Stravor the Younger walked slowly; his hobnail boots echoed on the obsidian floors. If he was nervous as he approached the Hall of the Dead, no timidity was noticed by the Ones Who Watched.
He was dressed in the black uniform of a Searcher. It consisted of leather stovepipe trousers, which showed the lean muscle and sinew of his long legs. The leather sleeveless shirt was just as formfitting. On his forearms he wore heavy leather swordsman’s bracers. These were intricately tooled with the scarlet dragon of his House. On his right hip he wore his Life Sword. It glowed eerily blue along its dual edges from within its translucent scabbard. Shades of azure reflected back from the gleaming black floors.
When he reached the massive stone doors, Stravor stopped. Slowly he lowered himself and knelt before the doors. He prayed and asked to be allowed entrance to the Lord’s Hall.
“Oh, Hemothracene, God of Death; Keeper of the Undead; I beg thee, I who am your servant and slave Before thee I kneel; hear my plea So I, Stravor, may do your bidding Through this sacred entrance; allow me.”
The big man rose and laid his left hand on the stone door—slowly it opened in response to the words and the touch. The stone screeched as it moved over glass-like floors. Stravor walked atop the deep gouges the door had left behind. He didn’t notice the floor heal itself.
As he walked into the Hall, he bowed his head. The long room was unlit, yet he could see. The floors and walls were of the same obsidian; there was no other adornment or decoration. However, if you dared to look close enough, one could catch glimpses of the Undead who lived within the walls.
The Searcher knew his place and deferred to the colossal Ones Who Watched. They stood silently along the walls of the Hall. Stravor knew they could not see him—not in the usual sense—their eyes had been taken from them at the age of five, so their second sight developed within them.The Ones Who Watched stood with their hands over and behind their heads. The ceiling of the hall rested on their forearms. Stravor could feel the power that emanated from them. The Sword thrummed as it absorbed energy from the stony giants.
Before he prostrated himself before his God, Stravor had to release the soul he’d captured. He approached a simple stone monolith. He unsheathed his Life Sword and pushed it into the stone. The instrument slid into the solid rock like a knife through butter.
Without releasing his weapon, he knelt once more, his arms over his head, both hands still on the Sword’s grip, and then he recited, “Unseen One, Lord and Master, accept this soul of your enemy. Keep him undead for evermore, your servant and slave.”
The upright stone glowed blue like the sword it held. It drew out the soul the sword had eaten, forcefully. Stravor gasped as the spirit was pulled from him, for it was he who carried the elan vital; the life essence of the victim extracted by the weapon but carried within the Searcher.
Finally rising, Stravor approached the huge translucent statue of Hemothracene which stood at the north end of the Hall. Again, he lowered himself, but this time lay prone. He stayed there waiting for what felt a long time.
A day earlier Stravor had arrived back at his hometown of Nabrook. He’d finished his assignment, had located and taken the soul of the man wanted for witchery. Tomorrow he would visit the Hall of the Dead to release the soul he carried. Now was a time to rest and relax, perhaps avail himself of the young male companions available in town, otherwise referred to euphemistically as ‘man-boys’.
“Ale!” Stravor banged his pewter pot on the counter. “Now. Barman, do you not know what can happen if you keep a Searcher waiting?”
“Stravor, be quiet. You’ve had enough ale,” answered Dayson Grimesby, the owner of the Silverhide Inn. He moved closer to his friend. “Before you drink yourself into a stupor and that lovely cock of yours is a useless slab, why not take your frustration out on one of my fresh boys. See the blond one by the fire?”
Casting his glance to where Dayson pointed, Stravor appraised the boy. “Mmm, he is a fine one. Does he like men, or will I have to convince him?”
Dayson grinned. “Oh, no my friend, he’ll be willing. I didn’t sleep the first night I took him to my bed.”
“For you, two pieces.”
Stravor considered the deal. Two pieces was fair for such a lightly used and willing boy. “I’ll take him.” He pushed his right hand into his pocket and fished around for the money. The Sword of Harman moaned gently as his movements disturbed it. Finally finding the silver pieces, Stravor slapped them on the bar.
Dayson picked them up and called to the boy. “Keter, come. You’ve a customer.”
The boy smiled. He walked first to Dayson and grasped his hand for a moment before he walked to Stravor.
When he reached the big man, the slim boy looked up into the Searcher’s black eyes. Then he touched the sword, which screamed in response. Stravor’s hand shot forward and grabbed the boy by his graceful neck, pulling him close.
The boy struggled as his airway closed and he watched in horror as even the white of the Searcher’s eyes changed to black. Stravor’s voice was a hiss. “Never touch the Sword of Harman, man-boy. For it sees your soul and can cut … it ... out. Do you understand me?”
Stravor heard Dayson’s voice pleading mercy for the boy. “Let him go … Stravor, please.”
The Searcher released the boy. “I expect you in my room. Now.”
Rubbing his throat gingerly, the boy nodded. With a quick glance at Dayson, Keter walked through the bar to the large wooden staircase.
Dayson punched Stravor’s shoulder. “What the fuck was that?”
Stravor’s head swiveled sharply. “He touched the Sword. You know what it can do, Day.”
“Aye, I know. That sword is part of you. You are both as dangerous as each other.”
The Searcher picked up his cup, swallowed the dregs and smiled. “I have a boy who deserves my attention. I bid you goodnight.”
Dayson watched his friend stagger away, under his breath he whispered, “Don’t hurt this one, Stravor, for pity’s sake.”
Stravor lay on his back, as heat rose off his sweating body. The boy laid next to him face down. After a couple of slaps, Stravor caressed the boy’s buttocks.
“You’re very good.”
The boy’s response was muffled as he mumbled into the mattress. “Shall I leave you, Stravor?”
“No, you’ll stay. I’m not finished with you.”
Keter lifted his head and smiled broadly. “You have stamina like a Gotesian Bull!”
Stravor stroked his thick, long member. “And a cock to match, no?”
The boy turned over and cupped the hefty balls before him. “Yes, Sir.”
Stravor grabbed Keter’s soft golden hair and moved his head to his flagpole pinnacle. “Suck it now, boy.”
Keter opened his mouth and took the fat member into his throat. Stravor released him, put his hands behind his head and watched the boy go to work. About fifteen minutes later, Stravor released his seed, and the boy gulped it happily.
The younger man crawled up and nestled against Stravor. “May I ask a question, Lord?”
“I’m not a Lord, man-boy, I’m a Searcher. What is your question?” Stravor noticed the amulet the boy wore. He touched the blue stone.
Keter moved the pendant out of the way to snuggle closer and said, “The Sword of Harman, it’s a Life Sword. How … how does it work?” Keter absently circled Stravor’s left nipple with his finger.
“Better name would be soul-eater.” Stravor pulled the boy up and kissed him. “When the blade touches the hunted, it quickly cuts away the soul. The Sword and I are as one. It pushes the newly cut soul into me. I carry that soul within me until we reach the Hall of the Dead.”
“And there is a soul in you now?”
“Aye, boy. I will take it tomorrow to the Hall. First, I must rest.”
Keter’s eyes were wide. “What is it like in there, Stravor?”
Stravor quietly considered the boy and decided to answer. “It is dark and cool. The floors shine like glass. Along the walls are the Ones Who Watch. They are like stone, but are not. Once they were men like you and me, but they now stand twice my height. They see but not of our world.” Stravor was horny and tired of talking. “Enough, come, boy and kiss me…I am ready to have you again.”
Awake in the morning before Stravor, Keter, who was sore, tired and hungry, went to the kitchen to find ale, bread and cheese. He brought his haul back to the room and put it all on the old wobbly table. He pulled the bread apart, broke the lump of cheese in two and poured a measure of ale for Stravor. Then the boy walked to where his lover slept to rouse him.
Gently, Keter touched the man’s shoulder. “Stravor? I’ve brought food and drink.”
“Mmmm. Fill my tankard and get back into bed with me.”
“I have, Sir.”
Stravor had pulled himself up and accepted the pot of drink. He smiled as the naked boy settled beside him. He took the offered bread that surrounded a chunk of Gotesian-milk cheese. The boy nibbled a little of the leftover cheese rind.
“Is that all you eat, boy?”
“Aye, sir. Tis enough for the likes of me.”
“Nonsense, eat. Here take this and break the night’s fast properly.” Stravor handed the slim boy the remainder of his food.
Keter bowed his head in gratitude. To do otherwise would be rude. The boy ate Stravor’s leavings, as the Searcher put his feet over the side of the bed and stood.
He walked to the chamber pot and released a stream of dark steaming urine into it. Then from the water ewer he filled the cleansing bowl and splashed water onto his face and then his privates. Lifting the bowl, he sluiced the water over himself, grinning when the water dripped through the floorboards onto the kitchen maids below, making them squeal.
Within minutes there was a pounding on the door. Still naked, Stravor walked over and pulled it open. There stood Dayson, who was fuming.
“What … water everywhere … are you a beast?” Dayson noticed Stravor was unclothed. “God’s teeth, Stravor. Get dressed, man.”
Stravor pulled his friend in, kicked the door closed and kissed Dayson soundly. “Why? When you know you want me.”
Keter watched the two men; his eyes eager.
“Piss off, Stravor. I’m not interested.” Dayson pushed the Searcher away. “Stop pouring water on the floor. Anyone would think you were brought up in Styk’s nest. Gods!”
“Pah! Bit of fun, Day … likely the first water the kitchen hens have felt in days!”
Dayson wagged his finger in Stravor’s face. “My girls … and lads … are clean! Don’t you start that kind of rumour, man, or our friendship will be past.”
“Day … calm yourself. Much too early in the morn for so much worry.” Stravor pulled his trousers on. “The lad and I will come down for a proper one of your kitchen’s best meals ….”
The landlord opened his mouth, but Stravor was faster. “Aye, I’ll be paying for it … no fear, my friend.”
Spluttering, Dayson simply nodded and opened the door. “I’ll have them start it.”
“Good. We’ll be down. A pot of strong tea will be welcome.”
“Fine. You’ll have it.” With that Dayson stepped out and pulled the door shut behind him.
Keter began to dress.
“Boy! After the night we’ve had, you need to cleanse yourself. Wash! I have no desire for the reeking company of the unwashed!”
“Yes, Sir.” He moved to do as he was bidden.
“When you’re done, come down and meet me in the bar. We’ll have a fine repast.”
“Thank you, Lord.”
Stravor glared at the slim boy but decided to say nothing. He fastened on his remaining clothes, pulled on his boots, and lastly the Sword, before he left the room.
After their filling breakfast, Stravor said farewell to Keter.
“Boy, you were good company.” The Searcher pushed away from the table. “I’ll seek you out again.”
The boy’s cheeks tinged with red. “Thank you, Sir. I am glad to have pleased you.” Keter peered up shyly and said, “Will you go to the Hall now, Sir?”
Stravor nodded. “Aye, man-boy. Tis time.”
“May I come, Sir?”
Stravor stared at the young man. Then his features softened. “No, boy, not inside, but you can walk with me.” The big man rose to his feet. “But only if you stop calling me Sir. My birth name is Stravor. Call me that.”
Nodding, Keter agreed. “Yes, Stravor.”
“Better.” The Searcher gave a satisfied grunt. “Come then, boy.”
Stravor had settled the bill for his bed and board earlier.
The pair walked along the wide pathways side by side. They passed shops of all kinds; filled with all manner of goods to buy.
Keter ensured he kept to the Searcher’s left side, afraid of the glowing sword. If anyone came close, it groaned hideously. He noticed that people crossed the dusty road to avoid coming close to the Searcher.
Keter tugged on Stravor’s heavy leather vest.
“Stravor, why do people not like you? They cross the road when they see you coming.”
The Searcher gazed down at the lad. “Why do you think? Have you no knowledge of Searchers?”
“I am brought from over the Purpel Mountains,” Keter said. He switched his gaze to the west. He gazed at the purple-topped peaks, and sighed. “My village was overrun by the Stone Men, then slavers bought ….”
The big man stopped in his tracks. He lifted the boy easily and held him up against the rough wooden wall of the Undertaker’s shop. Stravor hissed, “You lie, boy.”
The boy hung there limply. He shook his head. “I’m not … I—”
“The Stone Men do not pillage anymore; our God has told me. Why do you speak so? Why do you lie to me, man-boy?”
Keter stared into Stravor’s black eyes. He whispered, “I’m not … not lying. They came … killed all but me and some younglings. They sold us to slavers.”
Stravor dropped the boy, who stumbled when he hit the ground. Keter then fell forward, but was saved by the Searcher’s large hand. Stravor placed that hand on the nape of the boy’s neck. “This way, boy.”
The larger man roughly guided the boy into the nearest alley and shoved him once more, against the wall. Stravor bent to look into Keter’s wide eyes. “Are you sure that is who they are, boy?”
“How many did you see?”
“I … there … I think ….”
“How many?” Stravor raised his voice and shook the lad. “Speak!”
“Please … please, Stravor.” Keter’s eyes filled with tears.
Stravor stopped and straightened up. He spun away, causing the sword to moan its protest. “I’m sorry, boy. I need to get this soul out. I am sorry.” His voice was softer when he asked again, “How many do you believe there were?”
“Mm … maybe more than one hundred?”
“God’s tears! Follow me, boy. Let me finish my duty.”
Keter nodded and followed the Searcher from the alley. They took the left path and walked to the Hall of the Dead.
Stravor lay quietly awaiting his Master’s words. Finally, he heard the deep voice of Hemothracene. In Stravor’s head it sounded like five hundred voices speaking as one.
“Again, you have served us well. There is unrest in outlying lands. There are those whose aim it is to raise up the people. They fill them with thoughts of revolt. This must be stopped. It is your sworn duty to up-hold our Laws.”
“Yes, Lord. Who are they?” Stravor still lay on the cold glass floor. He whispered, though there was no need. “How will I know them?”
“The worst of them you have in your possession. He who Would Become. The boy.”
Stravor swallowed and thought. The boy? He continued to whisper, “You wish me to kill him, Lord?”
“He must die. But not here. You know where. The Stone Men will let you pass. By your side you will find endless gold. Go.”
“Master, why this boy? I—”
The voices in his head were so loud they leaked from his ears. “You dare question? Your duty is clear, Searcher!” And then instantly, they were gone. He knew what he must do.
Stravor gasped softly and rose to his knees. Beside him was a soft leather bag. The Searcher retrieved, and unfastened it. He peered inside. It held both silver and gold coins and it always would; no matter how much was withdrawn. He placed the small bag into the pouch he wore on this right hip.
Rolling up to his feet, the Searcher walked quietly to retrieve the Sword. The stone it sat in released the now-clean and refreshed weapon. Drawing it from the monolith, Stravor held the weapon and lay the blade on his right palm. It changed from its normal blue to gold as it lay there.
Carefully drawing the blade over his hand, he guided the tip into the scabbard and slid in the beautiful weapon. He whispered to it, “Now we will begin a journey of many days, my beauty.”
When he walked to the exit, the floor again reflected blue.
Outside once more, Stravor squinted against the light. He cast around, seeking the boy and found him napping beneath a Nodding Ash. When the boy didn’t move when tapped with the toe of his boot, the Searcher kicked him harder.
Keter glanced at his tormentor and grinned. “Yes, Stravor. Are you done? What are we to do now?” The boy reached up with his hand and waggled the fingers.
The Searcher grinned, grasped the slim, soft hand and pulled the lad up. What could this boy be, that earns him such a death? Aloud, Stravor answered, “We are up to nothing. You will go back to the Silverhide. I have visitations.”
The boy snaked his arm around Stravor, and whispered, “Will you return?”
Stravor wanted to shove the boy away, but did not. He liked the warm boy, his man-boy’s body, and he allowed Keter to hold on a bit longer. The Searcher’s body reacted to the other pressed against him. “Damn you, boy. Return to the inn and tell that squealing landlord, Dayson, I would stay another night, with you to warm my bed.”
Keter looked up. His blue eyes reflected the clouds above. Stravor gazed at them, his hardening cock betraying him. Leaning down, he kissed the boy, who sucked the Searcher’s tongue. Stravor grabbed the boy’s shoulders and nibbled the lad’s ear. “Bewitcher. Go and do as I say. Once my work is done, I will come and give you what you desire.”
Keter pushed his fingers between them and felt the prize he wanted; it was solid and hard. He slid his soft hand up and down the length. “Yes, Stravor.”
The Searcher opened his pouch, probed for a gold piece and gave it to the boy. “I am trusting you … give this coin to Dayson ….”
Slim fingers gripped the coin. “I’ll be waiting, Stravor.”
“Good.” The big man pulled the boy back hard. He held the boy’s chin and kissed him deeply. The kiss over, Stravor slapped the boy’s firm ass, hard. “Go and do not disappointment me, boy.”
The boy smiled, showing glowing white teeth. “Never!” He ran off before Stravor could capture him again.
Stravor stood and watched the boy gambol off. He reached to adjust himself and thought, Be careful. Do not let that one into what little heart you have left.
Once the boy had disappeared, Stravor moved to attend to his business. Nabrook was a large town, but he crossed it quickly, finally getting to the western border after twenty minutes of brisk walking. He stopped to take a deep breath. Mmm, I’m close to the market. Flowers?
The Searcher laughed as he crossed the street. People scurried to avoid him. She’d not know what to do with flowers from me.
Stravor strode through the busy market until he found a bakery. “Baker!”
Jeryd, the baker sucked in air at the sight of the man in black. The eyes gave away his calling as much as the blue sword did. Jeryd swallowed and walked forward. He put his shaking hands on the small counter. “Good day to you, Searcher. What brings you to … to my … fair stall?”
The Searcher’s mouth watered as his eyes took in the variety of breads and pastries offered. He gazed at the quivering baker.
“Fear not, man. I am only here for your wares.” Stravor pointed behind the baker. “Two loaves of the round rye and something sweet … those …a baker’s dozen of those filled pastries; a mixture.”
“Of course.” The baker bowed slightly and filled a bag with bread and another with the pastry. He placed both on the counter before him. “Was there anything more, Searcher?”
“No, thank you. This is all I need.” Stravor opened the pouch and pulled a silver coin from it. “What do I owe?”
“Half a piece, please.”
“Take this and thank you, again.” The Searcher lay the coin down; a full piece of silver not half. He picked up his purchases and moved away from the wide-eyed baker.
Leaving the market, he walked with purpose to where the street ended at the Willow’s End stream. Following the well-worn path north for ten minutes brought him … home.
Stravor stopped to gaze at the wood and stone house. Mid-sized with two floors, it was not as pretty as the houses found in Nabrook, but it was his family’s home. He walked to the front door, and pushing it open called hello.
From the kitchen came a squeal, and running feet. “Stravor … Stravor, is that you?”
“Aye, Mother, tis I.” He put down his packages as his tiny mother flew to him. He hugged her tightly for a moment and pushed her back gently. “Let me remove the Sword.”
“Yes, please, I dislike that damned thing.” Elinor waved toward the offending item.
Stravor unbuckled the sheath and placed the Sword against the wall behind the door. “You will be fine here. I’ll return to you soon,” he soothed.
“Come, son let us have tea … do you have to speak to it? The sword?”
Smiling, he handed the packages to his mother and followed her. “It is more alive than not, and it needs me. It does not like to be alone.”
Elinor shuddered. “Your whole business … well, it is unsavoury. Sit, and I’ll make tea.” She unwrapped the loaves and sweets. “Oh, Stravor, thank you. We’ll have some pastry with lunch. These are from Jeryd’s stall. He’s a fine baker.”
The Searcher sat at the worn-wood table and watched his mother as she moved around her domain. “How is Father?”
Elinor poured boiling water over the leaves of tea, and put the lid on the pot. She moved to face her son. “He is the same. Will you go up?”
“Now, yes. I’ll not be too long, Mother.” Stravor got to his feet. He went to his mother and bent to kiss her cheek. “Tis good to see you.”
Elinor gazed at the man before her. “And you my son. Go on, and I’ll make food. Then we can talk afterward.”
Stravor nodded, then walked up the back stairs to visit his ailing father.
Stravor the Elder sat in a chair facing the bedroom window. He was humming tunelessly.
His son paused in the doorway a moment. Is he shrinking into himself? He was such a big man. Stravor the Younger walked into the room and said, “Hello, Father.”
The Elder started at the sound of his son’s voice. “Boy! Is that you? You’ve come home finally?”
Stravor walked around and knelt to next his father’s chair. “Yes, Father, I’ve come to see you.” He stared at his father’s eyes. They were hazel.
“How long has it been, boy? I am slowly rotting in this damnable chair.”
“A year, Father. I have been very busy and often far from home.”
The Elder Stravor met his son’s dark eyes. “Your eyes were once such a shade of green, like your mother’s. I regret ….”
“No, Father, no regrets. I took the mantle willingly. I knew the cost.”
“I should not have allowed it. I know now the true cost, boy. The true price of serving him.” The older man grasped his son’s bracers. “The dragons … once our House meant something. Now look at us.” His father held on more tightly. His voice dropped to a whisper, “Stravor … he is not what we thought. I can see the truth, and you must stop him. His is not the way.”
Stravor’s eyes widened. “Father, you must not speak of him in this way.”
The old man laughed until he started to choke. Stravor patted his father’s back while the coughing subsided.
“Son … my boy, he is evil. He wishes only that on all of us … you must see it. There is a pattern. You must learn it and stop it before it is too late.”
Stravor dropped his voice to a whisper. “Father, people are happy, thriving. Hemothracene protects us, you must know this, you who served him for so long. You who taught me his goodness, to see the light and safety he brings the world.”
“My boy, you are deaf to the truth, as was I. Tell me what soul did you bring to him this trip?”
“Merkwill of Staen. The man was a witch. He plotted against us.”
“Nonsense, he was an herbalist. He made love potions and cures for the ill.” Stravor’s father sat up straighter. “He fed the poor and helped the needy. I still have my sight, boy. The farther from him I am, the more I see.”
“How can that be he does not hear you?”
“Son, it is the Sword. It is his connection to us.”
Stravor gazed about the room. “I do not see your Life Sword, Father. Where is the Sword of Charist?”
“Wrapped well and in the stable. It sleeps.” His father grinned and said, “It sleeps and each day it does my mind opens more and the further I can see.”
“And your eyes, Father?”
“Aye, mine are returned to what they were before …” The Elder met his son’s black soulless eyes. “I am ashamed for not seeing him for what he truly is before. Ashamed I led you to him. Stravor, listen to me! He will or has asked you to kill the one who can restore light to the world. You need to find this man. You need to open your heart and mind and see the truth, my son.”
Both men were quiet as they heard footsteps on the stairs.
“No word of this to she, your mother, boy.”
Stravor the younger rose to his feet and full height. He glanced down at his father. “No, Sir, not a word.”
“My husband, I have brought you food and badly stewed tea!” Elinor glared at her son.
Stravor grinned and bowed slightly to his angry mother. “I am sorry, Mother. Father and I have been talking too much. Please forgive me the ruined tea.”
Elinor smiled at her only child. “I will since you brought us fine bread and cakes.” She lay a tray on her husband’s lap. “See here, husband, a fine rye slice, and delicious sweets for after your soup today!”
The old man returned the smile and patted his wife’s cheek. “Thank you, my love. You two go and partake.” He picked up his spoon and began to eat.
“I’ll be back up shortly.” Elinor bent to kiss her husband’s cheek. “Stravor, will you eat?”
“Yes, Mother, I am coming.” He’d stepped to follow his mother when his father’s final words stopped him.
“Stravor,” the Elder wheezed, “The man-boy, be careful of him.”
Stravor the Younger once again waited in the doorway and upon hearing the warning his gaze returned to the old man in the chair. The words struck him but he did not know what to do with them, and so replied only, “Yes, Father.”
“I sometimes miss this kitchen.” Stravor smiled, and ate a spoonful of the thick vegetable soup that was placed before him.
“Only the kitchen? Not the food or your mother?” Elinor sat eating with her son.
“Well, those also. Especially the food!” Stravor laughed, and then reached forward to take his mother’s hand in his. “And you, even more.”
“I miss you, son. I wish you ….” Elinor sat back and used the corner of her plain apron to wipe her eyes. “Tis too late for a mother’s wishes.”
Stravor chewed and swallowed the fine rye bread. “For that wish, yes my mother, it is too late.”
“Do you ever wish to stop? Don’t you want a family?”
“No marriage for me, Mother.” Stravor scraped the bowl, and then wiped it clean with the remaining bread. “And you know only too well, a Searcher serves for life.”
“Yes, your father is only here because of what the Stone Men did to him.”
Stravor heard the anger and sadness in his mother’s words.
“That God did nothing to protect him. Why is that, Stravor?” she asked. “Why does he abandon those who serve him?” Elinor waved her spoon. “As a child I knew not this God. Then slowly he came into our lives. I remember your father as a young man. Alive with joy. We fell in love and decided to marry. Life was a wonder with him then.”
Stravor sat back to listen. He watched his mother as she paused and sipped from a mug of water.
“Then, Stravor of Nabrook discovered the so-called one true God, Hemothracene. It changed him and our lives forever. Suddenly there was endless money, but he was gone. Once, when you were but a babe, for two years on his damned quest.”
“Son, I am begging you … leave here and him. Go to a far-flung land where you will be free of him and that damnable living metal. It makes my skin crawl.”
“Mother … I swore an oath—”
“Yes, and damn me for allowing it to happen!” Silent tears fell from Elinor’s eyes as she whispered, “Damn me.”
Stravor was unaccustomed to feeling much of anything, but he felt then sadness and tenderness toward his mother. “Please, Mama, please know, I am not unhappy. I choose to serve. I chose it and swore an oath to uphold his ways.”
“I’m sorry. I shouldn’t be making it a harder burden for you, Stravor. I love you and miss you.”
“And I also miss you and home.” Stravor reached for and held his mother’s hand. It was soft and her skin felt thin.
They sat together in silence, until from the front room came a mournful sound. They both knew it was the Life Sword.
Elinor watched as Stravor listened. Like a hound to its master’s whistle.
Stravor glanced at Elinor. “Mother ….”
Tears filled her eyes as she sighed. “Go to it, if you must, but please think on what I have said. If you have the chance to escape … take it. I love you, Stravor.”
“And I, you.” Rising to his feet, he helped his mother up and held her tightly against him. “I will come back to you. This I promise.”
The young man held his mother for another few minutes, uncaring her tears would stain his shirt. Finally, she stepped from his embrace.
“Go … I know you must.”
Stravor cocked his head and smiled. He unbuckled his pouch and pulled all the coins from it. “Mother … I will leave you these.”
Elinor accepted the three gold coins and pieces of silver. “This … this is ….”
“Is it enough?”
“Yes, thank you.”
He smiled at her then. “Don’t come out with me, Mother. Just let me go and I’ll return to you in no time.” Stravor kissed his mother once and again, and left her in the kitchen.
As he approached the sword, it began to moan. Stravor picked it up and it went silent as he affixed the buckle. Without another word or a backward glance, the Searcher left his childhood home. As he walked, he wondered if he’d ever see it again.
Thanks go to my editor, @AC Benus for his encouragement and editing skills. Also to beta readers, @mollyhousemouse and @Brayon You two are the best. Additional thanks go to @Wayne Gray for listening to me ramble and for his thoughts.
Thanks to all of you who read.Please let me know what you think and if you enjoyed the story please like the story here: