persistent shaking awakened Brydon several hours later. The room was
dark, but a lamp burned on the bedside table with a faint light. Brydon
raised his head to see a very alert-looking Toryn pushing at him.
“I’m awake,” Brydon growled.
“Finally. I thought you were dead,” Toryn replied.
“I was,” Brydon responded with a groan. He shook off the last vestiges
of a wretched nightmare—no doubt the result of his foray into Toryn’s
“I’m starved,” Toryn went on.
“You woke me because you’re hungry?” Brydon grumbled.
A rustle in one corner of the room drew the attention of both men and
Brydon actually rolled off the bed. He reached for the sword-hilt that
was… not there—he had left it in the Great Hall. Imbedded in Reed, he
The potential threat materialized into a slip of a
girl—the same one that had helped Brydon guide Shevyn to safety. She
grinned pertly as she turned up the lamp.
gentle sirs,” she said in a soft voice. Her eyes darted to Toryn.
Brydon knew the Redolian had made another conquest without even trying.
Toryn crossed his arms behind his head and appraised her while Brydon
sat on the bed and pulled on his boots. Someone—Verana, most likely—had
“Her Majesty awaits you in the Secondary Council
Chamber,” the girl told Brydon, who stood and stamped his boots into
place on the carpeted floor.
“Where might that be?” Brydon asked.
“Down one level, turn right, and it will be on the left past the dining
hall.” She turned her attention back to Toryn. “Do you desire anything,
“Food... first,” Toryn replied.
snorted loudly and went out, though he was relieved that Toryn seemed
to be suffering no ill effects. He made his way to the “Secondary
Council Chamber” where he was greeted by Shevyn, Kerryn, and a
dark-haired man Brydon had not met. His attire proclaimed him to be a
Gauntlet Knight and he held himself with a proud bearing. Brydon felt
himself being judged by the weight of the man’s stare. The man nodded
finally and Brydon breathed a sigh of relief. He had often wondered if
the Gauntlet Knights held themselves superior to the other Orders.
A roaring fire burned in the huge fireplace and Shevyn placed a goblet of mulled wine into Brydon’s hand.
“Welcome, Sir Brydon,” Kerryn said. “This is Sir Montyr, Knight
Commander of the Gauntlet. He is in command while the Marshall is
recovering from an injury.”
Montyr nodded. “An injury which has a good chance of healing, thanks to your Healer.”
Brydon dipped his head toward the man in greeting. Shevyn looked at Brydon questioningly.
Kerryn caught the look. “What are your plans, Sir Brydon?” Kerryn
asked. Brydon wondered how it was that her cousin could apparently read
her mind when he could not. Familiarity, he supposed. Kerryn went on,
“You are welcome to stay here. We will need cool heads and possibly
cold steel to hold what is rightfully Shevyn’s. There are many who are
not pleased to suddenly find themselves ruled by a woman. No offense,
cousin, but Ven‑Kerrick has always been held by men. We all know that
the Gauntlet is useless now. Thank Adonai most do not know of its
theft; that is a secret we’ve managed to contain. Thus far, at least.”
Brydon looked at Jace, confused. He had not told them? Brydon said,
“But Toryn brought the Gauntlet back. He acquired it on his journey
through the Ven-Horns. Rather than risk losing it, we left it in the
Shevyn put a hand on Brydon’s arm. She looked from
him to Jace, whose face held a pained expression. Jace said quietly,
“We recovered it from the caverns. It’s a fake.”
“A fake? After the scene we witnessed with Sellaris, Keev and the Parmittans? They were escorting it with a small army!”
“Reed had to have known it would be tracked. Kerryn tried to send a
force after it, as did Berikon. It was a decoy. Sellaris and the others
likely had no idea it wasn’t real. Reed was willing to sacrifice them
all in the event the caravan was waylaid, plus it had the added benefit
of exposing his enemies. As soon as we tried to take the Gauntlet, Reed
turned up. Apparently he found you to be a thorn in his side. At that
point, he decided to rid himself of you.”
Brydon felt sick. “What of the real Gauntlet?”
“It was most likely smuggled by a single messenger. Chances are it has
been in the hands of the Dark Master for quite some time, if that is
where Reed sent it.”
“Has anyone been sent after it?” Brydon
asked and moved to stand before the fire. The pleasant evening had
suddenly acquired a chill. His gaze shifted to Montyr, who swore
roundly before looking at Shevyn apologetically.
“Sir Jace and
Lady Verana are leaving tomorrow. I would send a contingent of Gauntlet
Knights with them, but I cannot. The Concurrence strictly forbids any
militant person of the Four‑Kingdoms—and Ven-Kerrick, obviously—from
entering Parmitta. The agreement was made with the King of Parmitta and
even though his line is long-since dead and gone, we cannot break it.
Crossing into Parmitta would be considered an act of war and would
sever the Concurrence. The fact that the Gauntlet has been taken to
Parmitta suggests that a new king has begun to reign there. If so, it
is even more important that no Gauntlet Knight steps across the
Brydon looked at Montyr. “But Jace is going.”
Montyr smiled shrewdly. “That is our only avenue. The Concurrence
states that ‘No militant person employed by, residing in, or swearing
fealty to the members of this Accord, including but not limited to, the
Knight-Priests established in Ven-Kerrick, whether secular, religious,
or of any other nature, shall under any circumstances set foot on the
lands south of the Ven-Horn Mountains currently known as Parmitta.’”
was amazed that he could remember it all, but Montyr gestured to the
round table upon which lay several rolls of yellowed parchment. “We
have been studying it. However, the Concurrence says nothing about
militant persons employed by, residing in, or swearing fealty to the
northern countries. Jace, as a Knight-Priest of the Shield, can go
where he will. Verana, as non‑militant, is exempt.”
“Jace the Wanderer,” Brydon breathed, wondering if Jace was somehow fated because of the name he had chosen.
Kerryn’s next words halted that line of thought. “And you, Sir Brydon.
As a Lance Knight, you may cross into Parmitta without affecting the
Concurrence, even if you choose to go for the sake of Ven-Kerrick. You
do not reside here, you are not employed by us, nor do you swear fealty
to this throne.”
Brydon drained his goblet. He looked at Shevyn for a moment, but her features were blank, queen-like. Brydon smiled.
“Actually, I have a far more selfish reason to go after the Gauntlet,”
Brydon said at last. “I am on a Quest to bring the Gauntlet back to
Falara.” He held up a quick hand to still the expected outburst. “Not
to claim it, merely as proof that I have fulfilled my Quest, as my duty
commands. It would be returned to you immediately thereafter.
Ven-Kerrick would be hailed in the north for its goodwill and, as you
have said, the Gauntlet is useless now with the Kerrick males gone.” He
glanced apologetically at Shevyn as he said the last and she looked
away for a moment. She moved to the table and picked up a quill,
which she dipped into ink. She wrote swiftly. She blew on it for a
moment to dry the ink and then handed it to Brydon.
it and then read it aloud. “We hereby agree to the terms set forth by
Sir Brydon of Falara. If he should find and return the Gauntlet of
Ven-Kerrick, it shall be loaned to him to present to his homeland with
all due ceremony, after which it shall be returned to Ven‑Kerrick.” It
was signed Queen Shevyn Kerrick, 315, 45th Year of the Lance.
She took the document and held it out to Kerryn and Montyr to endorse
as witnesses. Kerryn shrugged and Montyr grumbled, but they both
signed. Kerryn handed it back to Brydon, who refused to take the
“It may get lost where I’m going. I trust you to keep it for me.”
Kerryn tossed it absently at the table where it fell among the scrolls of the Concurrence.
“When will you depart, Sir Brydon?” Montyr asked.
“As soon as I’m satisfied that Toryn is fully recovered. I doubt that he will allow me to leave here without him.”
Shevyn looked pointedly at Kerryn and then gestured toward the door.
Her cousin took the hint. “I believe I shall turn in. It has been an
Montyr agreed. “I will prepare your provisions
for the journey, Sir Brydon. Your horses have been brought in from the
catacombs. That is a very fine red stallion. It is yours?”
“Toryn’s,” Brydon responded, making a mental note to get that tale from
the Redolian as soon as possible. Montyr and Kerryn departed and Shevyn
picked up a the parchment and paper again.
She wrote, I believe
you will succeed, but I do not want you to go. Below that, she had
written, I thought he had killed you. She looked at him and her blue
eyes sparkled with tears. He felt a pang and wondered what she had
suffered at the hands of Reed. She could not even speak to help ease
the memory. A fierce desire to protect her welled up in him and he
stepped forward and folded her in his arms. She held him tightly.
Brydon soothed her, caressing her hair and murmuring to her gently.
After a time, she drew back and gazed up at him. She seemed so
vulnerable. Brydon leaned down and kissed her soft lips, which trembled
He sighed. “I do not know what the future holds
for us, Shevyn,” he admitted. “For now, the paths of our duties run
parallel. But if I should take the Gauntlet to Falara in time...”
She nodded curtly and pulled away. She seemed to pull on an invisible
mantle and become once more the Queen of Ven-Kerrick. He remembered her
standing beside a stream, combing her wet hair and her blue eyes
flashing fire; the carefree days of easy comradeship were gone forever.
His hands dropped to his sides. Was duty always to be a burden to him?
“You will be far too busy here to worry about me, Your Majesty,” he
said softly. “I will return with the Gauntlet. For your honor.”
She smiled at him ruefully and he bowed and went out with a heavy heart.
Brydon’s room overlooked the courtyard and he sat on the window seat
gazing out at the moonlight. He still shared the room with Toryn,
though he had left the large bed to the Redolian, content to sleep on
the valet’s bed in the antechamber. A servant had informed him that the
room formerly belonged to the crown prince. The Council had convened
earlier that day and Brydon wondered what the outcome had been. Jace
and Verana had departed. Jace planned to detour to the Black City and
ask if Rakyn had any information on where the Gauntlet might have been
taken. They planned to meet Brydon and Toryn at the guard post on the
banks of Lake Sparkle in Bodor, the final checkpoint before entering
Brydon walked to the bed, intending to turn in for an
early start. He staggered against the bedpost and grasped at it for
support as a mental blast brought him to his knees. He could see
nothing through the agony but glaring whiteness, and hear nothing but a
piercing howl until a voice like stone on stone overshadowed it.
I have been watching you, the voice boomed in his head, though he shielded against it with all his might. Your feeble powers are nothing to me. Know this: I have the item you seek.
Brydon saw a clear picture of the Gauntlet, glittering and cold, before
the image was snatched away. He held onto consciousness by a thread.
I am not pleased that you did away with Reed. He was useful to me.
However, all is not lost. I made arrangements in the event of Reed’s
failure and my plans shall proceed. You will do well to return to your
homeland and forget the Concurrence. Without the Gauntlet they are
doomed. Heed my words, Falaran, and go away. If you are fortunate, I
will not turn my attention to the north for many years to come. The evil laugh sounded again, so strongly that Brydon thought his skull would burst, and then the presence was gone.
He struggled to stand, using the bedpost for support. A sharp knife of
fear pierced his soul and he remembered Reed’s last words with a chill.
It could only be the Dark Master. What sort of man could hold such
power? Rakyn had said that no one could speak across long distances
without having a former connection to the recipient, and Brydon knew he
had never encountered the presence before.
He sank down on the
corner of the bed, stunned by the revelation. His plans would continue.
What sort of plans? Conquest, obviously, and he had taken the Gauntlet
to prevent the Kerricks from using it against him. But was that the
only reason? Could the Dark Master put it to use?
sighed, knowing his Quest had taken on an entirely new dimension. The
Gauntlet was no longer a trinket to take him and display for his bride
to be. It could be the key to survival for them all, except that no
Kerrick males were alive to wield it. Even so, the loss of it would
demoralize the members of the Concurrence. How long could they keep the
knowledge of its theft from the public?
Brydon curled his hands
into fists. He was a sworn Knight-Priest first and foremost. The
Falaran throne would have to wait. I will find you, he vowed. I
will find you and the Gauntlet and see an end to this. He sent the
thought in a broad range, not knowing if it was received.
groaned as a more immediate worry occurred to him. Shevyn would likely
wish to accompany him and Toryn would be impossible to convince to stay
behind. He hated to expose either of them to more danger.
Brydon spent a sleepless night pondering the dilemma until the cold
light of morning brought him the promise of a bleak future.
I can't believe it's FINISHED!!! Well, Book One, at any rate.
BWAHAHAHA! Sorry it took so long to post this last chapter; it
actually ended on a MAJOR cliffhanger before. At least it has a bit of
closure now. *grin* I'll most likely finish the trilogy one day. The
second book is done, I just haven't edited a SINGLE WORD of it, so
yeah... it's a mess. And I'm about a third of the way through writing
SO many more things to come. More magical objects,
a character death, the return of Sellaris, political machinations... I
love Book Two. So, shall I keep going?
Please let us know what you think of this book by clicking here(you can comment anonymously if you like).