Authors: Kira Morgana
Book Three of The Tower and the Eye
A Blue Hour Publication
Published by Blue Hour Publishing 2016
Copyright©Kira Morgana 2015
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system or transmitted in any form by any means without prior written permission of the publisher or author, except by a reviewer who may quote brief passages in a review to be printed in a newspaper, magazine or journal.
The right of Kira Morgana to be identified as the author of this work has been asserted by her in accordance with the Copyright Designs and Patents Act 1988.
The novel is a work of fiction. The names and characters are the product of the author’s imagination and resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental. Objections to the content of this book should be directed towards the author and owner of the intellectual property rights as registered with their local government.
Cover Design by Elizabeth Bank
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Freya has many assets, the least of which is her exotic beauty. Having been freed from the benign slavery of the Pleasurehouse, she journeys to Jinra to meet up with her brother Grald. Along the way she meets Sir Vrenstalliren, Paladin of Espilieth, who insists on becoming her guardian.
In the next town the two become five, having been joined by Kraarz, an Orc Shaman; Vox, his Otherworld Spirit Guide and Lin, an Elysian warrior on a quest of her own. It is just as well, for she is walking into a danger she is ill equipped to face alone…
The sunset flooded over the Galivorian Mountains, the jagged shadows piercing the foothills. Sheep being herded toward their winter pastures bleated in panic as the wind blew the scent of hunting direwolves from the nearby forest; the trees flaming in their autumn colours.
To the west of Jirshan, the spear of I’Mor Barad
rose to stab the rose and orange tinted sky and the flare of scarlet light at the top of the tower spattered like blood drops onto the bleak mountains surrounding it.
Inside the tower the tarnished throne sat alone on the dais, its usual occupant stood in front of an eastern facing window, watching as a voluptuous young woman with long black hair and deep green eyes kissed the wrinkled merchant whose knee she sat on.
The Jar beside the throne coughed.
“Um, Lord? Should she not be leaving?”
The Aracan Katuvana snapped his fingers and the picture of Jetara; the Pleasurehouse’s Mistress in the top corner, came to life.
“Yes, My Master.” The woman’s face was sullen.
“Why is the girl still with you? Are you trying to anger our Lord?” the Jar snapped.
“No, Master! She did accept her freedom and the gold you did bid me give her. The Merchant came in as she was leaving and did ask her to stay with him,” the Pleasure House Keeper wailed. “When I did try to make her leave, she told me to no interfere as she was a free woman and could do as she saw fit.” Jetara’s face crumpled and tears flowed.
The Jar remained silent, but its single eye looked up at the watching man.
The Aracan grunted and snapped twice.
“The Aracan Katuvana has decreed you are innocent in this matter. Leave the girl be and accord her what hospitality she asks for… for free.” The Jar paused.
“Yes! Yes, my Lord. Jetara shall do as Jetara is commanded.” Jetara wiped her eyes with the end of her silk headscarf, and then blew her nose on it.
The Jar shuddered at the woman’s actions.
“See that you do.”
The Aracan Katuvana snapped his fingers once and Jetara’s picture disappeared. He spun around and returned to his throne, resting his head against the throne back.
“I shall keep a watch upon the Girl, Lord. Sleep well,” the Jar said as a faint snore emerged from under the hood. The Jar’s gaze turned back to the scene on the window.
* * *
Being free isn’t as good as I thought it would be
Freya mused as she trudged up the north-west road.
Yes, I no longer have to do everything that I am told. True, I have my own money. Nevertheless, none of the older slaves at the Pleasurehouse told me being so well known in the Capital would be such a problem.
She sighed and stopped for a moment, putting her bag down and rolling her shoulders.
I wish I had taken that Merchant up on his offer. Then I could have ridden in a carriage to meet…
“And what is a sweet young maiden such as yourself doing afoot?” a voice asked from behind her.
The interruption of her thoughts startled her for a moment before she turned and shaded her eyes from the morning sun.
Down the Reldierholm road, on a pure white mare, rode an Elf. He wore a green and white tabard over his travelling clothes and led a packhorse as well as a high-stepping coal black Elven stallion.
He’d have to be at least a knight, and a wealthy one to afford such animals.
Freya dropped into her sultry, smooth ‘work’ voice, tilting her head to the right.
“I have not the money to purchase a steed, Sir Knight.”
He reined to a halt beside her and dismounted, flourishing his cloak.
“Where is your escort? A pure and beauteous maiden such as yourself should not roam the wilds of Jinran unescorted.”
“My brother, Sir Grald, is meeting me in Jinra, Sir Knight. The message he sent assured me that I would be unmolested in my travel.” Freya gauged the effect her words were having on the Elf and added a little flutter of her long black eyelashes as punctuation.
“Sir Grald? I know no Knight of that name or even Paladin such as I,” he replied.
“He has only late come to the honour, Sir.” She sighed and sank to the ground.
“Fair Maid? Is there something wrong?” He knelt beside her.
“I left Jira late last night and I have been walking since,” she told him, raising one hand to her mouth in a fake yawn.
In fact, she had left Jira just before daybreak. The rigours of her ‘Profession’ had required her to stay in good shape and she was not as frail as she looked, so the walk from Jira to the junction of the Reldierholm Road had taken her just over two hours.
The Paladin gasped.
“That is a goodly way for one of your gentle demeanour to have paced. You must be exhausted.”
She sighed and looked up at him through her eyelashes.
“Sir Paladin, you are once again right in your summation. I was about to take a rest when you chanced upon my path.”
“Then allow me to make your rest more comfortable.” He hobbled his horses and bustled around her.
He started a fire, set up an awning and laid out a cloth and some cushions under it. Then he helped her across to the awning, brought her small bag of belongings to her and within ten minutes, he had made her some tea.
“In truth I also needed to rest myself and my horses. I have lately come from Laikholm.” He turned back to the fire and poured himself a cup. Then he set a pan over the fire.
The scent set Freya’s stomach rumbling, so to distract herself, she studied the design on the back of his pristine Tabard.
She recognised the Tree of Espilieth surmounted by the Crown of Alethdariel.
The tree means he’s a Paladin of Espilieth and the crown with one gem means he’s one of the Princes of Alethdariel. Not sure what the Eye on a Staff is.
“May I enquire as to your identity, Sir Paladin?” she ventured.
“Please forgive me, sweet maiden. I am remiss in my courtesy.” He turned to bow with a small flourish. “I am Sir Vrenstalliren of Alethdariel, a Paladin of Espilieth and Son of the Queen. And yourself?”
“I am Freya of Jira,” she replied.
The Paladin set a plate of bacon, mushrooms and bread before her.
“I hope this meagre fare shall still the hunger within, Lady Freya of Jira.” He sat across from her with a similar plateful.
Freya let the title slide.
It won’t hurt if he thinks I’m a Lady.
Vrenstalliren lent Freya his white mare and rode his Charger.
“We will attempt to find you a suitable mount in the next town, fair Lady Freya. I cannot ride Ohtár for longer than a few hours. He is a little sensitive.”
Freya eyed the big black horse with unease. Although she was an excellent equestrian having been trained by one of her first regular customers, War Stallions needed a firm hand and Ohtár seemed more than a little sensitive. He rolled his eyes whenever so much as a fly came near him.
I’m certainly not touching him,
Freya thought. She gently patted the white mare’s neck and was rewarded with a gentle nuzzle.
This girl is a lady, even if I’m not.
A couple of hours later, just outside Jiren, the packhorse disturbed a pheasant in the grass at the side of the road. The mare and the packhorse didn’t react, but Ohtár reared and pawed the air.
When he came down, he disturbed a small mound at the side of the road. The afternoon light glinted off a hard polished surface and caught Freya’s attention.
“What’s that?” she slipped off the mare and as the Paladin calmed Ohtár down, unearthed a small chest-like box.
“’Tis a pretty thing, Freya.” Vrenstalliren said, dismounting.
“It’s made of red Graistun from my country,” she replied absently. “It’s usually only used for magical or precious items.”
“The box appears seamless, how would one open such a thing without magic?” The Paladin peered over her shoulder.
Straightening up, she brushed dirt from the gold inlay surrounding an enamelled crest and frowned.
“That’s my great grandfather’s crest, but what is one of his treasure boxes doing so far from Elysia?” she muttered.
“Elysia? I thought you were from Jira?”
I didn’t mean to say that aloud. Now what do I do?
She thought quickly.
“My family stretches far afield, Sir Paladin, my parents came to Jira before I was born.” She opened it, gently touching the gems on the crest.
I think that’s the pattern Mama used to use. I never did understand why she brought this with her. Grald said it was because Papa told her to, but it never rang true to me when he said it.
The lid opened and she picked up a smaller gold container reverentially.
“That container alone would be worth a small fortune; enough to buy a fair estate from the Council of Thirteen, m’lady.”
“It’s worth far more than that to me. It’s an heirloom of my family, but how it got here I have no idea.” She frowned and put the gold container back, closed the box and put it into her bag.
More to the point, it looked like my mother’s ring box. Grald took it with him when he left, so why is it here? I’ll look inside when I get a chance.
“Shall we continue on to Jiren?” Vrenstalliren asked, mounting Ohtár again.
She nodded, swinging herself up into the saddle with practised ease.
As they started up the road again, Freya sighed.
Thank the Gods of Light that Lord Southnra and I went riding a few days ago, or I would be so sore right now that I wouldn’t be able to ride.
There was only one tavern in Jiren. It was so opulent that Freya did a double take as she walked in.
“I never expected to see something like this outside of Jira,” she said to Vrenstalliren.
The Paladin shrugged.
“’Tis but an Inn.”
“The Golden Dice is famed throughout Jinran, Sweet Lady.” The tavern keeper stepped out from behind the bar and swept a bow. “I am Master Groilin. Might I enquire if you will be needing rooms?”
“I thank you for your concern, Master,” Freya replied briskly. “We shall indeed.”
Vrenstalliren raised an eyebrow at her, but followed her lead. “Two rooms to be precise. I am the Lady’s Guardian and will need to be close by.”
“May I request the pleasure of your names for the records of my business?” Master Groilin moved back to the bar and opened a ledger.
“I am Sir Vrenstalliren of Alethdan and you have the honour of hosting Lady Freya of Elysina,” the elf answered.
The tavern keeper wrote their names into his ledger and selected a pair of keys from the rack behind him.
“I will show you to your rooms; I have just the thing for a Lady and her Guardian.”
* * *
The traveller entered the main square warily, keeping his hood up and sticking to the lengthening shadows. The few townsfolk he encountered took one look at his stocky form, the dark grey-green skin of his hand and the skull headed staff that he carried, before hurrying away as fast as they could.
“It would appear no one wishes to make your acquaintance, Kraarz.”
The traveller’s companion strode along behind him; hand on the hilt of a long slim bladed sword.
“More likely they are scared off by your scars, Lin,” he grunted.
“Still, it keeps the streets clear for our search.”
“I told you, Lin. The spirits told me that we would find the Empress amongst dice of gold,” the traveller growled out.
“Kraarz, I still don’t understand why you are doing this. Returning the Empress to Elysia is my task.” His companion stopped in the light from a house window.
“You saved my life, Lin. Those who I had once called family would have torn me apart, had you not intervened. The Spirits told me to aid you.” Kraarz shook his head and continued to walk.
“So where are these dice of gold, Kraarz?” Lin followed him, looking around exaggeratedly.
“There.” Kraarz pointed his staff at the tavern in front of them. “I can feel the presence of the Empress within.”
“How…? No, don’t tell me. The Spirits, right?” Lin sighed. “I just hope they’ll let us inside.”
“You must go within. I shall return to the outskirts and camp, while you persuade her to return with you,” Kraarz told her. “As you have seen before, humans are not comfortable with my kind.”
“Stay here, I’ll be back in a minute.”
Kraarz sat down on the bench outside.
“I shall wait here until you tell me to go.”
* * *
Lin pushed open the door and stepped into the crowded common room. The scent of refined incense mingled with wine and mead. All around her, men and women gambled and drank. In one corner, a girl wearing a blue silk robe and silver bells danced on a dais with a white snake. The Tavern Keeper stood behind the bar. He polished glasses and watched the room, while several well-endowed women served the drinks.