Agate: Then and Now

The Stones of Power

by M.D. Grimm

Agate: Then and Now - M.D. Grimm - The Stones of Power
Editions:Kindle - Second Edition
Pages: 304
Paperback - Second Edition
ISBN: 978-1547286485
Pages: 304

Time travel.

For mages, it violates their number one rule: what the Mother has written, let no one unwrite. The Mother writes the destinies of the creatures on the world of Karishian. If her writings were undone, it is feared that Creation itself could be undone. The dark mage Morgorth takes this rule to heart, but there are others who do not.

Morgorth is about to claim a stone of power when it is stolen from him by a female mage he hasn't seen in decades. As they struggle for the stone, she activates it, and Morgorth is unwillingly plunged into another time and another place. It isn't long before he realizes what time he's found himself in and there are a few familiar faces.

Most notable is a much younger version of Aishe. His mate.

Living with a tribe who will be massacred, caring for a young lad who will become his mate, and fighting a battle against a mage who can travel from past to future at a whim—Morgorth's life has never been easy but now he must contend with the will of the Mother. Unable to change the future and the tragedies of Aishe's life, he must decide what his role in his mate's past will be, and ask himself one vital question: how does one defeat time?

Excerpt:

According to legend, the Stones of Power, or by their original name, Pferun Dulleriin, were magickal stones created by the first seven mages ever born. There were major stones, minor stones, and lesser stones. The major stones were the most coveted, since they essentially gave the power of the Mother—our creator deity—to any power-hungry thug who found them; no discipline, no training needed. The minor and lesser stones weren’t anything to sniff at though, since they offered control over a certain species or nature element, or even the weather. The exact number of the stones was unknown, as were their numerous abilities.

Currently, I have seven stones.

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I don’t use them. I imprison them. There was nothing I hated more than the stones, other than those who wanted to use them for personal gain. Why, you might ask? Well, it might have something to do with the fact I was born a mage. I was born with the magick of the Mother inside me, and I’d suffered for it by the hands of my father. I was nearly killed by my own people because of it. I had a right to the magick. I’d fought for it all my life. I had the control, the will, and the desire to harness it. Mages learned how to control the amount of magick they used and what spells they cast, their will had to be solid and unbreakable, and they had to desire to see their spells and enchantments done, and to see the results. There could be no doubt in a mage’s mind when casting spells, since they could easily backfire if there was any hesitation. Backlashes could often prove fatal. If a mage attempted to kill someone with magick, they needed to have the desire to see that death, to see the life vanish from the body.

To put it plainly, I had earned the ability to wield magick. Anyone that simply picked up those stones and started using them hadn’t earned that power, that right. And then the power would always go to their heads, since the stones were highly addictive. The users always attempted to rule Karishian or destroy it with their ineptitude.

I was unable to destroy the stones, though I’d tried numerous ways. After those attempts failed, I simply kept the stones hidden and harmless in my fortress home of Geheimnis, where it was surrounded by my dark forest of Vorgoroth. Both places were enchanted and filled with deadly beasts that ripped heads off first and asked questions later.

This was my home. The only real home I’d ever known. And still, after all the blood and sweat put into creating Geheimnis and the battles waged to dominate the beasts that lived in Vorgoroth, there’d been something missing. Or someone. Once Aishe came into my life, everything changed. I liked to think for the better.

The paint came off easily with a simple word of magick. It vanished and I smiled to have clean hands again. Despite my best efforts and the use of a paintbrush, I still managed to get paint everywhere, not just on the portrait canvas. I really didn’t know how that happened. Climbing up the steep stairs, I reached the door to one of the towers and pushed it open. Crisp, strong wind slapped my face, but it was far from the frozen death that had plagued us a couple months ago. Winter was slowly turning into begsumer, the mild season before the full heat of summer. While I appreciated the change in weather, I didn’t appreciate the eventual influx of invaders who wanted to chop off my head. Thankfully, with all the minions I had, I didn’t have to deal with each one individually.

I walked to the far end of the tower before turning around and looking up with a large smile. Draped over several of my towers, and seemingly comfortable, was Enfernlo, my payshtha friend. I hadn’t seen him all winter and only now did I realize how much I missed him.

I lifted a hand, and he tilted his head, one large pale blue eye regarding me as he allowed me to rub his long snout. En had a long serpentine body with wings that spanned his entire length and then some, though they were currently folded along his back. His blue scales were smooth and shimmered when the sun shone upon them while his muscled legs ended in wicked black claws that had yet to find something they couldn’t slice through. His silver horns arched over his eyes before striking back violently from his head. Payshthas were the largest land and air animals on Karishian, and yet, Enfernlo could shrink in size at will, small enough to perch on my shoulder.

I always found payshthas one of the most beautiful of the Mother’s creations. They were said to be the first intelligent creatures the Mother created, and fire was their magick. Their flame was always under their control, and could burn or not at their discretion. It could create as well as destroy and came in a multitude of colors. It was the very essence of creation, magick, spiritual and pure.

“How are the hatchlings?” I asked.

A contented rumble came from En’s chest. “They are a delight. They will soon start flying.”

His voice was older than the mountains, though he himself was around middle age. I lowered my hand.

“You seem...happy,” he said.

I grinned. “I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

Another rumble came from his chest, a little higher in timbre and longer this time. It was laughter.

He knew about Aishe. In fact, he’d been the first to know about Aishe. I proceeded to catch him up on all the events winter had brought: my second phase of training with Master Ulezander; the two attempts by the Council of Mages to challenge me to declare war; the discovery of Puejuek, the peridot that kept Happy Valley so prosperous; Aishe’s amazing victory over a mage from Cwaylin, the kingdom north of my home.

That battle had also proven my minions’ loyalty to Aishe. Their title for him was Commander. They’d followed him, protected him, and without them, Aishe would have died. Since they were the sort of predators to see weakness if I thanked them personally, I let them see my gratitude in a roundabout way. For the wichtln and the other predators, I transported more and different sorts of prey animals for them to hunt. For the boygles, since they finally accepted Aishe as a leader, I allowed more of them to go into the kingdoms, where they traded weapons and gems for food, spices, and other needed items. They went in disguise, of course, but I allowed them more freedom in their activities while in the kingdoms, as well as a longer stay. Being vicious little monsters, this meant they had my permission to kill and use the blood of the slain to dye their clothes. But I still put a limit on the number of their victims, and what sort of creatures they could kill.

Enfernlo listened with rapt attention. His eyes darkened when I mentioned the necromantic armies I’d had to fight, the ones Dyrc, an enforcer for the council, had risen. I could see he was impressed with Aishe’s courage and battle strategy. I was as well, but I couldn’t think about that time without having fear twist my guts into tight knots.

I pushed past it. “So, how has your winter been?”

“Not as eventful as yours.” His pale blue eye gleamed at me. I leaned against the tower wall, my arms crossed over my chest.

“The hard part of this whole thing,” I said softly, “is that I can’t really blame the council for treating me like this. Sure, I can hate them. But I can’t deny that, given the track record of seventh sons of seventh sons, I might become the Destroyer.”

There had been two other seventh sons of seventh sons in ages long past and both had nearly destroyed Karishian in their fight for power, or simple destruction. I was the third to be born. Numbers had power in this world and some had intimate links with magick, in potions, or in spell casting. Some of the prominent ones were three, seven, and thirteen.

I had two of those numbers linked to me.

“Yes.” En nodded. “And you don’t have a spotless past.”

I stiffened and looked away. There were several years in my past I wished I could wipe clean from my memory. I never actively thought of them as they made me sick. Sometimes I was able to deny they’d ever happened.

“Have you told Aishe?”

I whipped my head around and stared Enfernlo down. Considering he could eat me in one bite, it was a difficult task, but I gave it my all. “No. And don’t you dare.” I barely recognized my own voice. It was low, hard, and as sharp as En’s claws.

En tilted his head, his blue eye becoming slightly paler. He didn’t appreciate an order coming from someone who couldn’t even qualify as the size of a snack.

“You insult me,” En said tightly. “It is not for me to tell. But I suggest you do, sooner rather than later. He might learn about it some other way.”

I swallowed hard and looked away again. Turning my back on En, I gripped the stone wall and leaned over the edge. Geheimnis rose nauseatingly high into the sky, and as I looked down I saw clouds that obscured her base. Other towers attempted to peek above the clouds, and most succeeded. I could barely see the tops of some of my taller trees and knew the air inside the forest would turn muggy as the temperature rose, and the predators would become more active. Merchants would start traveling again, attempting to sneak through Vorgoroth, since it was the most direct route to Happy Valley and the Cwaylin kingdom from the west and south. I told my minions to vary in their hunting of the merchants and other travelers through the forest. I wanted to keep my fierce reputation intact but I didn’t want so many deaths I dared the notice of the Council of Mages; I’d rather they ignore me for as long as possible. Though that had become more difficult of late because of the damn stones I kept.

Stone gargoyles flew from one tower to the next, taking turns patrolling the skies. None of them came near us. I might have made the gargoyles with enchantments, but they still had sentient enough minds to know that staying away from a payshtha would be the wisest course of action. Payshthas ruled the skies and it would be foolish to think otherwise.

I took a deep, steadying breath. “You’re right,” I said, my eyes fixed on the horizon. “I’m sorry.”

I suddenly felt hot breath on my neck, and it was reflex that made me flinch. But then, En gently nudged me with his snout. I jerked forward before turning my head. I smiled. “You make me fall, you have to catch me.”

His laughter rumbled again. The door to the tower suddenly opened, and Aishe strode forward to join us.

“It’s good to see you, Enfernlo.” Aishe raised his hand and En obliged him by tilting his head in his direction. It gave me time to throttle back my emotions. Aishe had the strange ability to “see” a creature for who they really were, as if he could see into their hearts. I didn’t want him to see my past through my eyes. I knew I had to tell him, I just didn’t know when or how. He knew a lot about me and he accepted everything. But could he ever accept...and forgive...what I’d done?

I couldn’t.

Aishe walked to me, and I turned fully around, plastering a smile on my face. My mate was a dialen, a creature of the forest, one who excelled in hunting, tracking, and being a warrior. He was slightly taller than me, with long white hair that fell just past his shoulders. His eyes were a brilliant green, set in a finely structured regal face. There were times I simply loved looking at him, and I counted myself lucky I could. His body was enviably toned, with his sleek, limber muscles and pale skin. He was a graceful creature, one I never felt like I deserved to have by my side. But I wasn’t going to argue with the Mother if she wrote he should be my mate.

The amethyst pendant hung against his chest. The pendant allowed him to traverse Geheimnis without my enchantments attacking him. I was currently modifying each room one by one to recognize him and eventually he wouldn’t need the pendant, but I knew he would never return it. It had been my way of welcoming him into my life; the first gift I’d ever given him.

“Finally coming up for fresh air?”

He laughed. After I’d showed him my library, it became his favorite place to be in the castle. His other favorites included the armory, and my forest, Vorgoroth.

“Yes, I have, and to deliver this.” He held out a rolled up piece of parchment with a green tie holding it closed. “The querian is currently resting in the small parlor. I felt we owed the poor little thing. He looked near death.”

I shrugged, taking the parchment. Querians were distant cousins of the payshthas and looked like diminutive versions of their fierce relatives. They were simple-minded and incredibly speedy, often employed for delivering messages, such as the one Aishe brought me.

Aishe walked back to En as I unrolled the parchment. It was from a clan of ludkis in the far south. They’d found a stone of power. Grinning fiercely, I danced in place. I stopped, though, when I noticed Aishe and En staring at me. I cleared my throat. “Ludkis in the south found another stone.”

A flicker of fear and resentment appeared in Aishe’s eyes before he shielded them. Enfernlo showed no emotion, but that wasn’t uncommon for a payshtha. I knew where Aishe’s emotions came from: he didn’t like being separated from me, and I had to admit, I felt the same reluctance to leave him. It was exactly this sort of situation that had caused Aishe to take on a mage and a small army when they’d threatened our home when I’d left with Master Ulezander. But this wasn’t then, it was now. I immediately strove to put his uneasiness to rest.

“You want to come with me, Aishe?”

My mate’s entire face brightened. “I would love to.”

I looked at En. “Can you give us a ride, my friend?”

I knew Aishe hated to teleport, otherwise I would’ve traveled that way. I knew that clan’s territory well enough to visualize it. But I also liked riding on a payshtha, even if it would take us a little longer to get there.

“I would be happy to.”

“Go pack, Aishe. I’ll be along in a minute.”

He nodded and left. I stared at the door in silence before I pushed the words past my lips. “I’ll tell him, En. He deserves to know. But he might leave me.”

“I don’t think you give him or yourself enough trust.”

I shook my head. “Since becoming my mate, he’s had to shoulder a lot of weight. He’s stepped into a war, he’s isolated himself from his own species. And—” I couldn’t say it. I couldn’t tell En about the biggest weight I’d put on my lover. He was my heart. I’d made him my reason to do good or do evil. Should he be killed, there was no force in the universe, besides the Mother herself that would stop me from enacting vengeance on all living things.

If the world was to survive, he had to survive. It was that simple. It was that dark. I’d done that to him...and he’d taken it like the courageous dialen I always knew him to be. He understood and he accepted. How much more, though, could he understand and accept?

“All you can do is trust him.” En’s voice punctured my dark thoughts. “All you can do is trust the love you have for each other. And then you must risk it.”

I crumpled the letter and nodded. For now, I shoved aside my depressing musings and focused on the task at hand. “Meet us on the landing, please.”

En nodded. I left the tower.

COLLAPSE
Reviews:Kara on Inkd Rainbow Reads wrote:

This book was another really awesome addition to this series!

So with this book we find Morgorth going back into time when he tries to get a stone away from a female mage who tries to steal it. With this book we get to see how deeply Morgorth really cares about Aishe and loves him. I do not want to go to much more into this story because I really do not want to spoil this book for anyone else it was just so good and you really need to read this for yourself.

I will say I love this world this author created. With each book in this series we discover more and more about this world and the creatures along with people who live there. I loved the way M.D. Grimm wrote these characters in this book and this story. I was grabbed from the start of this book and could not put this book down until the end. There was so much action and on the edge of your seat moments in this book along with steam between these two men.

So I leave this review with…. I really loved this story and would definitely recommend this book!


About the Author

M.D. Grimm has wanted to write stories since second grade (kind of young to make life decisions, but whatever) and nothing has changed since then (well, plenty of things actually, but not that!). Thankfully, she has indulgent parents who let her dream, but also made sure she understood she’d need a steady job to pay the bills (they never let her forget it!). After graduating from the University of Oregon and majoring in English, (let’s be honest: useless degree, what else was she going to do with it?) she started on her writing career and couldn’t be happier. Working by day and writing by night (or any spare time she can carve out), she enjoys embarking on romantic quests and daring adventures (living vicariously, you could say) and creating characters that always triumph against the villain, (or else what’s the point?) finding their soul mate in the process.


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