin-lu brightened somewhat and looked into Tedi’s eyes. “Thank you for understanding,” he smiled weakly. “I will make it up to you.”
“No, Bin-lu,” smiled Tedi. “Do not even try. There is nothing that could replace that necklace, and besides I lost your boat. We had a deal and we both did our best to keep our end of the bargain. You owe me nothing.”
“I will try,” declared Bin-lu stubbornly. “So will you and Master Khatama and Niki. You must promise me that you will not leave Barouk without talking to Master Khatama in the morning.”