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They are the
last ones.

Daray entered the sacred fire willingly. He reminds himself of that often to keep his faith in the divine promise firm in his mind. Ensuring her future is his only goal and he is willing to sacrifice anything to see to it that she’s safe.
As the power of chaos grows, the demons increase in number, and Daray is forced to recognize that the gods will disregard their promises when it suits them. He is forced to admit that he needs help to protect her and even that might not be enough.
Elemental magic and mortal balance connect to challenge the path to the gateways.



Chapter 1

Chapter 1

“Has the creature attacked anyone?”

“No one seems to be on the streets this evening.”

Saben glanced out the window at the setting sun then nodded at the young man. “Have the doors to the temple opened and instruct everyone to retreat to their chambers. If this beast intends to enter here, we shall allow it.”

“Father Lorcan?”

“Our relics will protect us,” he said confidently. “I will not see our temple damaged needlessly. I have faith in the gods to guard us and you must as well.”

The young man took a step back.

“Quickly now.”

“Yes, Father.”

“Have you returned to take her from us?” he muttered, watching the library door close before forcing himself across the room, out a side door, and into the warm evening air. Saben hurried through the empty courtyard and into the gathering hall, quickly focusing his attention on the large open doors.

“Out,” he ordered as he caught sight of three fellow priests lingering near the door.

“This creature is—”

“To safety this instance. Should the creature make it past this room you will be needed.”

The three looked at each other before staring again into the shadows outside the open door.

“Do you not trust in the gods to protect us? Does your faith fail you now when you need it most?” he snapped.

“How can we leave you to face this darkness alone?”

“This is my place.” He stood tall, forcing his shoulders back. “You will leave or become casualties. The choice is yours,” he added, moving toward the altar where he retrieved a long intricately carved staff. Gripping the staff, Saben looked up to see the three priests leave the room and sighed, turning his attention again to the open door and watching as an unnaturally large black bear hesitantly entered.

Saben moved from behind the alter, cocking his head as he forced his steps to propel him toward the creature that remained close to the door. With the distance between them shrinking he paused and peered at the creature and nodded before lowering his staff slightly. “Twenty years and you haven’t changed.”

The bear took a forced step forward and stopped.

“Where is your master?” he questioned and watched the bear turn away from him. Saben dropped his staff to the ground, hurriedly removing his robes and shoving his silver hair out of his eyes before approaching the black bear. Carefully moving the thick black cloak that obscured the bear’s rider, he held his breath. “I’ve been preparing for your return but I never expected it to come this way. He’s . . . what has passed him by these long years?”

The bear turned her head and focused on the priest.

“There is a cabin to the south, it’s outside the city walls and hidden away. Trust your senses to guide you there and I will meet you as quickly as I can and tend to him. Do you understand?”

The bear nodded and hurried back toward the door and out into the evening air. Saben followed the creature and closed the temple doors, staring absently as his mind raced.

“I don’t believe I’ve ever seen you in anything other than those robes,” Acacia said softly. “Was that the sign you have been looking for?”

“Lady Acacia!” he gasped. “What are you doing out here? Why are you not in your chambers?”

“You left me in the library. I’m still not sure why I came,” she answered. “I’ve never disobeyed you before.”

“Forgive me for having left so abruptly. I should have seen to it that you were safe.”

“Nothing can touch me within these walls,” she said softly. “Father Lorcan, why was that creature here? You told it that you were expecting it, didn’t you? Was the bear’s rider a—”

“It’s difficult to explain,” he said, picking his robes up and folding them numbly, “but I will try when I return.”

“You’re going to help him?”

“Lady Acacia, I understand that it might appear—”

“I’m going with you,” she said firmly.

“No, you must stay here. You are safe here.”

“I am safe with you, Father Lorcan, and only you,” Acacia answered, shifting from foot to foot, her blond hair swaying slightly. “You have made it clear to me that I can only trust you.”

“When did I ever say such a thing?”

“Not in words, but actions,” she answered. “Less than an hour ago, you had me hide in the library when you could no doubt sense that it was one of our own who was approaching. That wasn’t the first time, either. Why make me hide from your brethren if they are not a potential threat to me?”

“You don’t understand.”

“Before you force me to stay, I want to show you something,” she said, taking a breath to steady her nerves as she removed a small book from her pocket. Acacia waved her hand over the book and it quickly grew in size.

“You should not be using magic.”

“You should not have used it in front of me if you didn’t want me to learn it.” Acacia sat the book down on a nearby pew and opened it. “These are my drawings, Father Lorcan. Tonight was not the first time that I have seen that bear. She has come into my dreams.”

Saben held his breath as he stared at the image and reached forward with a trembling hand to turn the page. He stared at the drawing of the young man depicted on the following page then the demon on the next. “Why have you never shown me this before? Why have you never told me?”

“I feared your actions,” she said softly, taking the book and holding it tightly, her eyes focused on the ground. “I feared what you might think of me for dreaming of such creatures.”

“They are nightmares,” he answered.

“I did not draw these because I fear them. I drew them because I know them.”

“My child, that’s not possible.” Saben placed his hand on her shoulder. “Now please, go to bed and not a word of this to anyone.”

“Father Lorcan,” she called after him. “I will follow you, even if you forbid it. He told me that I must.”

“The demon?”

“An old man in my dreams.”

“Dreams are often confusing,” he stated. “We will discuss them when I return.”

Acacia hugged her drawings and took a deep breath. “Saben, you cannot leave me behind.”

Saben stopped midstep and could not stop his body from trembling. “Did this man tell you my name?” he questioned, slowly shaking his head. “Saddle the horses and make sure you’re not seen.”


“The truce stands. We will be fighting alongside the Brouk Army. Is that clear?” Terran looked around at the men focused on him. “These creatures are merciless and I have seen firsthand what they are capable of. Why they are moving toward Echo Mountain, we don’t know for certain but we assume that they mean to take the temple. The monks are peaceful, they know nothing of war, and will likely be unable to protect themselves.

“Our first order is to evacuate the monks from the Temple of Earth. If the demons reach them first, they will be slaughtered.”

“Lord Terran, is it true that you’ve been singled out by these creatures?” a voice from within the crowd questioned. “Word is that you’ve been hunted by the demons for many years now.”

“Hunted?” Terran laughed. “I’m no more hunted than any other man on Whryx. It is true that I have been forced to defend my land on occasion but is that so different than any other landowner?”

“They’re looking for something, right? Would it not save lives to just hand over whatever it is that they want?”

“We don’t know what the demons are searching for and for a moment, let us say that we did.” Terran chose his words carefully. “It is likely something dangerous—something powerful—would it be wise to hand over such a thing?

“As I have said, these creatures are merciless. Even if we could attempt a form of peace with them, it would not last. They want power and they want our world and we simply cannot give it to them. We would be dooming future generations to live as slaves to these creatures. I would rather die than see those I care about in chains.”

Terran looked out over the hushed crowd. “There is no bargaining with these creatures. They know nothing of peace.”


“There’s no one here,” Acacia whispered. “Do you think that he couldn’t find it?” She slid carefully from the saddle and peered into the trees that surrounded the cabin.

“They’re here.” Saben sighed. “Do not look with your eyes but instead with the connection that you seem to have with them.”

“Connection? I don’t understand,” she said softly. “I’m sorry, Father.”

The old priest nodded slowly, dismounting from his horse and looking toward the eyes that were watching their every move. “I was warned against teaching you such things but your decision to follow me into the hall led me to believe that perhaps you had accessed such knowledge on your own. I must have been mistaken.”

Acacia nodded and watched the old man wave his hand over the locked door before pushing it open. She hurriedly removed the herb-laden bags from the horses and followed him inside.

“Place the bags over there on the table,” he said as he went about lighting candles to illuminate the cabin. “Then go into the room in the back and prepare the bed for yourself,” he added, handing her a small candle-lit lantern.

“Is there nothing that I can do to help with the stranger?”

“If I require your help, I will ask. It would be best that you get some sleep,” he replied. “And Lady Acacia, no spying on me again. I do not want the stranger to see you until after I have spoken with him. Do you understand?”

“Yes, Father,” Acacia answered with a slight bow of her head, her braided blond hair shifting forward. “Good night.”

Saben listened to the sound of the door opening and closing at the back of the cabin before moving quickly to the cabin door and pulling it open. He stared at the large black bear before waving his hand and enlarging the doorway, allowing the creature to enter. “Bring him over here,” he said as he approached the nearby bed.

The bear moved hesitantly toward the bed, laying on the floor next to it and remaining still as the priest carefully moved the rider off her back.

“Will you stay with him or do you prefer to be outside?” he asked and watched as the bear moved hesitantly toward the door. “I assure you that I will do everything in my power to help him. Causing yourself discomfort will do him little good.”

The bear nodded and walked out the door with Saben following. “I am taking the spell off the doorway just so that the cabin looks normal. If you wish to come inside, simply come to the door and I will replace the spell.” He waited and the bear nodded hesitantly before turning and vanishing into the woods.

Saben quickly turned his attention to the man now lying in the cabin and removed the cloak that covered him. “Where have you been all these years?” he questioned, carefully prying the clothing away from his wounds before methodically cleansing and dressing them. He paused, staring at the tattoo that climbed the length of his spine and stretched out across the left of his back.

“If I had any doubts before, they’re gone now. You are Daray, the boy who came to the temple all those years ago,” he whispered, moving the candle closer to the man’s face. “You are also the man in her sketches. What brought you into her dreams?”

With the man’s wounds now dressed, he eased him back into his torn trousers and covered him with a light blanket before extinguishing the candles around him and retiring to a nearby table. From his pocket, Saben removed a small book and placed it on the table before restoring it to its natural size. After moving a few candles to better illuminate his book, he began to leaf through the pages and was soon deep in study.


“Good morning, Solana,” Flint said as he looked up from his work in the garden.

“Good morning,” she replied softly. “It’s hot out here today.”

“The sun’s doing its job,” he answered, getting to his feet and smiling. “I’ll be right back. Just stay here.”

Solana smiled and watched Flint vanish inside the house, returning quickly with a long, partially cloth object in his hand.

“I got this for you when I was in the city. There was a woman selling them in the market. I thought it might help keep the sun off a bit.” Flint forced himself to pause and take a breath. “It’s a parasol.”

“A parasol?” she questioned, looking at the object. “What is it supposed to do?”

Flint smiled and moved beside her, gently taking her hand and sliding her finger over the catch, moving the mechanism upwards and causing the cloth to spread out. He then coaxed her to shift the material behind her shoulder so that it shaded some of her upper body, carefully moving the loose white strands of her hair away from the parasol. “There, that should help a bit.”

Solana smiled at Flint and nodded. “Thank you. You’re always looking out for me.”

“I . . . ,” Flint stuttered and smiled then looked away. “I should get back to work. Mother asked me to get as much of the garden cleaned out as possible this afternoon.”

Solana nodded and watched him return to the garden before following him, carefully trying to match his footsteps.

“What’s wrong?” he looked up, watching her gaze into the distance.

“Terran,” she said slowly.

“There’s been no word from him,” Flint answered, returning to his task, “but don’t worry, campaigns can take a while sometimes and we don’t often hear from him when he’s travelling. He’ll be back before you know it.”

Solana nodded slowly and looked out toward the road that led to the house. “I’m worried,” she said softly. “Something bad is coming.”

Flint leapt to his feet, shoving the brown hair out of his eyes with his dusty hand and following her gaze. “Do you see something?”

“I feel it,” she answered, looking into Flint’s brown eyes. “Sadness comes to us. It’s on the wind.”

Flint took Solana’s hands and looked deeply into her eyes. “Everything will be all right. Terran will be back soon. This isn’t the first time we’ve gone this long without any contact,” he said softly. “I promise, no harm will come to you so long as I can stop it.”


Chapter 2

Saben woke with his head nestled in the pages of his book. A beam of light that had snuck through the small crack in the curtains was gently illuminating the room and its direction let him know that it was still early morning. He leaned back and stretched his sore body, silently scolding himself for falling asleep at the table, and glanced toward the young man who was still asleep in the bed across the room from him.

“You seem to have survived the night,” he said as he approached, kneeling next to the bed and carefully moving the blanket to survey the bandages before his attention was taken by a sound outside the cabin. “I believe your wild friend is here to check on you. You are fortunate to have someone so loyal in your life.”

Saben hurried to the door, waving his hand to enlarge it before opening it and allowing the bear to enter the cabin. “He’s still alive but I’m afraid there is no real change,” he said gently. “I must check on the woman who travels with me. I shall leave the door open for you.”

After waiting for the bear to acknowledge him, the priest moved down the hall and knocked softly on the closed door which quickly opened.

“Good morning, Father.” Acacia smiled warmly. “How are our guests?”

“It’s unclear at this point,” he answered with a simple shrug of his shoulders. “I will know more when the man wakes. Until then, I must be patient.”

“Shall I assume that we will be staying here a while longer?” she questioned.

“My child, do you understand the dangers that we are in?” he asked firmly. “We are away from the safety of the temple walls and the protection of our brethren. We are in the company of a demon and his familiar. We could be found out and the penalties for harbouring a demon are severe. Do you understand that?”

Acacia focused her gaze on the ground, the smile gone, and shook her head.

Saben took a breath. “I’m sorry. These things are foreign matters to you. I have sheltered you too much from this world.”

“You did what you thought was best,” she answered softly.

“I have tried to protect you, just as I promised I would, but in doing so I have kept much from you and have caused you to keep things from me. Important things.”

“I don’t know what you mean,” she answered sharply.

“Come, we’ll speak where we can have a seat and a cup of tea,” he stated. “Bring your sketchbook.”

“My sketchbook?” she questioned nervously before nodding. “Of course, Father. I will be along shortly.”


Acacia held tight to her book, peering around the corner of the hall and listening to the one-sided conversation happening ahead of her. “Does he understand you?” she questioned, fighting to pull her gaze from the large bear as she made her way to the table. Peering at the man asleep in the bed, she was startled as a mug was placed in front of her along with a small loaf of bread.

“Let us bow our heads in thanks,” Saben whispered. “We shall say our prayers in silence this morning to avoid disturbing our guests.”

Acacia tore a small piece of bread from the loaf and forced her attention to remain on the old man at the opposite side of the table. “Father, would our prayers harm them?”

“No,” he answered, “though it may make them uncomfortable. The deities to which their kind pray are different from our own.”

“Are they evil?”

“The concept of good and evil is a creation of mortals, not of the gods. In the realm of the gods, there is light and there is darkness and the two create a balance that is reflected in our world. There was a time when this realm understood the importance of balance but the knowledge of the ancients has been lost over time and, like magic, is difficult to find in the world in which we live.”

“But, Father Lorcan, everyone in the temple has magic. I have seen it used.”

“Healing magic is still fairly prominent in our world but it is difficult to find anyone who truly understands its power and therefore, difficult to find anyone who can truly use their gifts. What we do at the temple is aid in the healing process but it cannot truly be considered healing magic as it once was.”

Acacia stared at the bread in her hands. “Can you use true healing magic? I have seen you bring people back from what seemed like death—is that what true healing magic is?”

“I have never brought someone back from death and you should consider such a thing impossible.” He sighed. “Never forget that there must always be a balance in the world.”

The young woman nodded and continued to fiddle with the bread in her hands before gently shaking her head.

“You have barely touched your food.”

She nodded and finally placed the bread back on the table, glancing toward the strangers. “We’re not going back to the temple, are we?”

“What makes you say that?”

“Their presence,” she said softly.

Saben sighed and placed his cup down on the table in front of him. “Perhaps I have been trying to put this off but I suppose there will never be a good time. Let’s take a look at these drawings of yours.”

Acacia hesitantly moved the book from her lap to the table. She placed her hands on top of it and looked into Saben’s old blue eyes. “What is it that you are looking for?”

“I’m not certain, my child, but you need not fear showing me these images. I assure you, they will change nothing. Your secrets are safe with me.”

Acacia nodded and slid the book across the table. “I’ve been drawing these for as far back as I can remember. Every time I had a dream about them, it felt so important—so real. I had to make sure that I kept a record of it and that I didn’t forget what I had seen.”

“What made you feel that way?”

“I don’t know,” she whispered. “I felt a connection with them. I knew they were likely nothing more than a figment of my imagination but I couldn’t just let it go.”

“Interesting,” he said as he opened the book and looked at the first image, that of a young boy standing in a swamp, obstructed by several low-lying branches with a large black bear standing close behind him. Saben continued to leaf through the pages, doing his best not to show how startled he was when images of Daray near the healing temple appeared throughout the sketches. “You saw these two a lot over the years, didn’t you?”

“There were fewer nights that I did not see them. Often it was nothing more than a glimpse and they were gone. There was nothing to record those nights.”

“You have seen these characters in some foul places. These dreams must have frightened you,” he said as he continued to turn the pages.

“It is because of the darker images that I pray that these two are not connected to my dreams. While I would like to ask them questions, understand my connection with them, I do not wish upon them the nightmares that I have witnessed.”

“Yes,” he said absently. “I can understand that. Some of these days were no doubt quite troubling. Things I could have perhaps prevented if I had only known.”

“You could have prevented my dreams?”

Saben pulled his focus from the book. “In a manner of speaking,” he said hurriedly.

“Father Lorcan,” she said as she pulled the sketches away from him, “what is it that you are looking for? What can you hope to learn by searching through my drawings?”

Saben stared at the young woman nervously. “My child, there are things that you do not know or understand about this world or about yourself.”

“What kind of things?” she asked softly, startled by his tone. “Tell me.”

“Lady Acacia, I am uncertain where to begin but I suppose starting at the beginning might be best,” he answered and sighed. “You are a very special woman, my child, and there are—” he paused and looked toward a sudden noise that had caught his attention.

Across the room, the man in the bed had woken and was attempting to get up.

Saben leapt to his feet and hurried toward their guests. “Daray, you’re safe. Just rest.”

Acacia watched from her seat as Saben tried to calm the stranger, moving slowly toward him with his hands raised in an obvious attempt to show him that he was safe. “Father, wait!” she called and cringed as she watched the man slam his body into the wall behind him.

Pain quickly crossed the stranger’s face and he seemed to gasp as he moved slightly away from the wall.

Saben glanced toward Acacia.

“There are restraints on him, Father,” she said softly.

Saben swallowed the lump in his throat as he turned his attention back to Daray and could see that blood had begun to soak the bandages. “Take it easy, lad,” the old priest said softly. “My son, you must sit still. You are safe here, do you understand me? No harm will come to you here. Your familiar brought you to me last night but it is not the first time that we have met. You know me.”

“Father, is there anything that I can do?” Acacia questioned as she slowly approached the three.

Silence filled the cabin and even the stranger stopped fidgeting as he stood slowly, pulling himself up with the help of his familiar and gently tossing his head to shift the black hair off his face before staring past Saben and into Acacia’s unmistakable silver-grey eyes.

“Lady Acacia, fetch our guest a cup of tea,” Saben said as firmly as he could then turned and watched as Daray sat slowly down on the edge of the bed. “She’s a student of mine from the Temple of Light,” he said smoothly but as Daray raised an eyebrow the old man sighed and nodded. “I was not going to tell you that she was here but I suppose that you would have figured it out anyway, wouldn’t you?” He shrugged his shoulders. “You seem to have a connection that passes beyond time and space.”

Daray nodded and shifted in the bed before leaning gingerly against the wall. His gaze firmly set on Saben, he nervously stroked Telara’s fur and the stone that hung around his neck soon began to glow.

“What is that?” Saben took a step back, moving so that Acacia was out of Daray’s line of sight.

Daray looked down at the stone and quickly cupped his hand over it.

“Why are you so quiet?” the old man questioned. “The first time we met, you were quite forceful the way you spoke. What has happened to change that? To change you?”

“He was silenced,” Acacia said softly. She fought the tremors in her hands as she stared at the man on the bed. “It is you, isn’t it? I’ve been watching you for as long as I can remember. I’ve seen things, I’ve seen . . . ,” she hesitated, gripping the mug so tightly that it shattered in her hands.

“Acacia, go and sit down, my child. Those were dreams,” Saben said softly, placing his hand gently on her shoulder.

Acacia looked up into his eyes and shook his hand off. “They were real. How else would I have known about the bonds on him? It’s not as though we can see them.”

“Acacia, go,” he said firmly. “This matter is not your concern. We will discuss your dreams later.”

Acacia stared at him again and shook her head.

“My child, you do not understand what is happening here.”

“Then help me understand,” she said firmly. “Make me understand how you raised me in a healing temple and taught me to always help those in need, then disallow me from helping someone that I can help.”

Saben stared at the woman uncertain what to say and finally nodded. “You are a grown woman,” he said slowly, “and you are fully capable of making your own decisions. What help can you offer?”

Acacia turned and hurried back to the table, grabbing her book and leafing through the pages. Finding the images she was seeking, she took the book in her arms. “This is how I can help,” she stated, bringing the book toward them. “I watched these spells. I know the curses that have befallen this man.”

Daray shook his head and placed a scarred hand on top of the book, pushing it downwards. He looked pleadingly into the priest’s eyes, keeping his hand on the book.

“I don’t understand,” Acacia said, staring at Daray. “Do you not want our help?”

“I think it would be best if you allow me some time to speak with our guest alone,” Saben said gently.

Acacia shook her head.

“Go,” he ordered.

After glaring at Daray, Acacia turned sharply and left the room, leaving her book to fall to the ground as she walked away.

Daray sat back on the bed, shifting himself as he tried to find a comfortable position. He stared at the sketchbook a long while and watched as the old man picked it up and began to leaf through the pages. He reached forward again to try to take the book but Saben moved quickly out of his reach.

“All of this . . . ,” he began hesitantly, staring at the pages in his hands. “Why was this done to you?”

Daray swallowed and stared down at his hands, rubbing them against each other.


“Are any of you listening to me?” he questioned. “The enemy that approaches does not care for your neutrality in this matter. They have come for this place and even with both kingdoms protecting you, they are still approaching. We cannot win this battle. They will kill all of you. Destroy everything in their path. Why give your lives for bits of stone—for a mountain?”

“Why give your life for a king?” the eldest of the men questioned. “You fight for what? For a man, for a kingdom made of stone.”

“A kingdom made of flesh and blood,” Terran answered firmly. “I fight to protect those who cannot protect themselves. Why else would I have come here?”

“We do not need your protection. The earthen spirits of this mountain shall protect us. They shall grant our salvation.”

“They are going to do nothing but watch you all die. Don’t you see, these invisible spirits don’t care about this realm. If they do exist, then they would have stepped in long ago. They would have granted you all peace.”

“But they did,” he said with a gentle old smile. “For millennia the two kingdoms have fought around us, gaining each other’s territory but leaving Echo Mountain to its keepers. The spirits of the earth have guarded Echo Mountain and our brethren.”

“Then why now do they stop?” he spat. “Men chose to ignore you. Echo Mountain was hardly a strategic point and you were more or less ignored—maybe even forgotten. These creatures have chosen this mountain to be their next conquest.”

“So they have,” he said with a shrug. “And you, brave knight, have you not questioned why these creatures attack this mountain? They crash through your armies and yet they do not attack the riches of either kingdom. Why have you not questioned their motives?”

“You know what it is that they want?”

“Of course we do,” he answered, “and we have sworn our lives to protect it. We will stay until we die—only death can make us leave.”

“It’s not the mountain that you protect, it’s something within it, isn’t it?”

“Echo Mountain is a temple and within it are many holy relics.”

“Lord Terran,” a voice called from the end of the corridor. “We can’t hold them back any longer.”

Terran stared toward the voice, watching as a small group of soldiers made their way toward him before looking back at the stubborn monk and shaking his head. “Back the way you came. We mapped out that second corridor—use it.”

“Retreat?” he questioned wide-eyed.

“Go, I’m trusting you all to evacuate as many men as possible.”

“Us?” the young soldier looked back. “What of you?”

“I’m staying. This is my place.”


“Go!” he ordered.

“Why do you stay?” the monk questioned.

Terran took a breath, tearing his eyes away from the path his men had taken. “Is there another way out of this place?”

“We will not leave.”

“Answer my question,” he growled. “Is there another exit?”


“Then I suggest you gather your relics and make your way there.”

“I told you—”

“If whatever you are protecting is so important that you are willing to give your lives for it, then what sense is there in staying to die? You’ll do nothing but hand everything over to the enemy anyway. Do you not see the foolishness of such a thing? If you stay to be slaughtered, you have done nothing toward protecting your relics. The earthen spirits cannot save you from flesh and blood enemies.”

“For us to leave, an Elemental Warrior must first come forth to carry the orb. We monks cannot touch it.”

“An orb?” he gasped. “That is what keeps you here to your deaths. Awaiting a mythical warrior to carry away some cursed object?”

“The orb is not cursed, simply powerful. If one of us were to touch it, the power would kill us. Granted each of us would gladly give our lives to keep it from the hands of those who approach but it is a false hope to think that we could get away from this place with it. As long as the orb is on the altar, the Earthen Elementals have great power. They can help us.”

“You wait on myths. No one is coming.”

“Gnome will lead our saviour to us. He will not allow the orb to fall into the wrong hands.”

Terran shook his head, focusing again on the corridor. “This is foolishness,” he muttered. “I hope this warrior of yours knows the back way in,” he said as he approached the mouth of the tunnel and slid his blade across the floor, up the wall, across the ceiling and down the opposite wall to form a complete line. He took a step back, his eyes focused on the line that he had drawn, and concentrated on the stone that made up the opening. Slowly, the lines began to draw closer to each other, pulling the stone from all directions and closing off the path completely.

Terran took a step back and dropped to one knee. “Damn. I’m too old for these tricks,” he said softly. “The most that will do is deter the demons for a short while. It will not stop them. It is still best that you all leave.” After a moment of uneasy silence, Terran got to his feet and turned to face the monks. “Did you hear what I said?” he asked before staring uncertainly at the men who were kneeling in front of him.

“The Great Gnome has not forsaken us,” the elder monk rejoiced. “Give thanks to he that has sent this warrior to our aid.”

“Warrior?” Terran stuttered, his strong shoulders falling momentarily.

“You shape the earth, you possess powers over it. You are an Earthen Warrior, an Elemental.”

“Hardly,” he scoffed. “I do not believe in your mystics and magic. That was a mere trick, anyone could have done it.”

“I suppose you have seen it performed many times by your peers,” the old monk answered as he got to his feet. “No doubt each knight possesses such remarkable skills as these.” He stared at Terran who remained silent. “As I thought. You use the powers of the earth without even understanding them. You haven’t any idea the potential that lies within you.”

“If I agree that I’m this Elemental Warrior that you speak of, will you agree to leave this place?”

“If you can carry the orb, we shall leave.”

“Show me.”


Chapter 3

Daray rolled slowly to his side, fighting to open his eyes and break free of the images surrounding him. Nearby, he was aware of a voice speaking in a steady rhythm and soon a warm sensation began to fill his chest. “What . . . ?” he whispered before finally succeeding in opening his eyes and staring toward the old man standing next to his bed. “Saben?”

He slowly shook his head, sitting up and touching his hand to the tingle in his chest before his eyes grew wide. “What are you doing?” he gasped. “Stop this! Do you hear me? You can’t . . . Telara, stop his fall,” he ordered and shoved the man back into the black bear who quickly laid behind the old man.

Daray watched as blood began to show on the old man’s lips and looked up toward the sound of a door being opened at the end of the hall. “You old fool, why did you do this?”


“Father Lorcan?” Acacia made her way toward the fire, wrapping the blanket tighter around her shoulders as the air grew colder with each step. After placing a log into the hearth, she turned and glanced toward the bed and stared at the stranger standing there watching her. “You’re awake.”

Daray nodded slowly.

“Where is . . . ?” she stuttered and held her breath as the stranger moved slightly and she caught sight of the old man. Acacia’s eyes grew wide, darting from Daray to Saben, before hurrying forward only to have the stranger grab her and force her back.

“You cannot touch him,” he said forcefully.

Acacia held her breath and shook her head. “Did he . . . ? You’re able to speak.”

Daray took a breath and nodded.

“But he . . . ,” she stuttered and attempted again to get past the stranger who held her tightly. “Please, let me go. Can’t you see he’s shaking? He needs help.”

“I’m sorry, Illama, you cannot help him. It’s too dangerous.”

“Illama?” She stared up into Daray’s red eyes nervously. “My name is Acacia. You have mistaken me for someone else.”

“Perhaps I have. Forgive me for that,” he said, bowing his head and letting go of her before gently pushing her back again.

Acacia nodded uncertainly, forcing her attention back to Saben. She glanced at the fresh blood staining Daray’s clothes and bit her lip. “I’m sorry I hurt you.”

Daray shook his head dismissively.

“Why is this happening? I’ve seen healing magic performed many times before but no one has ever reacted like this.”

“Healers don’t use this sort of magic. What Saben did was remove a curse, one that was beyond his ability, and he’s now paying the price for that. This is why I didn’t want either of you to help me.”

Acacia bit her lip as tears slowly ran down her cheeks. “I told him that I would perform the spell. I argued with him and he . . . I didn’t want him to get hurt. This isn’t what I wanted. I knew what had been done. I knew how to help you. I knew I could do this.”

Daray nodded slowly. “I believe that you could have removed the curse with minimal damage to yourself but that doesn’t mean that it would have been safe for you to do so. Saben understood that.” He took a breath and glanced back at the old priest. “He lacks the strength he needs to properly release the curse.”

“What’s going to happen to him?”

“If he allows the curse to linger within him, it will slowly kill him,” Daray answered. “If he continues to fight to complete what he started, he will die long before it can take him.”

Acacia shook her head and took a step forward.

“Do not move,” he ordered, glancing back at the old man. “Do I have your word? If you interfere, he will die and your fate won’t be much better.”

“I’m not going to stand here and watch him die,” she said firmly.

“There is nothing you can do.”

“You said he lacks the strength to continue with this—I can help him.”

“No, your magic is a beacon that should not be lit.”

“What are you—”

“I will not allow you to go near him, do you understand?”

Acacia took a step forward and Daray shoved her back, causing her to stumble and hit the ground.

“I will not say it again,” he growled, his eyes glowing slightly.

She stared at the floor nervously, her mind racing with fear at the danger that she had found herself in. As the stranger moved abruptly ahead of her she felt herself flinch back but quickly realized that he had not moved toward her but instead was kneeling next to Saben. “Get away from him,” she snapped.

Daray kept his focus firm, grasping the stone that hung around his neck with one hand while carefully holding his other toward the old man whose body was shaking fitfully.

Acacia watched as a dark light drifted from Daray’s hand down toward Saben causing the old man’s body to jump as it touched him. “What are you doing?” she questioned, forcing herself to her feet and taking a step forward. She held her breath as she realized that the old man’s body had grown still and shuddered. “What have you done?”

“You may now approach,” Daray said softly, his voice betraying an obvious note of fatigue. “I have given him a chance to live but nothing beyond a chance, there is no guarantee.” He leaned back and forced himself to take a deep breath. “If you wish for what I have done to keep him alive, then you must prepare to leave here and quickly. They will be coming for us.”


“There are those that search for me, and my powers will have called them to this place. They cannot be allowed to find you.”

Acacia stared at Daray uncertainly. “Me? Why would—”

The stranger shook his head. “We leave or we suffer.”


Solana leaned heavily against the doorframe, wiping the tears from her eyes and blinking against the mid-day sun. She took a breath in an attempt to stop the tremors in her shoulders and looked up toward the sound in the distance. “Terran!” she exclaimed, hurrying toward the approaching horse. “You’re home.”

Terran smiled and slipped carefully from the saddle, gripping it tightly to keep from crumbling as he touched the ground. He took a breath and released his hold on the horse before embracing the young woman who had come to greet him. “It’s good to be home.” He sighed, holding her tightly though part of him wanted to push her away from his aching body. “Solana, what’s wrong?”

Solana took a breath and released her grasp, looking up into Terran’s tired brown eyes. “Maia is sick.”

“Sick? When did she take ill? Has the healer been called?”

“He’s been. All he did was frown and shake his head.” She bit her lip and took a shaky breath. “He spoke to Flint but he’s not talking to me.”

Terran nodded and gently took her hand. “It’ll be all right, let’s go inside.”

“Terran,” Flint gasped, nearly walking into the man at the door. He took a step back and straightened his shoulders. “I see you’ve arrived in time to say goodbye. I’d hurry, the healer has said that she doesn’t have long.”

“Where are you going?” Terran questioned. “You should be by your mother’s side.”

“She’s not my mother,” he said coldly, keeping his gaze focused on the ground while he balled up his fists before looking up abruptly at Terran. “You knew, didn’t you?”

“Flint—” Terran started.

“All my life you’ve both lied to me. I was an orphan abandoned on your doorstep. You knew the truth.”

“Of course I knew,” he replied. “I’m the one who found you.”

Flint stared up at Terran, his knuckles white. “You’ve both let me live a lie. I was unwanted. You should have left me to die or sent me to an orphanage.”

“No,” Terran shook his head, “but we should have told you the truth a long time ago. Maia knew how to raise a child. There was no need to send you away.”

“Raise a child,” he scoffed. “How? She has no children.”

“Who do you think raised me?” Terran snapped and the ground beneath them shuddered slightly, startling the three of them. “Get back in there, Flint. You’ll never forgive yourself if you walk away now. She is your mother as much as she is mine.” He turned and took a step through the doorway, stumbling but quickly catching himself on the doorframe.

“Terran,” Solana said worriedly, “are you all right?”

“I’ll explain later,” he answered without turning to face her. “If you’ll both excuse me, I’m not going to let that woman die alone. She deserves better than that.”


“Where are we going?” Acacia asked softly. She held tightly to the reins of Saben’s horse, pulling it behind them as they travelled and wishing that the priest would wake and assure her that her decision to follow the stranger wasn’t a mistake. “We’ve been travelling for hours—the horses need rest.”

Daray turned and looked at Acacia sternly but quickly softened. “I’m afraid I’m not accustomed to having someone travel with me, nor am I familiar with horses and their limitations.”

“We should stop if we hope to continue to use their services,” she answered.

“Very well. Telara could use a rest too.”

Acacia nodded and watched as Daray slid off the side of the bear and crumbled to the ground. “Are you all right?” she gasped as she leapt from the back of her horse but hesitated to approach him.

Daray looked up and managed a smile. “I’m a little stiff from riding,” he said, shifting and leaning against Telara. “See to the priest. I am not your concern.”

After watching the man close his eyes and seem to sink into the bear’s fur she moved closer to Saben. “Can you hear me?” she whispered, taking his hand in hers and biting her lip. “He’s cold,” she said fearfully.

Daray opened his eyes and forced himself to sit up. “Is he breathing?”

“It’s shallow but he is still breathing. He’s dying, isn’t he? Whatever you did, it’s not enough. I need to get him back to the temple. They can help him. I know they can.”

“You fear me, don’t you?” Daray turned his gaze toward the setting sun.

“You’re the first demon I’ve ever met,” she answered, wringing her hands.

“You’re right to fear me,” he stated, forcing himself to his feet. “I am dangerous—especially to you. Listen carefully, we will return the priest to the temple but first, you must give me your word that you will not speak of any of this to anyone. Everything that you have seen must remain a secret.”

“I can trust—”

“You can trust no one,” he snapped. “I warned Saben of that twenty years ago when . . . ,” he paused. “Do I have your word? You and Saben were riding through the trees and that is all you recall clearly before the attack.”

“Attack?” Acacia shuddered. “I won’t say anything. Just tell me which way to go and you will be rid of us.”

Daray nodded slowly. “Give me your book.”

“My book?” she stuttered, looking at his outstretched hand before hesitantly reaching into her pocket and removing the shrunken text. “What do you want with—” Acacia gasped, dropping the book to the ground as it suddenly burst into flames.

“Telara, wait for me elsewhere,” he said as he patted the bear’s head.

“What have you done?” she snapped, staring at the ashes of her sketchbook.

“The temple isn’t far. I suspected that I would not be able to do enough for him so we have been travelling toward it.”

“Why did you destroy my book? Those images are—”

“A record of suffering.” He shrugged. “Not something you should be dwelling on.”

“You had no right to do that.”

Daray shrugged and began to walk away. “Do not return to drawing such things.”

“Who are you to tell me what I can and can’t do?” she snapped.

Daray paused and looked back at her with a raised eyebrow before shrugging his shoulders and returning his gaze to the setting sun. He took another step and stumbled, hitting his knees.

“Are you all right?”

“Through the trees—can you see the temple?” he questioned, breathing in deeply. “Remember what I told you. Trust no one.”

Acacia took a step toward him, noticing a tremor run through him before two large bat-like wings suddenly tore through his back. His body twisted in front of her eyes, growing in size as his demon form took hold. “Daray?”

“Run,” he growled, his eyes focused on the ground. “Get on your horse and run. Your life and Saben’s depend on you making it to the temple before I do.”

“What?” she gasped, stumbling back toward the horses as she watched gashes beginning to appear on the man’s body and quickly realized that his growing form would no doubt press against the invisible restraints. As he stretched out his wings and began to struggle to his feet, Acacia leapt onto her horse and spurred it forward, pulling Saben’s horse with her.

Racing down the street toward the temple doors, Acacia became aware of panic around her and shrieks of fear. She could feel Daray close behind them and knew that he could easily overtake them but instead, he seemed to follow her. Acacia glanced back, watching as the blood-soaked demon continued to follow, and hurriedly turned her attention back to the temple, relieved as the doors were flung open ahead of her.

Hurrying the horses through the doors, she glanced back again and saw Daray fly higher into the sky, letting out a howl that shook the stones on the ground. She watched him rising against the setting sun then heard him cry out in pain and saw his body falling from the sky. Her eyes wide, she attempted to see where he would fall but was instead pulled deeper into the temple.

“Lady Acacia,” the priest said worriedly. “You are safe now. The demon cannot enter our walls.”

“We were out for a ride.” She swallowed nervously. “Father Lorcan has been injured.”

“I can feel darkness on him,” the priest said worriedly. “Was he struck by the creature’s magic?”

“I . . . ,” Acacia stuttered, “I’m not sure. Everything happened so quickly.”

“It’s going to be all right. I promise you have arrived in time.” The priest rang a bell and four other priests quickly joined them, lifting Saben from his horse and hurrying out of the room. “Go to your chambers and rest. We will come for you when Father Lorcan wakes.”


“Terran, you’re home.” Maia smiled and attempted to sit up as Terran entered her room.

“Don’t get up,” he said, taking a chair and moving it next to her bed. “How are you feeling?”

“Oh, I’m fine,” she answered.

“Don’t lie to me, I can see that you’re in pain.” He choked on the words. “Solana told me that the doctor has been, what did he say?”

“There is nothing to be done.” Maia managed a weak smile. “Don’t be sad, Terran. I’ve lived a good long life. The gods blessed me. They allowed me to raise two strong and responsible men and a beautiful young woman. I have no regrets.”

“Why did you tell Flint that you weren’t his mother?” Terran questioned.

“He deserved to know the truth.” Maia shrugged. “It wasn’t fair to leave you to tell him.”

“He’s angry.”

“I know he is,” she replied and began to cough, her frail old body trembling.

Terran clenched his fist as he watched and waited out her coughing fit. “He’ll never forgive himself for not being here.”

“At least one of my boys is with me.” She smiled, wiping the blood from her lips. “Did you evacuate the temple?”

“Yes,” he answered and looked away. “Maia, did you know that was where my father disappeared to after my mother died? Did you know he became a monk?”

“I received a few letters from him stating he had found a new purpose to his life but not many,” she replied.

“Does that mean you knew?”

Maia nodded gently. “I’m sorry, Terran, I never wanted you to know that your father abandoned you.”

“I’m not the only son he abandoned.” Terran swallowed. “He died just over twenty years ago. The monks told me he had taken another wife, abandoned the life of a monk, and that they had a son. His wife died in childbirth and he returned to the temple with the infant before dying himself. They took the boy to my father’s closest relative.”

Maia’s eyes grew wide. “That makes Flint . . . Are you going to tell him?”

“Tell who?” Flint questioned. “Are there more secrets?”

“We were discussing how you and I were both abandoned by our parents,” Terran said slowly. “After my mother died, my father ran away. He was too lost in his grief to even look at me. I remember both my parents, I remember losing them both. Perhaps not knowing them would have made it easier.”

Flint leaned against the doorway and Solana joined him, taking his hand and pulling him into the room before she began to back away. “Stay, Solana. Please.” Flint said softly and Terran nodded.

“It’s not my place,” she whispered.

“Of course it is. We’re a family,” Maia said and began to cough violently, gasping for breath as she did.

Terran held his breath as he watched the old woman slowly steady again.

Solana buried her head into Flint’s shoulder and began to cry anew.

“Flint, is there anything you want to say?”

“Mother,” Flint said as his voice broke and he absently patted Solana’s back, “I’m sorry I left.”

Maia looked toward Flint and nodded. “I love all of you,” she whispered. “Stay together and stay strong.”

“We will, Maia,” Terran said, his voice trembling slightly.

The three watched as she opened her mouth to speak again but instead of uttering a word she sighed and closed her eyes.

Terran reached forward and took her hand, then leaned over her and kissed her forehead. “It’s over,” he said softly.

Chapter 2
Chapter 3


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