The Shattered Gate: Book II is the second part of a 3-part story. Books III is on the way. I started this story to get back to my roots with fantasy, but a different landscape appeared, setting the story in Victorian-likes times.
"Te Lef has been defeated and driven from Renyork, but the war is far from over. As Alasia sits alone on the precarious edge of the rule of the barony, the brothers find themselves drawn into an invasion driven by revenge. Larem can only helplessly watch the will of Destiny unfold. Or is there another choice?
Torn in their own directions and unable to see the danger, the unleashed evil finds free reign to manipulate the lives mortal men. Larem must look within himself if there is any hope in saving Renyork and his beloved.
Book II of the Shattered Gate continues the story of the lives of the four d’Hinton brothers as they fight for their place in the free territory lands, and for a future they cannot begin to understand.- From the back cover.
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The following is the first chapter of the book:
It had been wrong the first time, and had been severely punished for its error. It was more patient the second time as it watched again, the same as it had watched through all eternity. It had been certain of Stewart Demure, Baron of Te Lef, that it had found what its masters sought. It had been wrong. Of its new choice, there could be no mistake, and it summoned with more conviction than it had ever known.
The Masters had arrived skeptical at best. When it showed them what it had found, they blanched, and prepared to punish it as only they could. As they made their way towards it, the wretched being shrieking and quivering in total terror, they had time to touch its selection with their minds. They looked into the mortal’s heart and soul and took pause. There was no evil there, no more than is born with all mortals. But there was a purity so raw that it could be corrupted. They stopped as one, and watched with the creature that had summoned them.
Larem d’Hinton, youngest of the four brothers that had made their way to the territories from the Kriteran Empire to start a new life and reclaim their nobility, stood in the entrance of a cold, dark chamber. Standing at the end of the long, declining tunnel, Larem knew that he had been in that chamber many months before. He had not been alone then, as he was now, and he had not been filled with such dread, but the chamber was unmistakable. Shoving a torch in front of him, Larem shuffled inside.
The chamber looked different than it did all those months ago. Back then, the walls were lined with casks and chests and crates, all neatly arranged. A large stone slab, surrounded by a curtain of light, had dominated the centre of the room. On the slab, a woman of his eldest brother’s dreams had slumbered. The casks, chests and crates were still there. But they lay scattered and broken throughout the room, as if plundered for their treasures, or destroyed during a great battle. The stone slab was still there as well. The curtain of light had been shattered by Wallice, the eldest brother. And the woman, of course, had been awakened by their intrusion. She had touched both Wallice’s and his own life in the months that followed. Larem could still hear her words:
“Do you really think you could have gotten to where you are now so quickly and so easily?”
What did she mean by that? The question nagged at the quiet corners of his brain. It did not make any sense. Although, he had to admit, very little of everything that had to do with Chrysta–leen Darkmoor made much sense to him. It was not even his concern, really. She should have been Wallice’s problem. Then why, he asked himself, was he standing in that chamber?
Larem strolled through the room, idly pushing at the ruined containers with his foot as he passed. Whatever they contained was gone. He stopped to examine some engravings on the wall when a noise from behind caught his attention and he whirled about.
He found himself standing face to face with an image from a nightmare. It was Alasia, last heir of the Lavanon family, but it was not her at all. The woman before him was a hideous mirror of Alasia. She was dressed in a gown of pure black silk, a colour Alasia had only worn at the funerals of her family. Her hair was as black as jet, and her skin as pale as ivory. It was not the healthy, milky skin of Alasia, but a sickly white. The image was of death. It was Alasia as she would one day be when her soul left the world. It froze Larem’s heart.
With a devilish smile that forced Larem to his knees, the woman–opposite of Alasia stepped forward and brushed her fingertips along his cheek and under his chin. Her touch burned of cold. Larem gasped and looked up into her eyes. All he saw was empty pools of nothingness. * * *
Larem started upright in bed, choking for breath. The dream; the same dream he had been having for weeks. He rubbed his eyes and pulled his new pocket watch off of the bedside table. 7:30 it read. He grunted and gave a curse to the ceiling before rolling out of bed. He had less than an hour before the meeting. His brothers, no doubt, were already at the manor attending to things.
Larem glanced out the window as he carefully dressed himself. It was the 9th of December, two months since the defeat of the Te Lef mercenaries and the death of Madar Lavanon. A light rain fell outside his window. It was a cold drizzle with a dampness that seemed to work its way to the bone. Rain in December, he sighed to himself. Back home, in Kritera, there would be snow on the ground already as the populous prepared the long cold of winter. The territories were of a different climate. The autumn harvest was completed months ago, but the second seeding was already laid. And fresh fruit could still be pulled from the trees and vegetables from the ground. He never thought he would miss snow.
A half hour later, Larem was rushing out the front door and pulling his saddled horse from the stables. His new wage had allowed him to move his horse into the estate’s stable, and to afford the part time help of a stable boy. Many things had changed in two months, Larem thought as he pulled himself onto the horse and headed for the damp streets.
If not for the strong hand of General Stehora, the barony would have fallen into chaos as the powerful noble families fought for the vacant title and rule of Renyork. He imposed martial law, taking control of the barony with the hand of the depleted but still present army. After the defeat of Te Lef, the people were behind Stehora, even if all of the nobles were not. The title remained vacant, though it was Alasia’s by right if she had chosen to accept it. Alasia. The name made Larem’s heart race. With the death of her last brother and her father, she had carried herself as a noble woman aught to have: with grace and strength. She changed, almost over night, from a naïve girl into a strong and graceful woman. Never once since the funeral of Madar did a single noble see her falter. But what she intended with the title was still unclear.
Larem had been there for her as much as he could, but there was a reservation in her now, a hesitation to commit to anything personal. Larem was hurt at first, though he thought he understood. He was thankful that Fielas Regers has withdrawn his aggressive advances towards her. With her future position unclear, Fielas appeared content to bide his time.
Larem shook his head. He had no time for such thoughts. He was going to be late for the most important meeting the barony would see since Stehora took control. It was rumoured that he was going to declare war on Te Lef.
The sting of the invasion of their homelands that had been masked with the curse of magic – the same magic that had saved them – and the betrayal of one of their own noblemen and lords stilled burned in the heads and hearts of the Renyork citizens. The Deveau family had been taken into custody following the final battle, but when no link between Lawrence and the rest of the family could be found, they were released. Their lands and holdings were stripped from them and they were forever banished from returning to Renyork. The small family left Renyork on the road north towards Laborton. They never arrived. Grisly stories of the family being ambushed and butchered still circulated in quiet whispers through the city.
Almost immediately after his return to Renyork, General Stehora began rebuilding the decimated army. As part of the rebuilding, the general also began a reorganization of the barony’s military leaders in order to fill positions that were vacated by the war.
His first decision was to promote Jonathan Richardson from major to the empty colonel position left by Nijos. With two empty major commissions, the general did not hesitate when he promoted Wallice and Hanek. The outrage and appeals almost matched the outcries when the d’Hintons were made lords and officers by Madar. Like Madar, Duane Stehora would hear nothing of them. His decision was final and law. Larem’s other brother, Krasan, was not left out either. After much reorganization, he was made captain of the Eastern Border Patrol. The promotion would see him on the road living in the wilds for most of his duty. He would be living like a vagabond, dirty and drifting. It was an honour and delight that could not have been outdone.
And finally and only recently, Larem found himself included as well. It came at a critical time for the young man. He was preparing to resign his commission and to concentrate on being a lord and looking after the family estate. When Captain Telmas Hausser was given a major’s commission and assigned to intelligence in addition to the Renyork Regiment, Larem found that he could not refuse the promotion to captain of the Home Guard day shift. It was an entirely selfish acceptance. The power meant little to him. And the captain’s wage, though nice, meant little more. As captain of the day shift, he would have more direct contact with Alasia than any other officer in Renyork.
Larem quickly dismounted and handed off the reins of his horse to the waiting attendant at the front of the Lavanon manor house. Straightening his uniform and brushing off as much of the rain as he could, he hurried inside the front doors.
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All material 2002-2017, Chris H Marker.