The Stones of Power
A bond they thought couldn’t be broken...
Lord Morgorth, Dark Mage of the North, has never felt so far away from his precious mate as he does now. Still reeling from the events of a month before, Aishe struggles to come to grips with what the dream demon did to him while pretending to be Morgorth. For his part, Morgorth is haunted by the chilling vision the Mother sent him while he traversed Dreamworld—a vision where he kills the one most precious to him. Due to that knowledge, he knows he must choose his magick or his mate.
A choice with devastating consequences...
When Morgorth goes missing, Aishe must search for him, frightened that he has lost his mage forever. In his heart he knows they were meant for each other and refuses to allow his own horrid memories to tear them apart. But when he finds Morgorth he is stunned to realize that Morgorth doesn’t remember him. In fact, in Morgorth’s mind, he is a young lad named Lazur.
Sometimes the most well-known truth is the greatest lie...
For his entire life, Morgorth always knew his destiny was to become the Destroyer of his home world. His birthright as the third seventh son of a seventh son guaranteed such an outcome. Everyone told him so—except his mentor, Master Ulezander. Morgorth will learn that his mentor has been keeping the greatest secret of all: his true destiny.
- 1 To Be Read list
Publisher: Independently Published
Tropes: Antihero, Powerful Artifact, Quest, Redemption Arc, Reluctant Hero, Villain to Hero
Word Count: 65,091
Setting: Planet of Karishian
Languages Available: English
Series Type: Continuous / Same Characters
I knelt on the floor in front of a large bowl of cream, freshly churned that day. After lowering my head until my chin touched my chest, I lifted my sigil-covered hands palms up. The summoning sigils had been made with black ink, standing out starkly against my pale skin. I closed my eyes, and since I’d memorized the ancient words to chant, I repeated them now. They slipped out, winding around my tongue and charging the air. The familiar burn of my magick flowed out of my core and through my veins, lighting up my insides. I never paused in the recitation, not even when I breathed. If I did, it would be considered rude, and the creatures of the summoning might decide I wasn’t worth their attention.
My magick, infused with the ancient words, pulsed in the room before sinking below the floorboards, into the ground, deeper into toxic Underworld.READ MORE
I vaguely noted the heavy breathing of my brother, Olyvre, while Lyli, his daughter, made little squeaky noises of excitement. Of Aishe, there was nothing. Not surprising. He didn’t make many sounds these days—either with words or simple footsteps. He seemed to have withdrawn from existing.
Feeling my focus waver, I snapped back and infused the words with more magick, hardening my resolve. The krattyie would protect my brother and Lyli if I did this right. They might have been demons of Underworld but they were the benevolent kind. If treated with respect and given lots of cream, they would protect a home, property, and all those who lived and worked there. As a result, my brother and his daughter would be safe as would those who worked for Olyvre on his acres of farmland. It was one of the main reasons he’d agreed to the summoning. He would never seek protection for himself, but for those he loved? He would do anything.
When my magick and words touched something, I kept the touch persuasive and coaxing—a humble request, not a demand. One never demanded anything from the beings of Underworld, not unless one was certain they were stronger than the creatures. Sure, I might have been stronger than the krattyie but I wanted their trust, and I needed them to accept Olyvre as their patron if this was going to work. I couldn’t watch my brother all the time, and after the events of the inquiry several weeks before, I could not deny that everyone I loved desperately needed protection.
I opened my eyes when I sensed other in Olyvre’s house. Lyli giggled and something tittered faintly back. Krattyie adored children, and Lyli was the sort to walk up to a strange animal and try to pet it.
I peered around the room, still chanting, still pulsing with magick. Shadows flickered at the corner of my eyes, sneaking around the furniture, soft sniggers accompanying the movements.
Then I said the final line of the chant. A question.
Will you accept?
The answer was a playful flick to my hair…a gesture Aishe used to do. Shoving aside the longing for his touch, I hardened my focus once more and nodded.
I stopped chanting and pulled the magick back into my core. The pulsing in the room faded with it, although the krattyie stayed. I stood, wincing at my stiff legs. How long had I knelt there? Didn’t matter.
“Follow my lead,” I said, my voice hoarse.
“Lyli.” Olyvre held out his hand and Lyli took it dutifully.
I bowed with my right foot forward, toes pointed. I tucked my left arm behind my back while extending my right, palm up in both offering and gratitude. The others followed my actions, and when I considered the bowl of cream in front of me, I noticed flickering shadows crowding around it. I counted five. A good number. They might be small but they were fierce and their loyalty was absolute. They would guard this house and its occupants forever as long as they received the respect they deserved and as much cream as they could guzzle.
When the cream was gone we all straightened.
I smiled at Olyvre and nodded. “Just follow the instructions I gave you and you’ll be fine.”
Lyli dashed over to where one of the shadows wavered and giggled as it danced away. It laughed with her. She chased the krattyie and they howled like loons. Olyvre watched with a soft, indulgent smile.
We’d stayed with Olyvre last night, and I’d hoped the change in scenery would open Aishe up. Lighten the tension that stiffened his body. So far it wasn’t working. I focused on him now, allowing myself to really look at him. He still appeared pensive, troubled, distant.
So very distant.
Lyli’s antics didn’t even produce a smile, although his eyes did soften and warm. That was something. We’d been doing relatively well for a week or two after the entire inquiry and dream demon debacle. Then he’d started to close up. Shut me out. And I didn’t know what in the Mother’s name to do or say to open him again. I was flailing in the dark without a light to guide me. Aishe was my light and he was dim and indistinct now.
“I hope you can stay.” Olyvre picked up the empty bowl and regarded both of us. “I know summoning the krattyie was your reason for coming but… stay, at least for another day. I know Lyli would like you to. So would I.”
I tried to meet Aishe’s eyes but he wouldn’t allow it. I swallowed the frustration that was becoming all too familiar, and the darker sensation of impending doom. “Sure. We can do that. Nothing presses us to leave.”
“Perfect.” He smiled and touched my arm lightly. “I have to get supper ready. Why don’t you—?”
“It’s cloudy, Daddy!” Lyli said and ran over. “I want to watch the cloud creatures.”
“Why don’t you take your uncle with you?”
Panic tightened my gut as I threw Olyvre a glare. “I don’t think that would be a good idea.”
“Please?” Lyli grabbed my hand, hanging onto it with all her weight.
I staggered at the attack before gazing down into big brown eyes that reminded me of Grekel’s pups. Wichtln puppies were as cute and adorable as the adults were fierce and bloodthirsty. Despite Olyvre’s fair looks, Lyli was darker of skin and hair and eyes. Either from her mother—who was deceased—or from the other side of Olyvre’s blood. He was fair like our mother, but our father and the rest of our brothers were dark.
Aishe watched us, silent. He wasn’t going to save me. Why did I think he would? He hadn’t spoken much to me in weeks.
“I don’t even know what we’ll be doing.”
“Watching cloud creatures!” Lyli said as if it was the most obvious thing in the world.
I pleaded with Olyvre with my eyes. “Why are you doing this to me?”
He grinned, eyes sparkling. “You need it.”
“Come on!” Lyli was stronger than she appeared, and with a determined tug had me stumbling out the front door.
Watching cloud creatures apparently consisted of lying on one’s back and staring at the white fluffy clouds in a blue sky, deciphering shapes. Was this what normal children did? I wouldn’t know. My childhood had been the complete opposite of normal.
Lyli lay beside me, laughing and pointing. Her hair was currently in two tails on either side of her head, and one kept brushing my cheek. She felt and smelled like innocence.
“Look! There’s a bunny.”
I frowned and tilted my head. A bunny? I saw an axe ready to cleave a skull in two.
“Oooh! That one! That’s a tree with apples.”
I saw a hangman’s scaffold with nooses ready to hang some convicts.
“There’s a payshtha.”
Okay, I could agree with that one. “Yeah, and he’s sleeping. Better not wake him or he’ll eat you.”
Lyli laughed and I smiled. Her laugh was infectious and readily loosened.
“Payshthas don’t eat seelas. Your friend doesn’t eat you.”
I frowned. “How do you know about Enfernlo?”
“My daddy told me. Is it true? Are you really friends with a payshtha?”
I glanced at her big, fascinated eyes. “Aye, it’s true. Somehow I am.”
“Wow. I got the greatest uncle ever!”
My throat threatened to close at the enthusiastic sincerity in her voice. She would learn, though. She wasn’t even ten years old. As she grew older she’d learn about the monster that was her uncle.
She yawned abruptly and curled up on her side, pushing into me. My breath caught and I froze. I turned my head, her face near mine, her eyes closed, hand gripping my sleeve. I focused on the sky again, the bunny/axe ramming into the tree/noose scaffold and the payshtha dissolving into a misty blob.
The sun lowered beneath the horizon and the wind picked up as dark clouds rolled in from the north. Rain clouds. The chilly wind blew over us, and Lyli shuddered and pressed closer to me. I sat up and Lyli didn’t even open her eyes as she wrapped both arms around mine, hugging me close. The lump in my throat coupled with the humiliating burn in my eyes.
“I’m nothing to cling to, kid,” I whispered. I picked her up gently when I stood. Her eyes flickered open for a moment before she wrapped her arms around my neck, nuzzling my chest. She was killing me. On impulse I kissed the top of her head and returned to Olyvre’s house.COLLAPSE