Read The Eternal Darkness Online

Authors: Steven A. Tolle

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

The Eternal Darkness (3 page)

BOOK: The Eternal Darkness
12.03Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

He tried to stay calm as they moved further away from the road.  He assumed they were heading deeper into the woods as he could feel and hear more leaves as they crunched under his boots.  He heard the murmurs of some of the nearby men as they talked quietly, barely above a whisper.

Jake had no idea how long they walked, but he knew that the faint light that made it through the bag had faded by the time they stopped.  As he was forced down to his knees on the cold ground, he made out the smell of burning wood.  While his guards held his shoulders, the bag was pulled from his head.

Blinking against the canvas filaments that floated in front of his face, he saw Hailyn standing across an open space in the woods, the sword held in her hands, glowing softly.  She wore an expression of determination, though Jake saw concern in her eyes when they met each other’s gaze.  Anale was huddled next to her, fear etching her face as she looked at the men standing around the camp.

They were in a large hollow amongst the trees, ringed with small hills.  Except for in the hollow, trees covered most of the ground, their branches intertwining to form a brown canopy.  The branches from the nearest trees stretched into the hollow, but there was open sky above Jake.  He glanced up and saw a few stars shine through the cloudy night sky.

He turned his attention back to the ground.  The camp was a collection of rough tents spread around the hollow and under the trees.  There were several racks filled with weapons placed around the camp.  A large stone fire pit was built near the center of the hollow, with spits for food spread above it.  There was a small fire burning with several men standing next to it.  Jake quickly counted nearly twenty men standing around, looking towards a large square tent, about thirty feet away from Jake.

The tent had a set of double flaps for doors, the flaps pulled back and open, revealing a rug covering the ground near the center of the tent and a wooden cot near the back wall.  The tent was a dark green, made of finer material than the others.  Jake saw the horses being tied off near the rear of the tent.  Orth was standing near its entrance, his arms crossed over his chest and a self-satisfied look on his face.

Jake tried to suppress the sudden spike of anger when he saw the man wearing his swordbelt and weapons.  He knew that it was stupid to be concerned about it, given his situation, but those had been a gift from Norlan.  He clenched his bound hands into fists of frustration and tried to think of ways to get free.

Orth beckoned for Hailyn to join him, cocking a finger at her.  “Come here, little cleric,” he called mockingly.

Jake saw a look of defiance cross her face, but she went over near Orth without comment, Anale staying right next to her.  She stopped a few feet away.

“I claim you as mine,” Orth said loudly.  He glanced around at the other men.  “The girl can amuse the men until we can find someone willing to pay for her release.  You will stay with us, providing healing, carrying the sword for as long as needed, and warming my bed.”

“We are not property for you to dispose of,” Hailyn said with anger in her voice.  “I am a cleric of the One and I call upon you to give up your evil ways and embrace His forgiveness,” she said evenly, her voice carrying across the camp as she drove the sword’s point into the dirt for emphasis.  The sword flared in response, the white light filling the camp, flashing like a bolt of lightning. 

Jake saw many of the men look around, faces suddenly concerned.  They glanced nervously at the sword and moved away slightly.  Orth, however, was unmoved.

“I know of clerics and your ways,” he said dismissively.  “You cannot use your power against us, or even try to physically harm us, even if you could use that sword.  You must face the hard truth of this.  You no longer control your fate; I do.  You will obey me or I will be forced to show you what defiance will cost you.”

He gestured towards a hard-looking man standing near the tent.  The man was short and stocky, dressed in boiled black leather armor, with several oddly-shaped knives around his belt.  He had a cruel cast to his face, his dark eyes sharp.

“This is Enan,” Orth said smugly.  “He once worked in the service of the Queen, providing encouragement to those in the dungeons to confess their crimes.”  He laughed, though humor was not present in his eyes.  “He was forced to leave Her Majesty’s service over a misunderstanding.  Apparently, in his enthusiasm, he worked on the wrong man.  The man came down with a case of dead, so Enan had to leave the city, just ahead of his former coworkers.”

“Fortunately, he has not forgotten any of the skills he learned there,” Orth continued mockingly.  “Know this, little cleric.  If you disobey me, I will turn you over to Enan.  I guarantee that he will make you compliant and willing to please.  Either way, you will never leave here.”

“Since I know that Enan will teach you to obey, I no longer need to keep the boy alive,” Orth finished.  He looked over at Jake.  “Nothing personal, boy.  You simply no longer have any value, but I cannot just let you go.”  He gestured towards Jake’s guards.  “Kill him,” he ordered simply.

One of the men guarding Jake shook his head.  “I’m no assassin, Orth,” he spat.  “I joined your group to make money, not to act the butcher.  I will kill a man in a fight, but if you want this boy dead, do it yourself.”  The other man grunted in agreement.

“Are you women now?” Orth retorted haughtily, looking around the camp.  “I thought that I had a group of men.”

An angry muttering rose from the men at that, many glaring at Orth.  Jake saw Orth lick his lips nervously, realizing that he had overstepped.  Orth raised his hand.  “I misspoke,” he said quickly.  “I know that you are not mindless killers.  But the fact remains that the boy must be dealt with.  Since you mentioned money, a gold mark to whoever does what must be done.”

Even the promise of gold did not elicit the response that Orth was looking for.  Most of the men simply looked at each other, none stepping forward.  Finally, Enan shrugged, drawing a knife.  He looked over at Orth, who nodded, and then started towards Jake.

Jake heard Hailyn cry out, but as he frantically struggled against his guards and the bindings, he could only focus on Enan approaching.  Seeing death come closer step-by-step, time slowed.  In between heartbeats, his mind raced.  As his options flashed in his mind, a memory appeared.  Bruce was standing over him, that connecting thread like a wire in his chest, a willingness to do what he said. 
What had he said? Something about absorbing life energies?

Another image flashed in his mind.  Tomaris coming closer as he lay on his bed, Jonas glowing brightly, that strange crawling sensation nearly overwhelming.  Then, that brilliant white flash as he felt energy flow into his body, his strength returning.  Suddenly, his mind went still.

As Enan stepped closer, his blade catching the firelight, a thought formed in that silence.
Can I do what Bruce did?
  Tomaris had said he had absorbed Jonas’ life energy after the battle in the forest. That had occurred when he had been unconscious, so he had no idea of what he did.  With only seconds remaining before Enan reached him, he had no time left to think about it.

In desperation, he pictured a connection between him and the man, an imaginary cord joining the two.  Nothing happened.  Trying to stay calm against his rising fear, he continued reaching out with his mind, trying to will it to happen.

When Enan stopped in front of him and reached down to grab his head, Jake stiffened when he felt a little jolt of energy, like he had touched an electrical outlet.  With his mind, he grasped that sensation and pulled it into him.  As the energy flowed into him, he saw Enan’s eyes take on an unfocused look.  “Stop!” he cried.

Enan’s hand stopped.  Jake almost lost the connection at his surprise that it worked.  He took a deep breath and said, “Drop the knife.”  The knife fell to the ground.  He heard the men near him gasp and a surge of sound as the other men started talking nervously.

While holding onto the connection to Enan, he reached out towards the men guarding him.  It took a couple of moments, but then he felt that connection.  More energy surged into him as he grasped those connections.

“Let me go,” he told the men.  They released their hold on him and stepped back.

“What are you doing, you idiots?!” Orth shouted.  “Kill him!”

“Free my hands,” Jake commanded as he glanced around the campsite.  As the man to his right cut away his bonds, he saw fear and uncertainty in the eyes of the other men.  “Go towards the fire.”  The three men complied and started to slowly move towards the fire pit, Jake walking right behind them.

“This is some kind of demon magic!” Orth cried as he drew Jake’s sword.  “We have to defend ourselves!”

The other men drew their weapons, but most seemed unsure of what to do.  They watched as those who tried to approach Jake suddenly went blank and followed his orders.  The other men began to fall back from Jake and the men he controlled.

Knowing what he was looking for now, Jake went beyond those closest to him and sought out more connections.  Shortly, he had taken control of most of the men.  He had them gather near the fire, keeping all of them in front of him.  The only ones still free were Orth and a couple of the men near him.  He glanced over at Hailyn, who was looking at him with disbelief on her face.

The energy flowing into him was a mental rush, pleasurable and stimulating.  However, with the energy, he also felt a flow of emotions into his mind.  Fear, frustration and anger surged into him, forming a tight knot of emotions in his chest.  His thoughts turned darker, anger rising up.  His whole body was tingling, his muscles shaking, rage threatening to overwhelm him while he was trying to stay calm and focused as he confronted Orth.

“Let us go and I will not harm you or any of your men,” Jake growled at Orth.

When Orth did not respond, he started forward, but the man suddenly moved.  He leapt towards Hailyn and grabbed her before she could react.  Pulling her in front of him, he held the sword to her throat.

  “Release my men or I will kill the girl,” he said, desperation in his voice.  The men near Orth looked over at him, then at Jake, and began to move away.

Jake gritted his teeth to keep the anger inside.  Almost contemptuously, he reached out and found the connection with Orth and the other men.  “Drop the sword and go over with the others,” Jake ordered crisply.  Jake turned to watch the men complied and went to stand with the other men.

Hailyn came over to him, standing at his side.  “Jake-,” she began, concern in her voice, but he cut her off.

“Go get the horses and find my armor,” he said shortly.  “I’m not sure how long I can hold them.”

Hailyn looked as if she was going to say something, but simply nodded her head and moved off, Anale following her.

Jake stood there, watching the men as their energy and emotions continued to flow into him.  He felt as if he were going to explode if they did not get away soon.  Lost in the sensations, he jumped when Hailyn touched him on the arm.  He glanced over and saw her holding his breastplate.

“The horses are saddled and ready to go,” she said softly as Anale stood behind her with the rest of his armor and helm.

“Help me into my armor,” Jake replied.  With Anale’s assistance, Hailyn was able to quickly put his armor in place.  When she slid his helm on, Jake gave her a nod of thanks.

“Get the sword and mount up,” Jake told her as he continued to watch the men.  “I’m not sure what will happen when I let go, but you need to be ready to ride.”  He saw her nod and move towards the horses.

Deciding to test it, he let one of the connections go, cutting it off abruptly.  One of the men dropped to his hands and knees, retching and shaking.  Looking back to see that the girls were on the horses, he let the rest of the connections go as well.  The group of men collapsed as if they were one person.

The absence of the flowing energy eased Jake’s physical condition, but that ball of emotions remained.  He saw Orth on the ground, his sword belt still around his waist.  The sight inflamed him.  He strode over and kicked Orth hard in the ribs, driving his breath away.  Jake reached down and undid the belt.  Pulling it free, he leaned close to Orth’s face.  “If you try to follow us, I will kill you all,” Jake whispered harshly.  “Do you understand me?”  When Orth did not respond, Jake stood and kicked him again.  “Do you?” he demanded as he kicked him once more.

“Jake, stop it!” Hailyn called out behind him.

Jake ignored her until he saw Orth nod weakly.  With a final kick, Jake spun around and went over to Dontas, belting on his swordbelt and sheathing his sword.  When he was in the saddle, he glanced over at the men on the ground, and then at Hailyn and Anale, the sword glowing in Hailyn’s grasp.  Without another word, he spurred Dontas and rode off into the night, the girls racing to catch up.

The light of the sword guided them through the woods as they headed in what they believed to be a southerly direction.  As they rode in the cold night air, Jake felt his anger fade and that ball of emotions dissipate.  He shook his head and took a deep breath, the chilly air burning slightly as he drew it into his lungs.  He released it slowly, feeling a calm settle over him.

“What did you do, Jake?” Hailyn asked quietly as she rode up next to him.  “How were you able to command those men?”

He looked over at her, the glow of the sword highlighting the concern on her face.  “I did what Bruce did to me,” he replied softly.  He glanced back at Anale, who was riding a few feet behind them.  “It was the same thing he did to Anale.  Somehow, I was able to draw in their life force.  As long as I kept the connection, I could make them do what I say.  I don’t know how Bruce was able to make Anale keep following his orders, because at the fortress, when he would release me, my body reacted like the men tonight when I let go.”

“I hope you never learn,” she stated firmly.  She reached over and took his hand.  “Jake, it is wrong to take away a person’s will and choice.  We teach that the One granted all people the freedom to make choices in this life, for good or ill.  To take that away is the same as making that person a slave.”

BOOK: The Eternal Darkness
12.03Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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