The Stones of Power
Lord Morgorth is haunted by dreams of his father. Though Morgorth killed him, his father's presence and brutality won't completely die. But now he has more to worry about—in the form of the Council of Mages' inquiry into the duel between Morgorth and an elder of the council. Morgorth expects sabotage and prepares accordingly. He fears for Aishe's life, knowing that the best way to sabotage the inquiry is to eliminate the witnesses. He sets into motion a desperate plan that, though it will protect Aishe, could put a strain on their relationship not easily removed.
Yet the true danger lurks unseen, and it will take all of Morgorth's skill, strength, and devotion to Aishe, to save his mate from the hold of a foe Morgorth has yet to tangle with: a dream demon. Now Morgorth must throw aside caution, restraint, and fear if he is to save the one most dear to him. He must call upon the power of the one thing he hates more than even his father: a stone of power.
But even if he manages to save Aishe, his mate's experiences in Dreamworld—at the mercy of the dream demon—have changed him forever and could shatter their bond irrevocably.
Publisher: Independently Published
Tropes: Antihero, Powerful Artifact, Quest, Redemption Arc, Reluctant Hero, Villain to Hero
Word Count: 73,667
Setting: Planet of Karishian
Languages Available: English
Series Type: Continuous / Same Characters
I grunted as I read the letter. Unlike the previous ones sent by the Council of Mages, it didn’t end up in the fire. I’d been expecting this one for the last several weeks. The council’s bureaucracy was usually worse than a kingdom’s, pushing inquiries and trials off for years. I suspected I had Master Ulezander to thank for the speed. That, and along with the fact that an elder of the council would be the other recipient of such a letter as the one I held.READ MORE
I stood in the largest of my parlors, which was done in rich purple and the white wood from the klohn tree. The fireplace was enormous, and cold since the weather was mild. With a thick carpet and cushioned chairs and sofas just begging one to sink into them, it was a sumptuous and welcoming parlor. Most of the other rooms spread out through Geheimnis, my castle home, had the same level of welcome. The fortress sat atop a tall mountain, in the middle of the dark forest of Vorgoroth. Vast and made with my own two hands and magick, Geheimnis’s exterior was stony, sharp, and deadly to the uninvited. Her silhouette was like a bouquet of swords thrusting up into the sky, daring anyone to test her. There were rooms upon rooms woven around and on top of each other, and the only purpose of many was to drive invaders insane. There were also various bedrooms, bathrooms, storage rooms. I had a massive kitchen, a large forge, an armory, training rooms catered to various weapons, as well as a library, and potion room. The caverns underneath Geheimnis, inside the mountain, had great stores of crystals handy in spell-work. There was also a hot spring I took advantage of when the weather turned frigid, as it did every winter since we were so far north.
Boygle minions kept the place clean and guarded. Boygles were ugly little creatures with wrinkled, brown skin, greedy eyes, and sharp fingers and teeth. They had a penchant for dying their clothes red with the blood of their kills. Seriously. Eek.
The world of Karishian was full of creatures with their own societal structures and quirks, and the boygles were a prime example of that. They were loyal only to me, and I’d earned their respect and servitude after I destroyed half their clan when I claimed Vorgoroth and the mountains inside its borders as my own. Boygles had strange little brains wired to understand only violence and aggression, and they gleefully served the most ruthless. I proved my right to dominate them, and serving me gave them prestige because of my reputation.
My home had been contested land between two kingdoms, and the kings had yet to forgive me for settling it. They made their displeasure known by sending armies now and again, usually in the summertime, to try and drive me out. I had a decent price on my head, since I was widely known as Dark Mage of the North and Dark Mage of the East. Sometimes knights would come to see if they could make a name for themselves by carving it out of my flesh. So far, knights: 0, dark mage: 100+. Amateurs.
I re-read the council’s letter for the fourth time, carefully looking for any veiled threats within words or phrases, but it would seem this time everything was done strictly by the book. The letter invited me, though it was more like a command, to appear at an official inquiry regarding the events that happened about a month ago in the land of my birth, the kingdom of Zentha. A lot happened while I was over there. A lot of things I had to think about and come to terms with.
I’d killed my father. Some would say murdered. I didn’t care what they said; he’d been a monster that needed to be destroyed. He’d ruined countless lives on his quest for power, and never even stopped to look at the trail of misery and corpses lining the path behind him. He found a stone of power—a major stone—an emerald named Ellegrech. A stone I now held in my possession, locked away with the others I’d collected over the years. I hated the Pferun Dulleriin more than anything on Karishian. They gave power, the ability to move mountains and harness the might of the Mother, to the ignorant and foolish, to the undisciplined and greedy. Magick was all about control, will, and desire. The most important was control, and it was the first lesson mages learned. To wield magick, a mage had to preserve the delicate balance between the desire to see the spell done, the will to make it happen, and the ability to control the flow of energies and emotion. If one of those things was out of balance, the spell could backlash on the mage, or fly out of control, going beyond the practitioner’s intention. It was all about discipline and being responsible for one’s actions. Mages could not fear their magick, they could not doubt themselves, or destruction would follow.
The stones of power offered the might and magnitude of a mage’s power with none of the training required to wield it wisely. They eliminated control, and the will of the possessor was often usurped by the will of the stone. All that was required was the desire of the wielder to make things happen, which was often tainted by the stone’s power. Anyone could wield them and destroy what they wished. However, in the end, the stones always turned on their masters and destroyed or abandoned them in their greatest need. They were treacherous, deceitful, dangerous. I had ten stones in my possession, and four of them major stones. They’d supposedly been created by the first seven mages ever born, in ages beyond memory, and no one knew how many were still out there, hidden. All I knew was they were being discovered at an alarming rate, and it felt as if something was coming. Something big. Something bad.
I shook my head and refocused on the letter. While my father’s demise would inevitably come up in the inquiry, the real reason for it was to discuss the duel between myself and Elder Elorn, a council member, and member of the Hand. Things didn’t go well between us, and though I left him alive—the rules of mage duels clearly stated one had to kill the other, so I thought I was horribly generous—there’d been a lot of rule breaking, mostly on his part. I was to come to the White Tower, the meeting place of the Council of Mages, and bring my witness: Aishe.
I took a deep breath and let it out slowly. There hadn’t been a real choice on my part but to involve him in mage business. Now I needed to bring him to a place swarming with mages. Most of them feared or hated me. Some, especially those on the council, wanted me dead. Like it or not, he was my weakness, and yet I had to take him anyway. I frowned, a sudden thought hitting me. That meant my brother, Olyvre, would be summoned as well. He needed to be at the Tower as he was Elder Elorn’s witness.
I was instantly more worried about my brother than Aishe.
I looked over as Aishe walked into the parlor, looking puzzled. He also held a letter from the council. I nodded. They must have sent two querians to deliver individual invitations. Querians were diminutive cousins of the enormous payshthas that ruled the skies. They were often trained to deliver letters, and came in all shapes and colors. I had a tower that housed ten for such a purpose, all trained by me.
Aishe looked at me, his vivid green eyes filled with worry.
I forced myself to smile. “Told you. I knew they’d eventually get off their asses and force the issue. We’ll be leaving for the Tower in a month’s time. Best send our responses immediately.”
“Why would they send two letters, one to each of us? They know we’re mates.”
“That doesn’t matter. I was one of the duelers, and you were a witness. This is an official inquiry, and they have to make everything as clear cut as possible. They don’t want anything to show favoritism or bias. It’ll be held strictly by the rules.” I frowned. “Or should be.”
He quirked an eyebrow. “What just popped into your head?”
“If Elorn wanted to rig this inquiry, somehow, he’d have something happen to Olyvre.” My heart pounded. “Dammit! Why didn’t I think of this sooner? He can’t get to you or me, but Olyvre is right under his nose in his own kingdom, and was his witness for the duel. Both of your statements will show Elorn broke the rules, not me.”
I swept past him. “I have to—”
“Wait!” He grabbed my arm, spun me around. “Hold it. Breathe. Olyvre is fine, you just got a letter from him a couple days ago, remember? And what will the council think if they know you’ve been to see him after receiving the inquiry letter? It’ll look bad for you.”
I scowled. “By the Mother! What am I supposed to do, then? Wait until something happens to him? Leave him unprotected?”
“I don’t know. But you can’t go there. You know that.”
I scowled again, knowing he was right. I clutched the council’s letter in my hand, and my magick heated my body, reacting to my fear. I’d recently reconnected with my brother, the only one of six I cared about. Olyvre had helped me escape my father’s savagery as a child, and he welcomed me with smiles and trust when I returned to my birthplace. I thought of his young daughter, Lyli. What would she do without her father? Her mother was dead.
I narrowed my eyes in thought. Aishe let go of my arm, aware he’d stopped me from acting rashly. My mind lit upon an idea, and I stepped out of the parlor into the front entryway.
A few heartbeats past before Grendela, the matriarch of my boygle clan, came waddling down the hallway toward me. She was heavily wrinkled with stark white hair that looked like straw, and her dress was a vivid red, indicating she had a good hunt that morning.
“Master.” She bowed deeply.
“I have a task for three members of your clan.” I kept my voice coldly brisk and commanding. Boygles responded to dominance and aggression, and I’d lose their respect if I was kind and polite. I was their master and to be obeyed, and they were my servants. End of story.
“I want you to choose three of your most loyal clanmates. I need one of cunning to lead, and two with muscle that can follow orders.”
Grendela nodded, her black eyes intent on my face.
“I want them ready for departure immediately. They will be stationed in the Zentha kingdom across the ocean. I will teleport them there. They are to protect a farmer and his daughter from any and all dangers but”—I held up a finger, hardened my voice—“they are not to be seen. Do you understand? If they are found out, all of you will pay with your lives.”
Grendela bowed her head. “They will not fail you, Master.”
I nodded. “They will guard the farmer and his daughter for one month. Find the ones to send, Grendela, and I will give them the rest of their instructions.”
She bowed deeply again. “Master.” She left.
Aishe touched my shoulder. “Do you really think Olyvre is in danger?”
I met his eyes. “I’m not taking any chances. Not with him.”
He smiled and nodded.
Aishe had been with me through it all. He saw me shatter to pieces and held me through it, his mere presence comforting. He saw the monster inside me, the skill I had in torture and cruelty. He witnessed the emotional anguish I went through when speaking to my father, and learning I had a half-sister. I nearly succumbed to the temptations of Ellegrech and, without Aishe, I would have. I would have taken up the stone and done Mother knew what. Yet I was spared that fate because Aishe had returned with me into my personal nightmare with all the figurative and literal demons that entailed. Somehow we came out of the other side stronger than entering. He knew now the depth of my love and dependency for him. I now knew he truly would never leave me. He’d seen it all and he was still by my side, looking at me with love.
“What?” he asked.
I blinked. “What? Was I staring again?”
He smirked. “Yes, but you were probably thinking of something else and not just admiring my pretty face.”
I grinned and kissed him, loving his taste and the softness of his lips. He was pretty. My dialen was a creature of the forest, a hunter and archer as well as a swordmaster. He was slightly taller than I was, lean, with pale skin, and his white hair fell straight past his shoulders. His face was noble, his chin and nose proud, and his intense green eyes were the icing on the cake. I really did love him, his mind, his strength, and his continual patience with me. I knew how I was, and sometimes I didn’t even want to be around me.
As I tried to pull away, his arms came around my waist, holding me securely. I sighed deeper into the kiss and wrapped my arms around his shoulders. He pressed tighter against me and tilted his head, changing the angle of the kiss. I dropped the letter and tangled my fingers in his hair, enjoying the soft strands. Our tongues played together, and I was reminded again that I never felt so intensely for another in my long life. My passion for him knew no bounds, and I was in serious danger of taking him to the floor right then. The sound of several small feet walking on the carpet made me pull back.
Grendela stood with her head bowed, as did three other boygles, two males and one female. Aishe looked disappointed as he let go and stepped back.
I smiled. “I’ll finish up here, then I can help you with your response to the council.”
“Don’t take too long.” The heat in his eyes said he had more in mind than the letters.
My smile deepened. “I won’t. Promise.”COLLAPSE