Half Blood Part XXI--The Hope of the Dead

Fiction By Heather // 7/18/2010

The ride home was uneventful. Kearah met them at the training grounds.

"How did it go? Jokk's been pacin' and grumblin' all morning."

Solvar jerked a saddle-strap loose. "It went as well as my first day of trainin'."

Her face fell. "Oh. I'm sorry."

Goldtongue winced. "Have a care, Solvar! You are going to tear my scales off."

"Sorry."

Kearah glanced at Varian. Her eyes widened. "What happened? Do ye need treatment?"

Varian felt his tunic. Fleet's teeth had torn holes in the back and the shoulder. "I'm fine. We just had to leave in a hurry, that's all."

"That's all? That's no sort of an explanation! What happened?"

Varian glanced at Solvar. Solvar shrugged and made a face, as if to say, She's not goin to leave us alone until we explain. Quickly, they recounted the morning's events. Kearah smiled at the end.

"That sounds excitin'! I do wish I'd been able to go."

"Ye always do," Solvar chuckled.

"Yes, well, what of it? Although ye know that I'd be as useless in battle as a newborn babe."

"Aye, I do agree with that." Solvar ducked her fist.

"Ye watch yerself or I'll make it so ye cannae go on the next mission!" she threatened.

Varian laughed. "Ye?"

Kearah whirled on him. Her smile widened to a mischievous grin. "Watch yerself, dragon-rider! I'll show ye up when we go ridin', that's for certain!"

"Oh will ye?"

Solvar laughed. "Pay her no mind, Varian. Kearah likes to brag of her dragon-skills."

"Oh, I like to brag, do I? I'd like to turn yer mind to three weeks ago, a certain wager between ye and—"

"Varian, we'd better go report," Solvar interrupted. "Jokk willnae be happy if we keep him waitin'."

"Oh, now ye have to go." Kearah tagged after them. "But ye havenae even waited to hear the best news."

"Later, Kearah."

"I dinnae think Varian will want it to wait. It's about an old friend whose come to visit."

Varian turned quickly. "An old friend? Onna? Is she here?"

Kearah smiled and nodded. "Here and with Jokk in his armory tent."

Varian dashed forward. He heard Solvar and Kearah's laughs, then their pounding feet behind him. He ran up the hill and burst into the armory tent. Four people stood clustered about a table in the middle—Dulcan, Jokk, Beno, and Onna.

"Varian!" Onna smiled as he gave her a hug. "Well, I suppose that Kearah told you I was here. Ah, there's the little tattletale now."

Kearah laughed. "Did ye really expect me to keep the secret when ye knew I was goin' to meet them?"

"Nae, we didnae. We know ye better than that, Missy," Dulcan said with a wink.

"Beno, how are you?" Varian asked.

"Could be better. Cracked a couple of ribs, but Onna's bound me up all right," the captain said.

Varian looked down at Onna. "My brother. Do ye bring news of my brother?"

Onna nodded and sighed. "We know your brother is definitely Danilos' prisoner. He's being kept somewhere in the castle, I'm sure of it. But I didn't have chance to snoop around."

"Onna said that Danilos is definitely preparin' for war," Jokk said.

Onna nodded. "I listened in on his plans with the Council. They're stalling on the grounds that he needs Jevran to sign an authorization of war, but Danilos won't have a problem getting that."

Varian winced. He knew that was all too true. For someone as desperate as Danilos, the castle held many instruments of persuasion. How many times had Jevran spoken about clearing the old torture rooms, only to be rebuffed by Danilos and the council?

"That's not all my news, though," Onna said quickly. "You're up against a more dangerous enemy than any of you know. Danilos has taken the Kamaril Rites."

Horror etched itself into Dulcan's face. Jokk's face drained of color and he looked down at the map-laden table, bracing himself against it.

"A sorcerer?" he whispered.

"A what?" Solvar asked.

Well, at least someone besides myself is lost, Varian thought grimly.

Onna turned to Varian and the two Highlanders. "Kamaril Rites are horrible rituals that one goes through to become a sorcerer. Danilos went through them and he is someone who can bend and twist dark, magical forces to his will."

In the silence, the breeze that flapped the tent doors seemed chilled with menace. Varian's neck prickled from the wind, and he felt a cold, heavy lump settle in his stomach.

"The worst kind of enemy possible," Jokk muttered. Then he slammed his fists against the table. The sound made everyone jump. His face contorted into a snarl. "As if we didnae have enough to contend with! Why? Why does this happen? We've planned and planned for this day—how many years, Onna? Eighteen? Twenty? Then this happens and everythin' shatters into naught."

"Everything?" Onna said quietly. "You have gained back your nephew."

"But I won't get to keep him if Danilos destroys us all!"

Varian stepped back, pushing into Kearah and Solvar. The lump got heavier and expanded into his throat.

"I've given everythin' to protect the Crown of Ages." Jokk's voice was low and shaky in his throat. "Everythin'! My sister, my brother-in-law, my own nephew for a time. And for what? So a sorcerer marches in to blast us all! It would've been better if Archflame had given Danilos the crown."

"Dinnae say that," Dulcan hissed.

Jokk swung to face him and clenched his hands into fists. "We are dead men, Dulcan! Danilos will march in, take the crown by force, and leave the Highlands smolderin' in his wake. Our lands will be ashes; our villages twisted, blackened pillars; and our bodies, charred bones. There's nothin' we can do against a Kamaril sorcerer!"

Jokk kicked the table leg. It crumpled, and maps spilled off with a loud whisper of parchment as the corner bit into the ground. He stomped to the tent door. For a moment, Varian caught his eyes. Dark flames danced in Jokk's eyes, spreading their poison of despair. Then Jokk ducked his head and shoved past him into the open air.

For a moment, no one moved. Then Onna bowed her head into her hands. "Dear God," she whispered, "it has come."  

***

Lia's supper table was full, but she did not smile. Mel and Tikah sat watching Varian, who watched Solvar, who watched Onna. Onna did nothing. Kearah picked at her plate. Even the little ones ate in silence as quickly as they could, then rushed outside to get away from the oppressive atmosphere.

The fire flickered low and Solvar dutifully replenished it. Then he, Varian, Kearah, Mel, and Tikah ventured into the village.

The news of Danilos' sorcery had spread, casting its gloom over the village. Everywhere, people stood talking in low tones. The place was devoid of laughter—something that Varian had never missed from its noises. The warriors who had already arrived from other villages stood apart in knots, worry wrinkling their foreheads and shadowing their eyes. They knew what Varian and Solvar knew—there was no hope against a sorcerer. Especially with a leader who seemed to have gone mad from hopelessness.

Jokk was nowhere to be seen. They checked the armory tent, his house, and even spoke to Flameclaw. Not even Dulcan had seen him since the time he'd rushed out of the tent.

Finally they stopped on the hill next to the training field and sat down. They didn't speak. The silence of the village was choking them all. Varian pulled his legs tight against his chest and wrapped his arms around them. Tents flapped around them, and the training field was empty save for the swaying grass.

He looked at his friends' faces. Solvar's jutted chin was visible against the evening-gray sky. Mel and Tikah's faces were turned, so that he could only see their hair blowing in the breeze. Kearah sat with her face upturned, watching the stars with grave eyes.

They sat until the night had turned black and the insects' chirps and whirrs filled the air. Light from the village behind them faded as households blew out their lamps and turned to troubled sleep. The moon rose, sharp and cold.

Varian sighed. How strange that, a few hours ago, this place was filled with laughter, love, and hope. Now it has as much hope as the dead in a graveyard have of rising.    

He straightened and exhaled. "That's it." His whisper was loud and killed all the cirping around them.

"What?" Solvar asked.

"The hope of the dead."

"What are ye talkin' about?" Kearah sat upright and brushed curls away from her face.

"In the Book of the Last Prophecy. It says that in the last days God will raise the dead from their graves. They hope in that day because of God. And we're God's children. If the dead have faith that God will rescue them at the end of time, then we who are alive should have even more faith that God will rescue us!" Varian scrambled to his feet. "In all the Books, God helps those who have faith in him."

"I'm missin' yer point," Solvar said.

"We shouldn't loose hope just because of Danilos' sorcery. God is more powerful than that. He's above the powers of magic. He's above everythin'!"

"But that doesnae mean it's His Will for us to win," Kearah whispered.

"Nae." Varian grinned. "But it does mean that we have all the reason in the world to hope madly, crazily, insanely, that things can be put back to rights."

They stared at him. Wind stirred the grass and blew Kearah's curls back into her face. Then Solvar heaved himself to his feet.

"Ye believe that?" he said quietly.

"With every ounce of my bein'," Varian answered.

Solvar reached out and grabbed Varian's hand, clenching it tight. "So do I."

Varian clenched back, feeling his grin stretch. Mel and Tikah scrambled up and chimed in as one.

"So do I."

"Ye cannae leave me out," Kearah said. She reached in and covered Solvar and Varian's hand with one of her own. She made eye contact with her brother, then with Varian. "I believe in Hope."

They stood there for a moment. Varian let the flame in his heart flicker for a moment, enjoying the warmth of knowing—deep inside, where he could never explain how he knew it—that everything was going to turn out all right. Then he dropped his hand.

"What should we do?" Mel asked.

Varian blew out a soft breath. "We have to find Jokk. We have to convince him that everythin' isnae lost. Then we'll have to remind the village and the other lairds of that fact. But first, I want to talk to Archflame. I want to find out why Jokk reacted as he did."

"We'll take care of everythin' else," Solvar said. "Godspeed."

Varian nodded and turned for the dragons' sleeping grounds, beyond the training fields.

Comments

I like it.

Keep up the writing.  I look forward to reading more.

James | Sun, 07/18/2010

<><~~~~~~~~~~~~><>
"The idea that we should approach science without a philosophy is itself a philosophy... and a bad one, because it is self-refuting." -- Dr. Jason Lisle

Aw. That's sweet. Getting

Aw. That's sweet. Getting frightening, but sweet in the midst of it.

Anna | Mon, 07/19/2010

I have hated the words and I have loved them, and I hope I have made them right. --The Book Thief

"But it does mean that we

"But it does mean that we have all the reason in the world to hope madly, crazily, insanely, that things can be put back to rights."

I like Jokk, and I feel sorry for him too, to get a pecie of news like that...Anyway, wonderful chapter and cant wait to see what Varian, Solvar, Onna, Jokk, Kearah, Mel...and all the rest are going to do next.

Kay J Fields | Mon, 07/19/2010

Visit my writing/book review blog at http://transcribingthesedreams.blogspot.com/

My usual words: I want

My usual words:

I want more.

LOL

LoriAnn | Mon, 07/19/2010

I really, really like

I really, really like this, Heather.

Kyleigh | Sat, 07/24/2010