|Book Four in the Chronicles of Caleath|
Only relevant passages have been included for this short story. Missing or changed portions are marked with *.
Enderseer Hold stood like a blemish on the sheer face of a basalt cliff. The natural cleft where the fortresses clung to the rock, dated from a time before history. Damage originated during an era when a cataclysmic eruption formed the mountain range that now stood sentinel between Allorn and the realms of Ruak in the far south.
The mountain’s base provided a solid foundation against which the ferocious storms and tides of the Bellicose Ocean pounded. The mountain offered protection against prevailing winds.
|The cliffs near Enderseer Hold|
No intervention prevented the chill from the southern regions seeping into the rock. Fine-grained basalt with tiny traces of impurity remained forever cold to the touch.
The resident icterrori daemon drew comfort from the bitter chill as its nebulous body spread across the floor of its prison. The creature had drawn through tactile senses all essence of life from organic sources in contact with the mountain. The daemon pined. Deprived of the nourishment needed for survival, the entity found itself confined to an area depleted by its rapacious hunger.
The biped life forms wandering through the echoing halls of the Hold were not for consumption. The tiny human with cruel powers gave clear and painful orders. The huge daemon shuddered, remembering her warning. It cowered before her threat of immersion in the hideous salt water of the ocean.
Unable to find suitable nourishment left in the domain where the witch allowed it to feed, a shiver of despair shimmered across its bulk. With a desperate shudder, it searched for life beneath the running water that burned its essence like acid.
The relief of feeding brought sustenance. Enough succor to assuage the agony caused by contact with the river. The life force of plants growing along the sedges of the waterway gave comfort to the daemon. The first stand of trees withered and died when the icterrori absorbed their organic energy.
Satisfied for the moment and finding prolonged contact excruciating, the daemon retracted its life stealing awareness to within its rocky cell. It rested unhappy, unable to return to its own world, but for a while without the urge to feed.
* * * *
Now though, Caleath found a moment of reprieve. The witch placed her hand against his flesh. It was enough. With a fresh understanding of sorcery learnt under the tutelage of Merkaat, Caleath risked utilizing new skills.
Contact was brief but he had prepared for the sudden touch of her energy. Opening a virtual abyss in which to drain her power, Caleath allowed his pain to transfer across the point of contact. He stole energy he needed to ease his torment.
While nanobots kept him alive, Azriel denied any sustenance with which to promote healing. Stolen magic could give him a respite. Even a moment’s reprieve seemed worth the risk of her retaliation. He feared she would react once she became aware of his impudent plan but the hope of blocking pain justified his scheme.
Retribution came as a shock. Before warmth flowed through his extremities, the rock to which Azriel shackled him gathered the essence of his soul into its structure.
With the sensation of losing control came an overwhelming taste of fear. Wrenched from his body without form or substance, Caleath found himself not in the ethereal realm of dragons but spread through the molecular structure of ancient basalt.
The experience jogged memories of disembodiment, similar to the vacuum of a teleportation unit. Caleath fought panic. He struggled to escape from the invisible maw that absorbed the essence of his being as if he fell into a black hole.
Desperate to survive, Caleath flung a silent plea for help into the ether. He sent
consciousness forward in the manner Merkaat had begun to teach. In desperation, he tried to contact the creature that sought to steal his life force.
Almost, but not quite, he thought he touched a sentient mind. He could feel thoughts belonging to the shade of a long dead human or Vergöttern, perhaps a mage who empathized with his need. The likelihood seemed even more remote than the futility of trying to reason with a black hole, but Caleath saw no alternative. He was perplexed when the drain on his spirit stopped.
Basalt as old as history itself enveloped him. The quintessential energy of his life force spread through the rock. He could not move. No longer dragged one way, neither was his consciousness free to return to his body. Fear began to bubble like an erupting volcano.
Again, he sent a plea for help into the ether.
To Caleath it seemed the mountain heard his cry and accepted the presence of his spirit.
Peace, the warmth of a summer’s day when sunlight dispels all unnecessary debris from the mind settled through his soul. He stretched his psyche when freedom from pain allowed a languid calm to engulf him.
Content to remain forever within the eternal peace offered by the rock, Caleath became aware of an anomaly disrupting the structure. Disgruntled when a source of discontent questioned his newly discovered tranquility he sought the cause within the mountain’s unmoving mass.
The touch of sorcery gave him pause. Sadness seeped into the rock. Discord destroyed his peace and spread anguish and abject despair. Caleath reached out. With his new understanding he tried to impart the uselessness of resistance. He offered the acceptance of immutable time and space.
The creature spreading discontent sensed his touch and withdrew its presence from the basalt. Caleath waited. He stretched and sought to reach across the delicate structure of air to contact the mind behind the sorrow. The icterrori daemon roused tentatively to meet the contact with bared feelings. The hunger and loneliness the creature suffered seemed unfathomable.
A question formed in Caleath’s mind. He needed no words as he requested information. The daemon revealed her plight. Held against her will, her home lay beyond the portal the cruel biped had closed. Caleath sought knowledge from the basalt’s recent history, moments of magic etched in stone forever. He shaped for himself the summoning spell to utilize the portal.
He asked permission from the earth in which he existed and requested a reshaping of the portal to transport the daemon home.
Without expectation, accepting the change with gratitude, Caleath felt the alteration in the fabric of the crystalline structure of the rock. He sensed the bridge form to another world. He touched the icterrori daemon and guided her to where the way stood clear for her to leave.
An overpowering surge of joy washed with the pull of the tide through the mountain when the daemon took her nebulous mass through the open portal. The tiniest speck of energy remained when she departed. A ‘gift’ the daemon indicated before she disappeared.
Caleath fought the urge to follow through the gateway. With reluctance, he requested the structure revert to the way nature decreed. He touched the mote with his mind to explore its use. The glimmer of energy was a spark of ‘life’, a gesture to compensate for the destruction caused by the creature’s need. Understanding the extreme generosity of the sacrifice, Caleath regarded the gift with wonder.
Satisfied all rested in balance and order, he relaxed. His spirit moved languidly through the mountain toward the open expanses of valley beyond the confines of stone. While making his way with confidence, his momentum was abruptly blocked.
Puzzled, he requested a view of history to determine why he should not gain access to the land opening before him. Shadows of the daemon’s presence lingered, where the mountain shuddered and the ground trembled before the creature’s rapacious appetite for life. Access to the ground made waste by her hunger, halted Caleath’s progress.
Knowing the creature meant to offer recompense for her need, Caleath asked permission to release the daemon’s gift into the dead ground.
The spark appeared in an instant. The barren earth seemed to extinguish the radiance of the single incandescent molecule. Caleath sensed his error. Had he wasted the creature’s gift?
Author's note...For an answer to Caleath's query you will need to read Exiled: The Battle for Enderseer Hold, or negotiate with the author. :)
When I considered what to write for this blog post I was going to again write about my experiences. I drafted several attempts for the blog but couldn't bring myself to share them. The only 'new growth' I could think about was the cancerous brain tumour that defeated my friend. In a week it grew to the size of a tennis ball. I visited her on the Monday morning and she died that evening. Her battle began with breast cancer almost 12 months prior. In January she was waiting for the all clear. Preparing for holidays, looking positive. Then the headache came and the new growth took its toll.
It doesn't make for a good story.
So I share this extract instead. I hope it isn't too broken up and disjointed. My apologies. This theme, and the last few weeks, haven't been easy.
Rosalie Skinner resides on the east coast of Australia when not totally immersed in the fantasy world of her writing.
Rosalie’s love of the ocean, nature, history and horses has enabled her to give her books an authentic air. Her latest achievement has been to ride through the Australian Snowy mountains and see the wild brumbies run. When not watching the migrating whales pass her doorstep she has more humble pastimes.
Other than being a published author, her greatest thrill is being a grandmother. Born over fourteen weeks early her granddaughter’s perfect development and growth are a miracle and joy.