A sample chapter from, The End of Mor.
Dekor opened the door of the inn, stepping inside he turned and closed it with a soft click. He walked over to a table in the corner by the window and watched the growing storm. He slipped his hood from his head letting out a long, tired breath. The water ran from his robe forming tiny pools around his feet. He slowly removed the cloak from his shoulders and hung it over the back of an adjacent chair. Looking over toward the bar he signalled to the innkeeper. Rain lashed at the window next to where he sat whilst lightning drew its rake-like fingers across the blackened sky.
“Greetings on this wet night to you sire, what can I get you?” The innkeeper asked as he draped a damp cloth over his shoulder.
“Some water and a meal if there is one, thank you.” Dekor looked the man straight in the eyes. “And is there a room available?”
“The only food at this time is bread and cold meat I’m afraid, but we do have a room for 3 copper pieces for the night.”
“That will be fine thank you, I’ll take it.” The innkeeper shuddered as he walked away. Dekor could hear the man clattering about in the kitchen, it was not long before he returned with his meal. “There you are sir,” he said placing the tray in front Dekor. On it was a large chunk of bread, a sizeable portion of beef together with some pickles a cup and a pitcher of water.
“Take what you need sire, it’s all included in the cost. Your room is to the left at the top of the stairs over there.” The innkeeper pointed to a dark opening in the back corner of the inn where the light from the ceiling lamp cast dim shadows. “There are no locks on the guest rooms, sire. If you need anything else just let me know. We close the bar for the night when the candle burns down.” He pointed to the hanging lamp.
“Thank you.” Dekor tore into the bread and meat as though he had not eaten for days.
A tall, gangly young man who had been sitting at the far end of the bar with a comely young woman turned around to look at Dekor. He nudged the arm of the girl and pointed over toward Dekor. “Go make yourself known,” he ordered her. The girl rose from her stool and took a step toward Dekor.
“You needn’t bother,” Dekor said without looking up. “I’ve nothing of interest to either of you.”
The youth leered at the innkeeper. “Go do the dishes and close the door as you go.” He pushed his stool away and approached Dekor’s, bringing the girl along with him.
The innkeeper strode along behind the bar thrusting his hand wrapped in a towel into a tankard and twisted it sharply. “We’ll have no trouble in here, if you don’t mind.” He stared at the young man who slid a silver dagger from his sleeve far enough for the innkeeper to see.
“Go do your dishes like a good boy,” the youth glowered, tucking the dagger carefully inside his jacket, “this has nothing to do with you. The innkeeper stepped back, cast a quick glance over at Dekor and shut himself in the kitchen where he clattered around with the dishes.
“Mind if we join you?” The gangly youth asked, glancing toward the kitchen making sure that the innkeeper was keeping himself busy. “Joely and I are just looking for a bit of fun, that’s all, mister. No harm in a bit of fun, is there now?” He sidled around the table getting a closer to Dekor while his accomplice ran her hand over the robe draped over the chair.
“This will look nice on me, Lorrin, don’t you think?” The girl pouted as she sat in the chair opposite Dekor.
“Leave it, now,” Dekor warned, grabbing the youth by the wrist, “or the stick insect here will die.” Dekor’s hand began to glow a deep red. The sound of sizzling flesh filled the air.
“You leave him alone,” Joely blurted, staring at the wisps of smoke rising from Lorrin’s wrist.
Dekor yanked Lorrin’s arm from the table thrusting it toward the floor bringing Lorrin’s face crashing into the table. The noises coming from the kitchen grew louder. Dekor slipped his free hand into Lorrin’s jacket and drew out the dagger, weighing it in his hand.
Joely looked at the robe, shimmering in the candlelight, then at Lorrin with his face pressed to the table and a dagger at his throat.
Dekor pushed the tip of the dagger into Lorrin’s flesh staring across the table at Joely. “Trust me, I’ll do it.” He drew a line of blood across Lorrin’s throat. “Any moment now and he’ll be gasping for breath.” He smiled ominously at the girl.
“Just do as he says Joely,” Lorrin spat.
“No problem, we’re leaving right now,” stammered the girl sliding her chair back from the table, all the while keeping her hands in front of her where they could be seen.
“Now leave me in peace,” growled Dekor as he went back to devouring the food. Once finished he tidied up his table and returned the plates to the bar where he left a fistful of coins.
“Don’t even think about taking it,” he warned, looking over at the young couple who were now grabbing their coats and heading for the door. “Take care now, won’t you.” Dekor watched them leave then went up to his room.
The raging storm would not let Dekor sleep; no matter what he tried, the rumbling thunder and lashing rain kept calling him to come. He could feel the power of the storm the enticing energy of the lightning beckoned him like a sailor to a siren. Trees erupted into flame as the lightning split them in two, sending gnarly old branches crashing down into the muddy earth. Fire lit the bedroom window from a burning tree outside and Dekor could no longer resist the call of the temptress. He slid from his bed and stood by the window watching the lightning thrash the sky with its whip-like trails. Dekor saw the fire and felt its warmth. He could sense the hidden passion burning deep within his soul, rising, urging him on. He reached out with his mind, searching the rooms of the inn. “Stop!” He cried, falling to his knees, but the fire was all-consuming. The temptress of the flames had been roused, but her lust had not been bridled; now she was calling to him in the night. Not satisfied with burning timbers, the temptress wanted a soul to devour and add to her ever increasing ranks. Dekor grabbed his robe and fled from his room.
The whole inn was shrouded in darkness. Stumbling along the corridor crying inside as the flames of lust burned ever deeper. He bumped a door, clumsily knocking the catch with his arm, the door swung open: Dekor stepped inside. He could sense a body, sleeping peacefully in the darkened room. A flash of lightning lit the room for a split second, long enough for Dekor to see the form of the young girl lying covered with only a sheet. He gasped, horrified at his own thoughts. He tried to look away, to reach for the door, but the darkness was now within his heart and the only light by which he could see was the lust of the flame. The lightning flashed again, this time Dekor could see his own hand snatching away the bed sheet. In a single breath he had covered her mouth with his hand.
The girl awoke, startled, she tried to scream, but no sound came as her world fell under the spell of darkness. Dekor knelt over her his hand pressing harder as he lowered himself until his mouth was against his own hand. Reaching down, fumbling, he yanked her nightdress up and forced himself upon her. He could feel her body rigid beneath him, unyielding, her fists beating upon his back. “Open your eyes,” he ordered through gritted teeth. He stared into her terror filled eyes, tears running down her temples in rivulets.
That night, as Dekor stole the innocent virtue of a young girl, he stepped across the threshold from light into darkness. The light of his world snuffed out by the lust of the flame. All Magnus’s warnings were forgotten.
He looked down at the sobbing girl, curled up in a ball as she tried to drag the bed covers back over her defiled body. The blood of her innocence stained the pure white linen as it clung to her shivering skin. Dekor felt nothing for her his heart no longer felt anything but lust. Alerted by a sound in the corridor, he turned, threw the window open and leapt out into the maelstrom of the night. He ran and ran, unaware of where his feet were taking him. On he sped through forests and rivers, over the hills until the mountains stood tall before him. He had to get away. He looked up at the sheer wall of rock that underpinned sharp peaks of the Dragon’s Teeth. Yes, he would be safe there.
The innkeeper rushed into his daughter’s room, the curtains billowing in the open window.. “Dorn, my sweet,” he said gently falling to his knees by her bedside. Raising the oil-lamp he could see the blood stained sheet that covered his trembling daughter. Carefully he pulled the sheet back over her head, confused, shaking with rage. Who had done this to his only child, his precious daughter? What manner of monster had been within his walls? He raked the tears from his eyes his hand covering his trembling lips. “Who?” hauling himself to his feet.
Dorn looked up at her father, through tear drained eyes, in the pale light of the lamp, her mouth moved in silent words.
“Martha,” he yelled for the girl’s mother, “quickly.” He stood pointing a trembling hand at the child.
“Baby,” Martha, cradled her only child in her arms, rocking her gently, “Eliazer, you must get Finlay, now.” She looked at her husband through eyes burning with rage.
“Right.” The innkeeper set the lamp on the bedside table and left to find the chief of the Fighters’ Guild.
Soon the whole village was up hunting for the monster; if found he would hang.
The door to the room opened, its frame filled by Finlay who stood silently surveying the scene. He looked at the woman comforting her child and spoke softly to her. “Martha,” holding his hands in open gesture, “I… I am so sorry at this dreadful event,” he murmured. Kneeling beside his sister he drew her close. “How is she?” Dorn clung tighter to her mother.
“She’ll pull through, like us all.” Martha sighed. “Is there anything I can get you?” She asked, kissing the crown of Dorn’s head.
“Do you have a description of the man?” Puffing out his cheeks Finlay rose to his feet.
“Speak to Eliazer, he can tell you,” Martha hung her head sighing returning her attention to her daughter.
Eliazer finished lighting the fire and lamps around the inn and was now sat at the table where Dekor had been earlier. He sat staring at the fire toying with something in his hand.
“Eliazer,” Finlay sat in the chair beside him placing a hand upon his shoulder, “I know this a bad moment but can you tell me anything about the fugitive?”
“It was a young man, a guest,” Eliazer turned his head slowly toward Finlay, his eyes red with tears, He’s gone missing, but he left this.” Eliazer dropped the scabbard onto the table wiping his nose on his sleeve. “He was only a boy. What sort of kid does that?” Nothing would stop the tears now.
As Finlay picked up the scabbard, his eyes widened, his mouth hung open. “This is the scabbard of a battlemage, a new one at that. What else can you tell me?” He put the scabbard back on the table.
“He was wearing a dark green cloak with gold beading around the hood and small silver tassels on the cuffs. The boy smelt of fire, and something else.” The innkeeper looked straight at Finlay. “Death.”
“The robe you describe is that of the Archmage Magnus, but the scabbard is that of a battle mage. I will ride to Belgor immediately and see what I can find out.” Finlay rose from his chair, “Have courage. We will find this boy and kill him.”
Very soon the innkeeper and his wife heard Finlay issuing orders to his men outside the inn. “Damon, Balto, Regis, come, we ride to Belgor. You others see to it that no-one gets to Dorn, and I mean no one.” They marched out of the inn with urgency in their stride, swinging themselves up onto their horses with a cry of “For Alzear!” Finlay and his men rode off with the first fingers of the morning sun to their backs.
The road to Belgor glistened in the rising sun. Its surface covered in a thick coat of slippery mud that caused the horses to lose their footing with regularity. They rode in pairs, with Finlay at the front and Balto at his side, with the other two holding tight formation. Often they would ride around debris from the storm, stopping for nothing. With his mind fixed on the task at hand Finlay drove his men forward, despite the difficulties of the road surface. Mud spattered up the horses and over the riders and still they remained in silent formation.
As Relgar rolled onto the horizon, the university tower like a dark finger supporting the sky, Finlay raised his hand, slowing his mount to a canter. Each man drew his sword in preparation. A large black object lay awkwardly across the road while a large framed man in heavy armour inspected the object with a sword held in his hand. The man staggered, teetering on the edge of his balance, stumbling heavily he turned to face them his sword at the ready.
“Who goes there?” Finlay called, sliding from his saddle, as the others spread out in readiness for trouble.
“Finlay, am I glad to see you.” Garrant sighed, sheathing his weapon.
“What happened here?” Finlay asked as he inspected the charred corpse that had once been an outstanding mount.
“I have no idea. I was riding back from the inn at Bethraim; I had been there with Arrborn, when out of nowhere I was struck from behind by a fireball. Had it not been for my battle dress…,” he looked at his horse then down at himself his cloak was ruined, nothing more than a tattered fringe on a once magnificent silken collar, “then I would have ended up like that.” Garrant gestured toward his horse. “Why out this early with so many men?”
“There’s been trouble at the inn where you were earlier. Someone has defiled Dorn.”. Garrant’s brow furrowed biting his lip he shook his head staggering backward, “But that is only the tip of it,” Finlay continued, as he held out the scabbard for Garrant to inspect and then told him about the robe that Eliazer had described.
“But that is Magnus’s robe and this scabbard is…” A single tear rolled down his cheek. “It is too late.” Garrant held a hand to his face and wiped his eyes.
“What is too late, Garrant?” demanded Finlay. He had known Garrant for many years. They had both enlisted together into the Warriors’ Guild many were the times they had stood shoulder to shoulder in battle.
“It is the boy, Dekor; I don’t know how to say this.” Garrant looked up at the stars for inspiration or guidance, but the Divines were not answering. “He has succumbed to the lust of the flame and has taken to the ways of the warlock. I can only hope that Magnus did not lose his life in parting with his robe. If the boy has…” Garrant closed his eyes his teeth ground together.
“Divines forbid it.” Finlay had seen others go down that same path. It was his unpleasant duty to end their journey before it was too late. “Can we have lost both Magnus and the boy? We must ride at once to Belgor and alert the Mages’ Guild immediately. I only hope it is not too late.”
Garrant strode over to Balto. “I’ll borrow your horse if you don’t mind? Balto, Damon, stay together and clear this carcass from view, then return to Bethraim. You know what must be done. Regis, when this is cleared make your way to the barracks and rouse the men.”
“My lord.” The three men watched Garrant and Finlay race off into the morning. At full gallop, they were no more than a quarter hour from Belgor.
The horses hooves clattered over the paved streets of Belgor as Garrant and Finlay charged through the gates into the city. The first shadows of the morning were drawing themselves across the streets where marketers were setting up their stalls for the day. Another corner and they would be at the university.
Garrant tied off his horse and ran through the open doors of the university.
“Garrant!” A voice resounded along the stone corridor.
Garrant spun around, sighing heavily. “Magnus!” He slumped back against the wall catching his breath as Finlay came through the doorway. Garrant grinned, pointing Finlay toward Magnus. “There is at least, some good news.
It was still the early hours of the morning when Magnus called all of the generals together. They knew it must be urgent as the Archmage was not one to lose sleep over anything trivial.
H’rat was waiting for Magnus as he entered the council chambers. The darkling elf was tall and slender with deep purple skin and slicked back hair that was the darkest blue imaginable, as when the blackness of night consumes the remains of the day. H’rat leaned toward Magnus hoping to procure his ear for his own gain. “My lord Archmage, see what has become of your council.” He gestured toward the assembled members of the high council. Magnus raised a hand to silence H’rat, but attention was on the disorder of his peers. “There are so many rumours at flight in this room that I doubt the truth could be discerned even by the wisest of humans.” H’rat licked his lips smiling. “Since I entered this room, the moment that I was notified, there has been nothing but shouting and profanity resounding from these great walls. There was nothing I could do to calm the situation.” H’rat looked astounded at Magnus as he swept him aside.
“Gentlemen.” Magnus, called out, but the councillors were busily haranguing one another. Arms waving, fingers wagging at one another accusingly. Some face to face in heated debate. “SILENCE!” he yelled.. “A little quiet if you please! This is not the time to bring your petty squabbles to court. We have grave news. A time is upon us like none before. So I shall waste no time in telling what we know. One of our own has taken the path of the warlock.” Whispers, mutterings began to filter into the air, “Battlemage Dekor.” Magnus waited for calm to return to the room before he continued. “I spotted him from the university tower out in the woods practicing his black art. As a result of our meeting, I was burned, struck down and left for dead. Be warned, his powers grow rapidly and he has taken my robe. Though this is a terrible thing, it can play to our advantage. I have called for Thiakim, the alchemist, to come. He has a gift in tracing enchanted items and should be able to give us a lead to the direction in which Dekor has run. If found, he is to be executed on sight.
“So far,” Magnus raised his voice a tone to quell the rising disquiet, “in one evening, he has assaulted myself and Garrant and defiled a young girl in Bethraim. I hope she is not with child through this.” Magnus walked along the row elders looking at each one in turn. “We can be sure Dekor will stop at nothing. His seduction is complete; he is now in the grasp of the flame. Spread the word wherever you go, we have a warlock on the loose and be sure to get a complete description of him out before he learns to change his appearance.”
“Archmage,” H’rat sprung forward, “I will send for a tracker from among our people if you would be so good as to provide escort for her.”
“Clearly you have someone in mind H’rat. Very well.” Magnus turned to Garrant, “Have one your more experienced warriors accompany whomsoever H’rat sends.”
“Gentlemen, I am sure that you all have many questions, but alas I have no answers. Until we find out where Dekor is heading and what his intentions may be, I have nothing further. May the Divines go with you all.” Magnus held out his hands to them, “I am sorry that it has come to this. Go, now, everyone, for the safety of Alzear depends on us all.”
“We did try to warn you Archmage, about admitting children to the university,” H’rat stared at Magnus through his unblinking pupil-less eyes that glowed like pale candles. “In our kingdom such a thing is unheard of.”
“As indeed are most things. The secretive nature of the elves makes it difficult for us to know anything of your ways at all,” Tralchar, said in a gruff, disapproving voice. The dwarf stared at the elf daring him to argue. His dark beady eye glinted beneath his thick brow, lost in the dense forest of his eyebrows.
H’rat pursed his lips, pointed a long, slender finger at Tralchar then thought better of it. “I’ll not be drawn down to your level,” he huffed turning his back and striding out of the room. Tralchar grunted something unintelligible but no doubt derogatory at his back before whistling for his ram.
“Magnus,” Arrborn spoke softly, “a word afterwards if I may?”