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Authors: Steven A. Tolle

Tags: #Teen & Young Adult, #Science Fiction & Fantasy, #Fantasy, #Sword & Sorcery

The Eternal Darkness (10 page)

BOOK: The Eternal Darkness
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“Why me?” he asked quietly.  “Where is this Guardian that lost the sword in the first place?  Why hasn’t he shown up?”

“Jake, I do not know why the Guardian has not appeared,” Tomaris stated gently.  “I had believed that he would once the sword was free.  Maybe he bides his time.”  He sighed deeply.  “We must assume that we will receive no such help.  If we are to do this, we must act on our own.”

“As to why you, you are young and have your power,” he continued.  “You have confronted powerful demons and emerged victorious.  You have demonstrated great courage in recovering the sword.  Also, the sword itself will give you an advantage that the demon lord will be hard pressed to overcome.  Further, since I cannot go, I must send someone I trust to see it through.”

“Wouldn’t someone like Jonas be a better choice?” Jake queried.  “He also has power and knows how to fight the demons.”

“Jake, I have nothing but respect for Jonas,” Tomaris responded.  “I am sure that he would go, if he was here.  Let me ask you this: If he were here, would you ask him to go and take the risk in your place?”

“No,” Jake replied after a moment.  “I don’t want anyone to risk themselves for me.”

“Then, it must be you,” Tomaris stated.  “We cannot wait long and I fear any delay heightens our danger.  Will you take this risk to find your way home?”

“Where would we even start?” Jake asked.  “Do you know where the demon lord is located?”

Tomaris shook his head.  “When our minds touched, before he shut me out, I glimpsed for the briefest of moments a large stone room.  In that room, I saw what I believe is the rift that allows the demons access to our world.  Beyond that, all I could sense is that it is somewhere far to the west.  I believe that it is not on this continent and lies beyond the shores of the Island Sea.”

“How does that help us?” Jake asked.

“My father knows many sailors,” Hailyn offered.  “We could head to my home.  My father will know of trustworthy captains who may comprehend what lies beyond the horizon of the Inland Sea.”  She paused for a moment.  “We will need gold, if we are to buy passage on a ship.”

“I will see that you have more than enough,” Tomaris said.  He looked over at Jake.  “If you are willing, I will see that everything is prepared so you can leave in the morning.”

Jake stood, staring out the window.  He thought of Dominic and what he would do, as well as of his parents back home.  There seemed to be only one choice.  He turned and faced Tomaris.  “I will go.”


The demon lord paced back and forth in his throne room, scowling.  He had felt the sword come alive weeks ago, but had not worried as the power had come from the north.  He had believed that it had simply responded to whatever innocent his reluctant disciple Bruce had procured to carry it.  The sword’s energy faded away after a day, so he assumed that it was put away and on its way here.

Even when he felt it come alive in the east yesterday, he had not given it much thought.  It seemed odd that it would be to the east, but perhaps that is the path that Bruce had to take on his return trip.  So, today was a shock to him and he did not like surprises.

The power of the sword had flared awake in the east, the spiritual ripples easy for him to sense.  As he concentrated, he felt the power and understood its purpose.  He had spent a great deal of energy to block the attempt to send the boy back to his world.

In that effort, he recognized the user of the sword.  He had heard of this Tomaris, but since he was far away, he had left it to Creatos to deal with this human.  In that and many other things, Creatos had failed.

Thinking of his fallen brother tightened his anger.  Creatos had always thought higher of his power than he deserved.  His arrogance and meddling had always grated.  The demon lord had considered killing him more than once, but such an act would have turned more of the others against him.  So he had allowed Creatos to take his followers across the sea and establish a foothold there.  Creatos’ followers were mostly their lesser brothers, so it had not cost the demon lord much to let him go.  That had allowed them to live in an uneasy peace.

Yet, it had been Creatos’ bumbling interference that had cost him the boy.  He almost had this Jake Thomas as he was crossing over when Creatos blundered in and disrupted his hold on the boy.  Creatos had always been jealous of the demon lord having Bruce to serve him.  He saw an opportunity to acquire another of these offworlders and tried to take it.  In the end, the failure to seize the boy had cost Creatos his very existence.

One less fool to deal with
, the demon lord thought. 
Enough of this useless pacing.
  Turning on his heel, he went to one of the doors nearby and passed into a long stone hallway.

As he strode down the hall, his brothers and followers pressed against the stone to let him pass.  They saw the look on his face and none dared face his wrath.  While the thought of Creatos rankled, Helvan caused worry.

Helvan had been a loyal follower, though the demon lord had not really trusted him.  Helvan was powerful, but he had preferred guile and games to the use of raw strength.  Those machinations could have been turned against the demon lord at anytime, so he had humored Helvan.  Fortunately, Helvan rarely failed when given a task.

However, a messenger had arrived just this morning, telling of Helvan’s failure to cripple the two strongest realms of humans on the eastern continent.  No word of Helvan’s fate was known, but the demon lord feared that he had been destroyed as well.  Surely, the cleric with the staff did not have the power to stand against Helvan alone, so it was likely that he had been confronted by multiple clerics when his schemes went awry.

Regardless of Helvan’s fate, the demon lord felt his control of events slipping away.  The sword was now in the hands of the humans, his most powerful followers destroyed or defeated, and the boy still outside of his control.  These failures tore at him and made him look weak to his other followers. 
I abhor weakness
, he growled to himself.  He clenched his fists tightly as his anger grew and picked up his pace
.  I will educate these puny humans on what true power is.

He exited onto a stone patio that extended out from the side of his fortress.  Waiting on that patio were one of his strongest remaining brothers and the human commander of his forces.  Both bowed low as he stopped at the rail and looked out towards the harbor several miles away.

In the harbor were hundreds of ships, tied off next to each other with planks connecting their decks.  Outside of the town on the harbor were long rows of tents.  Smoke from cooking fires and the kilns rose from that enormous encampment.

“When can you sail, Commander?” he asked.

“The ships are provisioned as you commanded, master,” the man replied with eagerness in his voice.  He was a tall man with long hair tied off behind his head.  He had the look of a man who enjoyed fighting.  He had scars on his face and his dark eyes were merciless.  He wore the light armor of his people, but carried a large warhammer, which was odd considering that these people had long been sailors. “I can have the men onboard and ready to depart on the morning tide.”

The demon lord knew that the men who served him had been growing restless since he had ordered a halt to their raids to build his army.  He would put that energy to good use.

“Are our brothers and sisters prepared?” the demon lord asked the other demon.

“We are ready to go,” his brother replied.  The demon was heavily muscled, its pale gray arms and legs smooth and hairless.  Its human-like face was expressionless, its black eyes unreadable.

“First, send a messenger in a swift ship to those fools who went with Creatos, and then give the orders to depart,” the demon lord commanded.  “You are to take the ships and army and head east.  You are to go crush this Tomaris and recover the Guardian’s sword.  After that, you may attack and plunder at will.”

After they bowed and left, the demon lord stood on the patio, looking out over his army.  Seeing that force arrayed, he felt more in control. 
I will show these humans once and for all who rules this world.

 

C
HAPTER
S
IX

Early the next morning, with the sun just above the horizon, Jake rose from his bed and began to dress.  He shook his head slightly as he put his armor on.  Only yesterday he was sure he would never need it again. 
What a difference a day makes
, he thought ruefully.

He was packing his saddlebags when the connecting door opened and Hailyn came in.  She was dressed and packed, her saddlebags over her shoulder.  She gave him a small smile as she came over and helped him finish packing.

With the scent of her perfume lightly in the air, Jake smiled as well.  He knew that she was pleased that he was still here, but had not expressed it since he was still cut off from his family.  He had mixed emotions on the situation, but as long as he was here, he was content as long as Hailyn was at his side.

There was a light knock on his door.  He went over and opened it to find Learthe waiting outside.  “Tomaris has asked that when you are ready to please come down to his dining room to share the morning meal before your departure,” she said politely.  She glanced in the room and saw the bags on the floor.  “Can I be of any assistance this morning?”

“No, thank you,” Jake replied.  “We are almost packed.  We will be down in a few minutes.”

“I will inform Tomaris and have food prepared,” she answered.  With a nod of her head, she turned and left.

Jake finished belting on his weapons and took one last look around. 
Only a couple of days in a bed and it’s back on the road
, he mused, shaking his head. 
I hope I can spend a few weeks in bed when this is all over.  If I survive, of course
.  His good humor dampened with that last thought.

“Ready?” he asked Hailyn as he slung his saddlebags over his shoulder.

“I’m ready,” she said, giving him a quick kiss.

They left the room, hand in hand, walking slowly to the dining room.  When they arrived, they found Tomaris sitting at the head of the table, a fire burning in the fireplace behind him.  The sword was resting on the table in front of him.

“Come and sit, children,” he said warmly.  “I have a few last words to share before you leave.”

He waited until Jake and Hailyn were seated.  “I know that this task seems daunting, even impossible.  But many would have deemed it impossible for you to recover the sword.  You must keep faith in your power and in each other.”

He picked up a long leather scabbard that was lying on the floor next to his chair.  “I had this made yesterday for you.  Its straps allow you to carry it slung across your back.”  He lifted the sword, the blade flaring, and slid it into the scabbard.

He held it in his hands for a moment and looked over at Jake, his countenance somber. “However, there is something that you will not like.  To maintain our deception, you must not use the sword.”

“Are you crazy?” Jake asked, dumbfounded by the statement.  “You want us to go in search of this demon lord and we can’t use the sword?  Why not just-” he cut off when Tomaris raised a hand.

“Hear me out,” Tomaris said patiently.  “The sword’s very presence will aid you, increasing your power, as you know.  With its presence and Hailyn’s bracelet, you should be a match for any demon you may encounter.  If you touch or use it before you reach him, the demon lord will know.  It is clear that he can sense the sword’s power or he would not have been able to stop me yesterday.  We must make sure he believes that the sword remains at the Keep.  It is with that mistaken belief that you will be able to approach and catch him unawares.”

He produced an oddly shaped leather pouch that he used to cover the hilt and pommel, tying it with small straps to the scabbard.  Satisfied, he handed the sword to Jake.

As Jake took the sword, he could feel gentle warmth seeping through the leather.  He propped it up against his chair and faced Tomaris.

“What if I need its power?” he asked.  “If we are going to die and the sword can save us, what am I to do?”

“If your lives depend on it, of course you should use its power,” the old man said.  “I am not asking you to sacrifice your life to maintain the deception.  Just know that if you use it, the demon lord will be forewarned and your task will be much harder.  The demon will have time to prepare and our best chance of success is to catch him by surprise.”

Jake nodded glumly.  Hailyn reached over and gave his hand a squeeze of reassurance.

The doors of the room opened and a couple of servants came in, carrying trays of food.  After the food was on the table, the servants left, closing the door behind them.

“Please eat,” Tomaris said.  Once they had begun to eat, he spoke again.  “Before you leave, we must discuss this ability that Jake has demonstrated.  This power you described is not something I have heard of anyone possessing.  Having thought on it, I may have been wrong on the reasons the demons wanted you.  I believed that the magic you wield was what made you different.  It is now clear to me it is this new ability that they wished to control.  They must have learned of it from the one you called Bruce.”

He shook his head slowly.  “Imagine the possibilities.  They could use you to control kingdoms, if you could get close enough to the ruler.  You could help them crush any resistance by taking the will to fight from their enemies.”

“It is this will that the Creator has given man, the freedom to choose good or ill, that they detest.  Due to their power and immortality, they see themselves as the rightful rulers of man.  That a human could defy them inflames their hatred.  The great irony is that the Creator also gave them free will and they used it to defy Him.”

“It is in this that I share Hailyn’s concerns, Jake.  While I do not doubt your goodness, if you continued to strip the will from others, you may find that kind of power can be sweet.  This Bruce, though he was under the demons’ dominion, should be a warning to you.  He lost sight that the people he hurt and controlled were individuals with the right to choose their own fates.  To take from them this precious gift sounds too close to what the demons do to those deluded fools that give themselves over, the ones you call half-men.”

BOOK: The Eternal Darkness
2.25Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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