Authors: John H. Carroll
Tags: #knight, #dralin carnival pelya, #ryallon swords and sorcery, #tathan of the shadows
Published by John H. Carroll at
Copyright 2012 John H. Carroll
Cover Copyright 2012 John H. Carroll
Cover photography by Tracy Carroll
This book is dedicated to young women, who
are stronger than anyone gives them credit for.
While in the gloomy ruins of an ancient city
below Dralin, Ebudae and Pelya had discovered a temple dedicated to
an unknown god. Within that temple was a book most ancient. Despite
its age, the book was in perfect condition with gold and
The cover opened of its own volition as the
girls approached. Gazing upon pages that flipped before their
mesmerized eyes, Ebudae and Pelya understood every word with a
clarity never experienced from any other book. Neither left until
the last page was finished and the cover closed.
The mysterious book told how the Gods of
Ryallon came to be and a summary from it had remained sharp in the
girl’s minds from that point on:
Chaotic energies swirl around Ryallon and
its moons, extending far beyond to other suns and worlds, though
they do not exist everywhere. The energies give us magic and shape
the life of Ryallon, though they are not the source of life.
Those who we call Gods were once normal
beings. When those normal beings drank of the chaotic energies too
deeply, they gained vast powers. There are many Gods on and around
the world of Ryallon. Some have great influence and power while
others touch few.
The most ancient Gods have existed since
before the beginning of humanity, but those are very odd to humans.
They are called the Unreal Gods.
The earliest deities of humanity are the Van
Gods. The oldest and largest temples are built to them in cities
Others are new in the divine realm, spawned
from people or creatures who attempt to control the chaotic
energies. These are called the Crazed Gods, for when a being
absorbs vast power too quickly, it can destroy the mind. The Crazed
Gods generally burn out and their energies spread back into the
chaos. However, a few grow to power.
Less common are the Hushed Gods. It is
unknown when they came to be, but many believe them to be as old as
the Van Gods. They influence the world in subtle ways and have few
followers. This does not mean their power should be underestimated.
Even Van Gods treat the Hushed Gods with great care.
And then there are the Dragons. They are not
Gods, but all Gods fear them, for they are Dragons.
you doing with that chair?”
Ebudae asked from the bed where she sat cross-legged while trying
to read an old book of magical theory. She smoothed out a wrinkle
in the expensive, forest-green material of her dress.
Pelya gave her a guilty look. The polished
wooden chair was upside down in her hands and she was tossing it as
though gauging its weight. With a dexterous flip, she turned it
right side up, placed it on the ground and then sat on the soft
cushion. “Commander Coodmur has been teaching us how to use
furniture as weapons. It’s useful for fighting inside when we don’t
have room to swing our swords. This one is just the right weight
for hitting people over the head.” She patted the side of the chair
“You are such a barbarian!” Ebudae laughed
merrily. “If you go around breaking grandmother’s furniture, she’s
never going to let you in the house again.” The thought sent a
chill down her spine and she became serious. “Please don’t break
the chair. You’re my only friend in the world and I don’t think I
could live if you weren’t allowed to visit.”
In an instant, Pelya was sitting
cross-legged on the bed in front of Ebudae with their knees
touching. “I promise not to break the chair and no one will ever be
able to keep us from being friends.” Her intense blue eyes showed
nothing but sincerity. “Your sixteenth birthday is tomorrow. Is
your grandmother still going to let us go to Carnival without an
escort?” She pulled the waist-length braid of her black hair around
and placed it in her mouth, a habit that bothered Ebudae.
“It’s hard to tell with Grandmother. She
changes her mind so easily and she likes being cruel to me.” Ebudae
ran fingers through her long brown hair, which was soft to the
touch after the bath she had taken that afternoon. “I truly expect
she’ll change her mind just as we’re about to leave tomorrow. It’s
hard to tell though. She doesn’t like to be predictable. Is your
father really going to let you go?”
Pelya removed the braid from her mouth. “As
long as we’re together, yes. He’s mad at me again though.” She
sighed and slumped her shoulders.
“Why is he always mad at you?” Ebudae asked
with concern in her low, tranquil voice that Pelya always compared
to a silk blanket.
“I don’t know. He gets silent and angry when
he looks at me sometimes. I still think he’s mad at me for killing
mother.” Pelya’s shoulders shrunk even further. She looked
miserable and Ebudae could see moisture welling in the normally
“You didn’t kill your mother!” Ebudae was
tired of her friend saying so. “She died in childbirth, which
happens to women all the time, a reason I don’t think I
want children.” Ebudae sighed in exasperation and put her hands on
Pelya’s knees. “I honestly don’t think your father blames you for
it. But he does seem angry with you and it doesn’t make sense.
Sometimes he glares at you when you’re not looking.” Ebudae paused
and shook her head. “I don’t know. Maybe he
mad at you
for your mother’s death, even though it’s wrong.”
“I don’t blame him.” Self-pity filled
Pelya’s strong, clear voice. “Everyone talks about how happy they
were together and how miserable Daddy was when she died. Then he
had to raise a child in the barracks. It would have been much
better if I had died instead of Mommy.”
It was rare for Pelya to be anything but
energetic and happy. When she did become morose, it tended to be
deep and sudden. Ebudae tapped her on the knee. “It would
have been better, because then I would’ve been left
alone to deal with Grandmother all by myself. I’m moody enough as
it is.” Ebudae hoped that would draw her friend out of despair.
Pelya shrugged shoulders that were strong
and wide for a young woman. “Sometimes it’s easier to believe that
I was a mistake. Nothing about me is normal. Even at fifteen, I’m
faster with a sword than most. I hate dresses and I’m probably not
even a real girl.”
Ebudae leaned forward and hugged her. “You
a real girl. Everyone loves you, including your
The mood left as quickly as it had set in
and Pelya hugged back for a moment. “Sorry, I don’t know what came
over me. Daddy seemed so angry when I asked if I could go with
you.” Confusion crossed her face. “He growled when he said yes and
his eyes glowed like they do when he’s mad. It didn’t make
“He still hasn’t told anyone what god made
his eyes purple, has he?” Ebudae asked.
Pelya shook her head. “No. I’ve asked him a
couple of times, but he doesn’t answer or he tells me never to ask
again. His eyes used to be the same color blue as mine before he
became God-Touched. Most people don’t survive the experience, but
Daddy’s not most people.”
“I don’t think your father is normal.”
Ebudae smirked. “I like that about him.”
A laugh burst from Pelya’s throat. “You like
anything that’s not normal.”
Ebudae grinned mischievously. “True. That’s
why you’re my best friend.”
“Hey!” Pelya tackled Ebudae and they
wrestled, laughing the entire time. As usual, the stronger warrior
won over the smaller wizardess.
They sat side by side, catching their
breath. “Your father is intimidating when he’s mad,” Ebudae said.
“It’s not just that he looks dangerous, his reputation for being a
deadly swordsman or the fact that his eyes glow purple, but there’s
a primal sort of fury in him and it feels like . . . like he’s
going to destroy everything in his path.” Ebudae paused. “I’m
sorry. I shouldn’t talk about him like that.”
“It’s alright,” Pelya reassured with a hand
on Ebudae’s arm and an understanding smile. “I know what you mean.
He’s intimidating even when he’s not angry. His troops do their
best to hide when he
“He’s a good father and he loves you,”
Ebudae replied, her pearlescent pink eyes lending support and
comfort. “I know that for a fact no matter how you may feel
“I guess.” Pelya shrugged. “I’m hungry.
Should we get some lunch?” She stood and stretched her nearly
six-foot tall frame. Pelya had more muscle than most women her age
due to the fact that she had been training with wooden swords since
she could pick them up. The sword at her side was made of light
steel and it darted through the air like a hummingbird when she
practiced with it. She was sharply dressed in blue leggings with a
black shirt and silver embroidery. Her polished boots were sitting
out by the main door of Ebudae’s sitting room; she didn’t wear them
in the manor.
“You’re probably so hungry because of all
the magic we practiced last night.” Ebudae stretched too and then
followed her friend out of the bedroom. “Lots of food and sleep are
needed to replenish the body.”
“I’ve noticed.” Pelya led the way out of the
suite. “I eat more when you teach me spells than I do when I’ve
been drilling all day.”
“The good news is that you don’t sweat as
much or get so stinky. It gets bad in the summertime when it’s hot
and humid like it has been this week.” She grinned when Pelya stuck
a tongue out at her. “You’re actually getting pretty good at magic.
The barriers you learned to cast last night should help you.”
“I’m nowhere near as good as you.” Pelya
looked at her with respect. “You’re more talented with magic than
any of the Guard wizards I’ve seen and that’s saying a lot.”
Ebudae shrugged in embarrassment. “I’ve been
doing it since I was a kid and I have all those books from the
wizard’s academy below the manor.”
They walked down the stairs from the third
floor where Ebudae’s suite was to the kitchen on the main floor.
Pelya shook her head and disagreed. “No. You have style and flair
when you cast. You learn spells instantly and even make them better
if you see a way to do so. It goes beyond books and time. Magic is
a part of you.”
They entered the kitchen and approached
Ebudae’s personal assistant, Tina. She was a pleasant woman with a
very bad stutter and an eyepatch. The eye had been lost in some
terrible childhood event no one ever spoke of. Ebudae believed her
grandmother had hired Tina because it would make Ebudae’s life more
difficult. The stuttering was so bad that the girl would have to
wait for minutes whenever Tina delivered a message from her
grandmother, which would make her late for whatever her grandmother
needed her for. In addition, the eyepatch was unnerving because
Lady Pallon had ordered one with a painted eyeball on it and
insisted the woman wear it. Tina was a poor woman who had no other
avenues of work, so did what she had to.
“Bring us lunch in the dining room, Tina,”
Ebudae said pleasantly.
The woman avoided speaking, responding with
a nod while running fingers through her dull-blonde hair. A minute
later, Ebudae and Pelya sat at the table with cool fruit,
vegetables, salted crackers, cheese and juice for their enjoyment.
They ate quickly without tasting. Neither spoke until the plates
were cleared and they sat back to let the food settle.