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For the crime of healing without payment, the Brethren imprisoned Dylan's soul in stone. Every full moon, they awakened him and renewed the bonds. When the blood dried on the stone, his awareness faded, but during those few brief moments, he had one thought--revenge. He embraces the pain of an awakening to reach out into the world beyond his stone prison.
enturies later a mind touches his and hope for escape from his eternal prison soars. However, his possible savior is unaware of her latent magic, the power needed to free him.
Through the years, the Brethren lost the ability to trap a soul for binding. Cuhlwich, the current head of the Brethren intends to regain that power--at any cost. He also wants a successor of his choosing, including using magic to enforce his will. Only his son, Colwynn, wants to chose his own mate--an unknown woman whose magic calls him from afar.
A spell kept secret for generations.
A father's demands that can't be met.
A woman who stands to lose everything.
Four paths -- one destiny
With the power to bind souls and
control all magic in the balance.
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Forcing his emotions behind a wall of ice, determination fueled his attempt to cut the bond controlling Aine. A flick of his wrist and the chains shattered into pieces. The motes floated throughout the room in a black haze. He searched Aine’s face for signs of pain or fear. All he saw was the peaceful sleep of an innocent mind.
Colwynn’s mind worked out the next move as if he played a game of castle and siege. He allowed his racing pulse to slow. Calm, deliberate calculations had to dominate his thoughts. Each incantation he called forth built on the one before. His voice grew louder as he fed more of his power into his words.
A glow of sea sprites replaced the last vestige of the setting sun. Hundreds of the tiny winged creatures flew around the room creating long streamers that swirled and danced in the air. Gathering the living ribbons of light, Colwynn wove them into a glittering crown that he slid over Aine’s blonde curls. After a moment’s respite, he started the protection against any future geas. Although he intended his words to ring out with strength, they sounded barely above a whisper.
“Fire of mountains, strength of iron,
Remove the geas from this innocent’s soul.
Crown of sprites, power of life,
Restore the free will that was stole.
Her destiny be hers to decide,
Not obstructed by man, magic, or tide.
So mote it be.”
His spell echoed with the hum of fluttering wings. After a moment’s respite, he cried out, “Sprites of the clouds, assist me.” Summoning power from deep in his being and merging it with that of the eldritch spirits, he created a stronger block than he had believed possible. The glow flowed over the sleeping woman until a golden light encased her entire body. Still, the sprites’ song rose in volume. At the crescendo, a flare from the bed blinded Colwynn.
His vision cleared to show a faint sparkling beneath Aine’s skin. Aine is guarded from the threat of magic, neither her father nor mine will ever force her to act against her wishes. Now to defend her from the threat of man.
Thoughts swirled in Colwynn’s mind as strategies appeared to be speared and dismissed. When the night was over, he would leave. A man of Jarlath’s wealth and seniority could not be accused without proof. Once again, Colwynn dug into his reserves of energy. His hands traced the ancient runes of truth in the air.
“Chains of iron forged in magic,” he hissed. “Show me the stealer of innocence and will.”
Despite the softness of the command, it contained an unyielding force. The mist of the broken control spell formed into a frame. A face appeared in the shimmering surface of the enchanted mirror. As Colwynn expected, Jarlath’s face was in the center. Then Nemor’s and several other men Colwynn knew were acolytes of the Brethren. Bearded or clean-shaved, some bald, others sporting long curls, image after image appeared until the frame bulged.
An unreasoning fury surged forward. All the Brethren participated. They all knew!
“Show me the man behind the plot,” Colwynn yelled. The hovering reflection wavered. When it stopped moving, one final face appeared.
Movement at the tree line sharpened Dylan’s focus. His signal sent the pair of young dogs at his side slinking to the ground. Almost before they were fully weaned, Eth and Lon, puppies born in the first litter on the island from the wave-delivered dogs, had taken to following him around. Finally he admitted he liked their companionship and accepted their presence. They lay, heads pointing to where a large deer hesitantly emerged from the woods.
Dylan slowly rose to one knee, reached back and notched an arrow in his bow. His aim tracked the animal out into the middle of the meadow. Thoughts of venison roast tonight, and enough meat to fill the soup pot for a week contrasted with the concern of a kill so close to home. He had not set out that morning in anticipation of such a find.
A tingling at his senses forced him to change his mind. Colwynn was trying to contact him. “Maybe, next time,” he called to the stag. The animal flicked its tail and bounded into the brush. Standing quiet, Dylan sent his magic outward. Using his powers still required concentration, but each casting a spell required less effort. Finally, he felt he was overcoming his eons of imprisonment. The fact that Gareth was physically strong, even if his magic wasn’t, made things easier.
Dylan reached out for Colwynn. The other mage was occupied, his mind locked behind a hard shell. Dylan pursued his efforts. An image formed in his mind--a ship. Racing across the grass, he halted at the top of the bluff and searched the coastline. Now, he no longer needed magic to see the vessel anchored two coves down. He could not hear the commands, but soon a small boat was lowered. Kneeling behind the rocks, he stayed out of sight of the groups of men being rapidly rowed to shore. Once on the beach the brown-robed monks spread out.
Dylan’s pulse sped faster. The newcomers were Brethren--the time of reckoning was close.
Copyright 2013 by Helen Henderson
Cover Art by Fantasia Frog Designs
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