Sitting in his chair made of wood, leather and bone, High Consul Anstrom stared impatiently at the door. He absently tapped his bony fingers against the wooden arms of his chair while he awaited the arrival of Captain Baldaur Kaellin, the leader of the king‘s guards. After a few minutes, his impatience came to an end, as the captain of the guard entered. The high consul stood up, tapped his oak staff upon the floor to signal the captain of the guard to kneel before him, and began to speak.
"The traitors have escaped, and you've done nothing to find them," the high consul said angrily, as he towered over the kneeling man—who was a head or so higher than the high consul when standing.
"What do you expect me to do about it, High Consul?" asked the captain of the guard, with little respect in his voice, as he rose to his feet. He noticed that it annoyed the high consul that he should do so before being instructed.
"I want you to release the king's hounds and find those traitors. I would also like you to bring back their child. If you cannot bring the child back, I want you to end its life and the lives of its parents," the high consul commanded.
The captain of the guard shook his head, and said in a stern voice, "No."
"What did you say to me?" asked the high consul in an angry tone.
"I said no." The captain of the guard stood with his head held high, and declared in a serious voice, "I cannot, and I will not follow your orders."
At hearing the captain’s words, the high consul raised his staff menacingly. "I demand you explain your words this instant."
The captain kneeled once again on the cold, hard floor while keeping his eyes on the high consul and the wooden staff he had clutched in his bony hand. "I mean you no disrespect, but the king will not allow me to follow your orders, and if I follow them against his will, I will be severely punished. You should know by now that my loyalties belong to him alone."
The high consul lowered his staff and began stroking his black beard. "Your loyalty to the king is admirable, but if you disobey me, I will punish your family. I think I will start with your youngest son." An evil smile played across his lips, as he saw the look in the kneeling man’s eyes. "Yes, your youngest son it shall be. One so young shall make the Old Gods happy.... for a while. Your entire family, however, should appease them for quite a long time."
The captain of the guard stood up and went for the sword at his hip in a blur of motion. He unsheathed the sword with amazing speed, yelling, "You will not touch my family!" He had the tip of his sword at the high consul’s throat in less time than it took the other man to blink. With anger in his voice and hate in his eyes he spoke the words, "If you touch them, I will carve out your black heart, and even your guards will not be able to stop me."
Despite having the very tip of a sword pressed against his throat, the high consul spoke without noticeable fear. "Brave words will do you little good, Captain Baldaur Kaellin." The high consul's lips started to curl into an evil smile, as he realised he had the
captain trapped in a moral quandary. "Will you follow my orders without question—if only to save the lives of your family?" He noted that the sword did not move from his throat, so he said, “I know what you are thinking. You think that you could kill me now and save your family, and the lives of those two fugitives, but you are also thinking that I probably have a plan in place just for that eventuality.” His lips finished curling into an evil sneer. “You would be correct to think that. Not only will some horrible fate befall your family if I die, but you will be arrested for treason. You do remember the punishment for treason, do you not?”
Captain Kaellin replaced his sword in its scabbard, though with obvious reluctance, and replied, "Yes. I will do your will.” He took a deep breath and added, “Though, I’d rather pluck out my own eyes than be of service to you, Anstrom." He began to walk towards the door, but a noise behind him made his stop.
Anstrom smoothed his robes and said, “Do not forget whose chamber you are in, Captain Kaellin.”
The captain turned and bowed to the high consul, as was customary. He then left the dimly lit room, and pulled the door shut. He ran the fingers of his right hand through his short blonde hair, as he made his way through the dark halls, and he wondered how long the high consul would allow him to live after showing open defiance.
Without even looking, he knew that in the shadows of the hallway Anstrom’s guards were waiting in anticipation of their master’s orders. He did not allow it to bother him, however, as he strode towards the stairs. The scowl on his face caused the few servants still working at such a late hour to move from his path without a single word.

High Consul Anstrom watched out through his window, as Captain Kaellin walked across the courtyard and into the kennel. As soon as he had witnessed the guards leading their hounds through the front gates with Captain Kaellin accompanying them, High Consul Anstrom left his chamber. He entered the dark corridor and looked around to make sure he was unobserved, and then walked away from his chambers.
He walked a short distance down the hallway until he came to a staircase, which he descended slowly. Once on the next floor, he stopped in front of a bare wall, and he ran his hands down its rough surface until he found a stone that protruded slightly. After making sure that he was still unobserved, he pulled the stone out of the wall to reveal a lever. He pulled on it with all of his strength until he heard a distant clicking noise. As soon as he heard the click, he released the lever, and watched as a section of the wall opened slightly. After taking one more look around, he returned the stone to the wall,
hiding the lever, and then pulled on the secret door until it was open far enough to
allow him entrance to the passageway it concealed. He then slipped inside, pulling the door closed behind him until he heard it lock in place.
The high consul stood in the same place for a few seconds until his eyes adjusted to the weak light coming from a torch upon the far wall, and then he advanced down the passageway towards the light. When he was only a few feet from the torch he stopped, casually waving his hand while muttering a few words. When he stopped speaking, part of the flickering flame separated to leap to the next torch, and this process continued until the rest of the torches along the passageway were lit. As the final torch ignited, the high consul saw a boy, no more than fifteen years of age, sitting on a stool where the far
end of the passageway connected to a larger chamber. Upon seeing the high consul, the boy rose from the stool and approached, bearing a set of dark robes he had been holding. Wordlessly, High Consul Anstrom removed the sumptuous robes of his office, and replaced them with the dark robes the boy had brought.
When he had finished pulling on his robes, the high consul finally spoke. "Many thanks, Macaedon. Are you still prepared to do my bidding?"
The boy named Macaedon nodded with much enthusiasm, and pulled a small vial from one of his pockets. "I have been waiting for this moment since you told me my part in this plan, but I need to know if what’s in this vial will be enough to kill King Mallif."
Upon hearing the boy’s words, a cruel grin formed on the high consul's face. "It should suffice, though in that small of a dose death could take close to a month, if not longer." He then reached out and placed a hand on the boy's shoulder. "Never forget that
a slow death is good if you want to find the perfect replacement for a king."
Macaedon looked at the high consul with an expression of curiosity. "Who did
you have in mind for a replacement?"
"King Mallif's son, of course. However, he will not reach the age of rightful kingship until the winter after next. I will, of course, have to guide the people according to the laws that I am bound by duty to enforce, until he has reached the appropriate age to ascend the throne as a king in more than just name. During this time I will have the unique opportunity to create an example of how Prince Malifesh should rule."
Macaedon nodded in agreement, and then asked, "But won‘t he be crowned as king once his father dies?"
“Yes, he will, but until he reaches the proper age he will not truly hold any power
thanks to the laws his ancestors put into effect more than a century ago. To let him rule sooner would be to trample tradition, and we cannot have that.”
“Oh.” Macaedon climbed back onto the stool, and stared at the high consul for a few seconds, before speaking again. "Will there be anything for me to do once a new king is crowned?"
"You have ambition to match your knowledge, and that is very good. I think it should be quite easy to find a use for you. Perhaps I will find a way to allow you to rise above your station. After all, there are no laws that prohibit the orphaned son of a peasant from becoming something more than his ancestors have been."
Smiling happily at the thought of making something of himself, Macaedon said, "I will place this poison in the king's drink during dinner tonight. Should there be any left over, I will hide it in Captain Kaellin‘s chambers."
The high consul opened the heavy wooden door on the opposite side of the room, and pulled the cloak’s hood over his head. "If more people were like you I could have been a king myself."
"King Mallif listens to you now, and so will his son once he is crowned. The kingdom is already yours."
"A more pleasant thought I have not yet had." The high consul walked through the open door into a dark tunnel and Macaedon followed him, carrying a torch. Anstrom reminded the boy to pull the door closed behind him, and listened closely to make sure it was latched.

º º º º º

The hounds tracked their prey relentlessly with their noses close to the ground, the scent of the fugitives compelling them forward. The half dozen guards flanking them focused their attention on the trail of broken limbs and trampled leaves that showed the path their quarry had chosen through the dark forest. There were occasional shouts, as other, unrelated physical signs were spotted, but the sombre Captain Kaellin told his men to keep focused on the task at hand, before becoming silent again.
After nearly half an hour of following the hounds, the trees finally ended, and the guards were left standing atop a hill overlooking a long field. They stopped to orientate themselves, and their panting hounds sat down to rest. One of the guards spotted their quarry moving across the open field, and pointed them out to his companions, and then he allowed himself to be pulled forward by the slavering hounds once more. Another guard pulled a bow from his back before making his way down the hill.

As he rushed across the open expanse of the field, the running man turned and yelled to his wife, "We have to keep going! The hounds won't stop until they've found us, and I'm sure High Consul Anstrom will have convinced Baldaur to hunt us down."
"I hope we find shelter soon, Marlis. I'm getting tired, and Cristanos needs to be fed before he starts crying again,” said the man’s wife.
Marlis gestured towards the lights of a village off in the distance and said, "Once we get to that village we can find food and shelter. I’m certain of it, Rose."
“What village is it?”
“Almes… I think.”
The howls of the hounds pierced the night behind them, and the pace of the fugitives quickened dramatically. After they had covered a distance of about fifty yards, a whistling sound, followed by a thumping noise, made them halt. A second whistling sound was heard, and then Marlis hissed in pain as an arrow pierced his arm. He yelled for his wife to keep running, and with strong hands he broke the shaft of the arrow in half, before pulling it out through the hole it had made. Then he started to run again, with a trickle of blood oozing from the wound.
By the time he got to the first building in the village, a sharp pain shot through his spine, and he dropped to one knee. He touched the wound on his back, and felt that it was warm and moist. He looked at his hand, as he brought it forward and saw a crimson smear upon his fingers. His wife stopped and looked at him with fear in her eyes, but he slowly stood back up and told her he would be fine, and then he said that she should keep going until she found shelter. She nodded quickly and ran farther into the village. After watching his wife’s retreating form for a few seconds, the barking of the hounds reached his ears, and he realised just how close they were.
Marlis saw an axe sticking out of a wooden post a few metres to his right, and then he saw four of the most muscular hounds from the king’s kennels being let free from their leashes. He instantly recognised the hound at the front by its colouration, and he knew that he would not reach the axe in time. So he braced himself, and grabbed the hound the moment it reached him. Then wrapping his arms around its neck, he lifted it off its feet and snapped its neck.
He tossed the corpse aside, and knowing his chances of survival were extremely slim, he ripped the axe from the post. The slow trickles of blood going down his back helped him focus, and he tightened his grip on the axe. He let loose a cry of rage, and began running towards his pursuers.
A hound jumped at him, and he split its skull with a single swing, as he focused his attention towards the men sent after his family. His mad rush carried him to the first of the guards, and he struck the man in the right side of his head with the axe blade. Blood spurted from the wound, as the guard fell to the ground with a cleft skull. Just then, another hound jumped up and sank its teeth into the shaft protruding from Marlis' back. He screamed in agony and dropped to one knee, as the growling hound pulled downward on the shaft, nearly tearing it loose from his flesh. Then other hound sunk its teeth into his wrist, and the axe dropped to the ground.
Marlis looked at the guards standing over him and recognised a few of them despite the feeble light coming from their torches. With contempt in his voice, he shouted, "How can you do this to me after all we’ve been through together? How can you do this to my family? Do you have any idea what the high consul is planning on doing tonight?"
Captain Baldaur Kaellin slowly stepped forward, and pulling free his sword from the scabbard at his hip, said in a solemn voice, "Marlis Ganon, you have been found guilty of plotting against High Consul Anstrom, and the only punishment in this kingdom for such a crime is death. Given your long service to King Mallif, however, I shall give you an honourable death, befitting a soldier of your calibre."
Captain Kaellin closed his eyes, as he brought the blade of his sword down upon Marlis’ neck. Blood sprayed from the wound and Marlis collapsed to the ground. Goaded by their handlers, the hounds began to tear him apart. Captain Kaellin watched the horrendous display with disgust, as he whispered, "May God have mercy upon your soul." The captain then ordered his men to pull the hounds away, and they followed his orders immediately. Turning towards the nearest guard, he said, “Give me your cloak.” He saw the guard hesitate so he repeated himself. “I said, give me your cloak.” The intense look in his eyes kept the guard from questioning him. “Thank you,” he quietly said, as the cloak was placed in his hands. “Now I want all of you to head into that village and await my arrival before proceeding further.”
“Yes, sir,” the guards said in unison, before turning to follow their leader’s orders.
As soon as the guards were out of sight, Captain Kaellin covered up the body of his friend with the cloak. Then he pulled a flask of oil from beneath his own cloak and poured it onto the shrouded body. Once that was done, he grabbed the closest torch he could find and carried it over to where his friend lay. With a prayer of forgiveness for his actions, and a prayer for Marlis' soul, he lowered the torch until it touched the edge of the cloak. He said a final prayer as he watched it ignite. Then as the flames began to consume the body of Marlis Ganon, the captain raised his sword above his head to salute his fallen friend. Once the flames began to die, he turned and headed into the village to finish what he had set out to do.

Rose went from house to house, begging for someone to give her shelter, but no one would open their door because they could hear the hounds‘ baying. She finally located a barn with a partially opened door and quickly slipped inside. With a quick glance around, she saw assorted tools that she guessed belonged to a blacksmith along with a few piles of straw. She was looking for a place to hide herself when she heard the yelling of guards coming closer to the barn. Rushing over to the nearest pile of straw, she hollowed out a small space close to the wall, and gently placed the child into the hollowed space, a few seconds before the guards threw the door open with a loud creak.
As quickly as she could, she ran towards a ladder on the other side of the barn and
attempted to reach the loft. However, before she had climbed more than a few rungs, a hound grabbed the bottom of her dress and pulled until she fell from the ladder and landed in a pile of straw. The hound was then called away and one of the guards walked over to the pile of straw where she lay with eyes wide open and full of terror
The guard looked her over and flashed her a disgusting smile. He told the other guards to close the door and they hesitantly complied. Then he grabbed Rose, pulled her to her feet, and then forced her up against the wall. "Don't even think about screaming for help, wench." The guard said, as he tried to push her dress past her hips with one hand. He licked his lips and said, "She is a nice one, and I haven't had me one this nice for a long while." Then as he began to unbuckle his belt with his free hand, the woman grabbed a poker and thrust it through his boot and into his foot.
“Don’t touch me!” Rose screamed, as she twisted the poker with all her strength.
The guard slapped her across the mouth and knocked her onto the floor. “You’ll pay for that, wench,” he shouted, as he pulled the bloody poker out of his foot—a grimace of pain on his angry face. Angrily, he threw the poker onto the floor and jumped onto the woman. “I always thought you were too pretty for Marlis,” he whispered lasciviously in her ear, as he tried to subdue her flailing limbs.
“Get off me, pig!” she shouted angrily, and accentuated her words by digging her
fingernails into the side of her attacker’s face. Her efforts were rewarded with another slap from the guard, as blood freely flowed from the deep furrows her fingernails left on his face.
“I’ll teach you not to resist me,” the guard growled, as drool began to run from the corner of his mouth. He wrapped his large hands around her neck and began to squeeze, when he heard the sounds of the door being thrown open and one of his fellow guards gasping. “What’s going on back there?” he asked, as he heard the approaching sounds of heavy boots.
“I am ending your abuse of this prisoner,” an angry voice replied.
Recognising the voice, the guard said, “I’ll be finished with her in a moment, Captain. As soon as she stops moving I’ll let her go.”
Captain Kaellin shook his head. "You are finished now,” he said in a voice brimming with anger, the sword in his hand still wet with the blood of his friend.
The guard glanced over his shoulder. "She’s just a prisoner. I've a right to do this."
Captain Kaellin glanced at the bloody poker and the blood around the guard’s
foot. His eyes flashed to the gouges on the guard’s face, and then he looked at the blood at the corner of the woman’s mouth. “You will release her now." He tightened his grip on
the sword until his knuckles turned white. "Do you understand me, Vareb?"
"What are you going to do to me? I'm just trying to teach her a lesson." Vareb returned his attention to the prisoner, whose eyes were beginning to roll back in her head.
Captain Kaellin took a step forward with his sword raised and he moved his arm
until the blade of his sword was pointing at the insubordinate guard's back. He noisily
cleared his throat, as he placed one hand on Vareb's shoulder, and said with a voice full of hate, "Disobedience is punishable by death." He then brought his arm forward and shoved the blade of his sword through Vareb's midsection with a quick thrust. Blood exploded from the wound, splattering on the woman's body, and then began to run down Vareb's chest and back. Captain Kaellin twisted the sword as he pulled it out, and watched as Vareb fell over onto his side to bleed on the floor. Then he cleaned the blade of his sword on Vareb’s tunic before sheathing it. With a hard tone, he quickly instructed the two remaining guards to get their prisoner on her feet, and to bind her wrists securely.
Breathing heavily, Rose shook uncontrollably, as she was brought to her feet. On her face, as she looked at Captain Kaellin, was an expression somewhere between gratitude and fear. Her eyes travelled downward towards Vareb’s body, and she spat on the corpse while a rope was being tied around her wrists.
Once she was restrained, Captain Kaellin fixed her dress and said, "Your husband is dead. I am truly very sorry, but he was already slowly dying from his wounds.” He turned his head so he didn’t have to face her, and said in a quiet voice, “I had no real choice in this matter. You must believe me on that." Turning to the guards, he hesitated briefly before giving the command, "Find the child if you can."
“Where should we start looking?” asked one of the guards.
Captain Kaellin glanced over at a pile of straw that showed signs of disturbance. “You two look over that way, and I’ll look over in this corner,” he replied, as he headed towards the pile of straw. He found the child easily, but he pretended to search for a few minutes. Then he pulled out his sword and stabbed into the pile a few times.
“What’s going on?” asked one of the guards, as he heard the captain‘s sword slicing through the straw.
“I am completing Anstrom’s orders,” he replied, as he wiped off his sword.
“What orders, captain?” asked the other guard.
“He wished their child destroyed,” Captain Kaellin replied simply. He returned his sword to its sheath, and walked towards their prisoner, who now had an expression of horror and disgust on her face.
Before anything else could be said, a giant of a man with bulging cords of muscle entered through the open door carrying something in his right hand. He declared loudly in a deep, rumbling voice, "You’re not welcome in this village. Return to your castle and never show yourselves here again."
Captain Kaellin looked at the man. "Who might you be to give orders to the captain of the king's guards?"
The man leaned against the massive double-edged axe he had been carrying when he entered, and replied, "I’m Harwin Vahrin, and this is my barn you‘re trespassing in."
Making a guess that the man could effectively wield the massive weapon with one hand, Captain Kaellin slowly said, "I am Captain Baldaur Kaellin of King Mallif's Royal Guard, and I apologize for any trouble we may have caused you, but we were sent
to retrieve this woman. However, given the mess that was made before my arrival in this
village, I'll see to it that you are compensated for any damage we may have accidentally caused during our search.” He paused to see if Harwin would say anything, but the large man simply stared at him. “We will now take this prisoner and leave your village peacefully." At a nod of agreement from Harwin, Captain Kaellin immediately led his men out of the village. The guards carried Vareb‘s body, and he led their silent prisoner.
After Kaellin and his guards were gone, Harwin Vahrin heard a rustling in the straw and lifted his axe to his shoulder with one hand. He cautiously followed the noise, and found a small child surrounded by enough straw to hide it. Shocked at the sight, he leaned his axe against the edge of his forge, and with surprising gentleness for a person his size, he picked the child up and took it into his house.
Upon entering his home he called for his wife and told her, "Essie, I just found a child in the barn. I think this is what those guards were looking for."
Harwin's wife looked at the child. "We can't keep it. We should take it to the
castle as soon as morning comes."
"If someone has to send hounds to retrieve a child, it is safer with us."
Harwin looked his wife in the eyes and said, "We have wanted a child, and this may be our only chance to have one of our own. You must admit that it's better off with us than it would be if we gave it to those guards."
His wife looked the child over and slowly nodded. "There is truth to what you say, and he doesn't look like he has seen more than two winters—if even that many."
"Then that matter is settled,” Harwin said, ending the discussion.

º º º º º

Upon returning to the castle, the prisoner was presented to High Consul Anstrom, who immediately began to chastise Kaellin for not following his orders. He waved his arms in the air, and cursed in many different languages, but when he realised that his words had more effect on the prisoner than they did on Captain Kaellin, he ceased his yelling, and pushed away the long black hair that was now hanging over his face. He then focused his dark eyes on Captain Kaellin and told him to explain, making sure to switch back to speaking the common tongue, known as Alvspra, so that he could be certain the captain could understand him.
Kaellin cleared his throat before speaking. "I am aware of the fact that I didn't explicitly follow the orders you gave me, but there was really no reason to kill this woman. Especially, since she has already lost her husband and child this night."
“Your point is well made, captain.” Anstrom stroked his beard, as he looked at the bound woman. After nearly a minute, he grinned, and waved for Captain Kaellin to leave. "You may go now. I believe I have found a use for this prisoner,” he announced.
Hoping to catch Anstrom in his own treachery Kaellin said, "You know I cannot do that. A prisoner must be taken to the dungeon, and be locked inside a cell, as soon as they are returned to the castle, as the laws you have personally written state. It is my duty as captain of the guard to escort this particular prisoner to her cell personally, since I was the one responsible for her capture. To do anything less would be a dereliction of my duties."
Realising that he was being led towards a trap, Anstrom calmly answered, "I will see that she is put in the dungeon as soon as I have finished with her. Now go back to your chamber."
“As I have said, I cannot do that,” Kaellin replied adamantly.
Anstrom’s eyes narrowed, and he said, “I think that your family needs you more than this prisoner does right now.”
Kaellin glared at Anstrom, and he saw the corners of Anstrom’s lips curling into a fiendish grin. They glared at each other for close to a minute, and then Kaellin declared, “It shall be as you say, Consul Anstrom.” He walked over towards his prisoner.
Anstrom let his grin fade, and asked, "What of the archer that went with you? He never returned."
"I know not what became of him." Turning away from Anstrom, Kaellin untied the ropes binding Rose's wrists, as he spoke to her in a low voice. "I truly am sorry about Marlis, but I had to end his suffering. You must believe that I had little choice in this matter, Rose." He considered telling her that her son still lived, but he decided it would be best, for the time being, that she not know anything about the child in case Anstrom might try to pry answers out of her. Once the ropes were removed, he turned around and walked towards the door, but then he stopped in the doorway, and without turning around said, "I've promised a man in the village that he would be paid for any trouble we caused him while searching his barn." There was then the noise of something in the room breaking and a mirthless smile came to Captain Kaellin's face, as he walked out into the dim corridor.

Anstrom brushed away the shards of the bottle he had shattered, and placed manacles on the Rose's wrists. "You will come with me,” he said, as he blindfolded her and pulled her out of the room. He took her down the stairs, towards the hidden room he had entered earlier in the evening, and once inside, led her through the long dark tunnel.
When they emerged, they were within the vast forest surrounding the outskirts of the city. A few yards from where they came out sat a small stone building that was nearly hidden amongst the trees. They went to it, with Anstrom pulling on the manacles to keep the blindfolded woman moving in the direction he wished her to go.
Anstrom pushed the door of the building open, and men in long black robes turned around to look at him and the woman he was dragging behind him. Anstrom instructed one of the men to prepare her for the ceremony, and the robed man grabbed hold of the manacles and dragged her over to a stone table. He chained her to the table and began to chant, as Anstrom walked over with a bowl full of a thick red liquid.
Anstrom raised it above her head and said, "May this blood of the newly born ensure your soul safe passage to the home of the Old Gods." He poured the warm liquid across her body, as she began to scream, and all the robed men began to chant in an archaic language.
One of the robed men brought over a long dagger with a curved blade, and Anstrom took the dagger and raised it above the woman's body. "May this cold blade place you on your journey to the blazing inferno where the Dark Gods dwell," he said, as he prepared to plunge the ceremonial dagger into the woman‘s heart.
Anstrom joined in the chanting and brought the blade down towards the woman’s
chest, but before he had finished bringing the dagger down, the door was violently kicked open and someone yelled for him to stop. Recognising the voice, he sighed and handed the knife to one of the robed men, and then looked over at the person who had interrupted his ceremony. "You are not to be in this place, Prince Malifesh. These things are not for the eyes of one so young." Anstrom motioned for the robed men to remove the intruder and they surged forward to grab the young man by the arms.
Being of formidable strength and superior size despite his age, Prince Malifesh easily pulled loose from the grip of the robed men and pushed one out of his way, as he walked towards the stone table. "You will not sacrifice this woman to your pagan gods. My father may allow it because he knows not what it entails, but when I'm crowned I will make sure this practice does not continue. If I had my way, you would be executed for making sacrifices to gods the king doesn't worship."
Anstrom saw a chance to please the young man who would soon be king, and seized the opportunity. "I realise I should not be making sacrifices to the Old Gods. They have grown fat from earlier sacrifices while doing nothing for me." Now that he had
the young man’s attention, he decided to take things a bit further. "I decree that from this day forth none shall make sacrifices to the Old Gods or the Dark Gods. As high consul, I shall spread the word to make sure that none defy this decree."
Malifesh nodded slowly, as he tried to figure out if Anstrom was simply humouring him or not. "I will take you at your word on this matter." He unhooked the woman’s manacles and helped her up. "What is your name?"
"Roslynia," replied the woman with much fear in her voice.
"Roslynia, I'm going to find a place where you can wash this blood from your body." Malifesh cast a glance towards Anstrom. "You will keep your vow, or you will have me to deal with,” he said—a threatening tone to his voice.
Anstrom whispered, "We shall see." as he watched the pair walk through the open
door and enter the dark forest.

º º º º º

Back in the village, Harwin Vahrin's wife, Esreena, finished cleaning off the child. She told Harwin that it was a handsome child and he agreed readily. After she had completely cleaned the child, wrapping it in a warm blanket, she asked, "Since we are going to keep this child, will you be teaching him your trade?"
Harwin placed his hand by the child and it wrapped its small fingers around his index finger. The child squeezed and Harwin tried to pry the tiny fingers loose. Finally, the child released its grip. Harwin laughed and said, "He will make a fine blacksmith, and his skills may even surpass my own one day. His grip is amazing for one so young. In fact, I’m inclined to say he was born to grip both hammer and sword."
"A warrior and a blacksmith. Oh, what a destiny you have planned for him in these two hours." Esreena smiled at the child. "We should name him. After all, we do not know the name he was born with. Perhaps he could be named after your father. It is a good strong name, and it should be right for a strong child."
Harwin thought on his wife's words for a few minutes. He then smiled. “Yes.
Tannis is a fine name for this child who has a grip like iron." Harwin picked up the child, and held him above his head as a proud father often does. "From this day forth, men shall know you as my son and your name shall be Tannis Vahrin."
The newly named child smiled, as only a small child can, and his new parents smiled with him. Then they all went to bed, so that they could be rested for the start of a new day, and for a new life for the three of them.

This book was published through Xlibris and can be purchased through Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Borders, and a variety of other booksellers.


Tag der Veröffentlichung: 25.05.2009

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