Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Review of the 2010 Writing Year

This has been a really amazing and productive writing year! I'm proud to announce that by completing Magic War in November I have finished at least first drafts of my original fantasy ideas from 2006. For this reason I decided to post a quick review of my projects from this year so you can see what I'm talking about.

Here goes:

ABNA 2010:

There was a rumbling and the ground shook from the strength of their voices. She stopped yelling and opened her eyes as the walls of the Black Castle split and crashed into the waters of the lake. From The Jericho Effect quarterfinalist for the 2010 Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award.

Silver Sword Saga:

The blessed metal now formed a human sized broadsword of pure silver. Balamus smiled for he knew that this weapon would be the most effective and deadly in all Irowasa. From Forging.

With an effort, Silvanus pulled the sword out of the table and examined it with gleaming blue eyes. This sword would make the Rovin clan invincible. From The First Unworthy.

A smile crossed Norin’s face and he lifted the Silver Sword to salute with it.
“Thank you. I will make sure it serves its purpose well.”
From Swan Warrior: Part 1.

"I know you care about what happens to the clans. You could put an end to the soldiers’ raids.” From Swan Warrior: Part 2.

“Rovinien and Sardi want us both dead.” Tayad turned to grin at Norin as he added, “Unfortunately for them we met before they could kill one of us.” From Swan Warrior: Part 3.

"The gypsy said that the emperor of Sardi is offering a huge reward for the capture of the warrior with the sword of white fire, which I know is what the slavers call you." From Swan Warrior: Part 4.

“Look!” said Elena. She leaned closer to Norin and pointed to a magnificent bird with feathers the color of coal. “It is your sign. The Lord of Light has blessed you.” From Swan Warrior: Part 5.

A sudden anger filled Weston, fueling his actions. He turned, grabbed the Silver Sword off its stand and flung it through the gap at the fairy queen. From Fairy Vault.

Elmonrona gasped as she realized that this was the Silver Sword she had heard about in legends. The sword itself proved her to be the right person for the job for it was a weapon of justice and it had chosen to help her fight Drazil. From Riddle of the Stones.

National Novel Writng Month 2010

As members of this diverse army the Warriors of Light now marched into battle against the Dark Magicians. From Magic War, NaNoWriMo project 2010.

So what's in store for Irowasa in 2011? Stay tuned for updates!

Friday, November 26, 2010

Preview of my 2010 National Novel Writing Month Story

Like so many other writers around the world, I've spent this November working on writing a novel in a month. This novel tells the epic saga of Irowasa's great magic war. Click here for a synopsis of Magic War. Check out this preview to get a taste of my NaNoWriMo novel and the beginning of the battle for magic dominance on Irowasa.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Silver Sword Saga: Riddle of the Stones

This story takes place just before Irowasa's great magic war, whose story I wrote in full for National Novel Writing Month 2010. To find out more about the Silver Sword, refer to the post Fairy Vault which has back links to the rest of the Silver Sword Saga.

Riddle of the Stones

Let the praise of God be on their lips and a two-edged sword in their hand, to deal out vengeance to the nations and punishment on all the peoples.
Psalm 149: 6-7

Sunlight streamed through Fairy Wood’s eastern trees making the new fallen snow glitter like diamonds as Elmonrona, the fairy queen’s half-elvin monster hunter stepped out of a hut of tightly woven branches and into the icy morning. She squinted eyes as grey as the winter sky against the snow glare and pulled the hood of her forest green cloak over her ears, of which the right was pointed while the left was rounded giving her a lop-sided appearance. Walking with a sure step, she passed huts similar to her own as well as smaller fairy homes staggered up and down the larger trees, nestled in hollow spaces and holes made by woodpeckers.

After a few minutes she came to a place where the silvery trees opened to an expanse of flat ground covered in a sheet of snow broken here and there by blades of dead yellow grass. In the center of this meadow a group of fairies dressed in silver and white garments sat at a long table. Elmonrona glanced up and down the length of the table without seeing the person she sought. At one end of the table a tall fairy girl with locks of black hair held by a silvery net turned her intense blue eyes on Elmonrona. Smiling in recognition, she beckoned. Elmonrona stepped forward, stopped at her side and bowed.

“Light shine on you, Princess Vale,” Elmonrona greeted her.

“And on you, monster hunter,” replied Vale. Then she asked, “What brings you to the meadow so early in the day?”

“I am looking for the queen. I wish to report the details of the mission she sent me on yesterday.”

“The queen is attending to other business at the moment. I will tell her you were here when she returns.”

Elmonrona glanced at the other members of the fairy court watching her in silence from their seats at the table then asked, “May I speak with you privately?”

“Excuse me for just a minute,” said Vale, addressing the court.

She pushed back her chair and stood. Unfurling a pair of large gauzy wings she glided to the edge of the meadow and stopped below the first row of trees. Elmonrona followed on foot.

Once they were both shielded from view by the trees Vale whispered, “Did you find the thing that entered the forest?”

“I did,” Elmonrona replied. “I think the matter is far more complicated than we first realized.”

Vale narrowed her eyes then said, “Speak plainly.”

“Do you remember those notes I found when I was hunting the sorcerer Drazil?”

When Vale nodded she continued.

“I believe what entered the forest were two of his experiments, a shape-shifter and a human airwalker though how Drazil accomplished the later we may never know. It seems that the magic was fueling their abilities though it came from an external source and was not something they produced themselves.”

“Well that does sound like what we read in the notes but it in no way proves that Drazil was behind it,” said Vale. “How do you know it was him and not another magician using the same ideas?”

“I saw Drazil’s dragon flying over the forest just before I found the intruders. Also there was a group of mercenaries I questioned who confirmed they had been hired by Drazil. All these years after we thought the trail went cold, we have another chance at bringing Drazil to justice. When your mother returns would you please ask her to reassign me to that mission?”

“In my mind that mission will always be yours,” said Vale. Her eyes shone as she caught some of Elmonrona’s excitement. “Drazil never feared anyone like he feared you. I will carry your news to the queen. She will decide what must be done.”

“As is her right,” agreed Elmonrona bowing her head.


A couple hours later Elmonrona heard the smooth beat of large wings and sensed a powerful presence behind her. She turned as an elegant fairy with intense blue eyes wearing a silver gown tucked in her wings. Elmonrona stepped closer to her and bowed low. A tiara made of ice glinted atop the fairy’s silvery head as she turned her old yet unlined face toward Elmonrona.

“Vale told me of your discoveries and your request,” said the queen. “Though I think we should send someone after Drazil, unlike Vale I am not sure you would be my first choice for the job. You already failed me once.”

“I’m only asking that you give me a chance to redeem myself,” said Elmonrona. “The fact that I was once again the one to discover what he was after can’t be a coincident.”

“Vale has great faith in you and I trust her judgment. Plus you have been faithful in your duty of protecting the forest from monster attacks for several years. For those reasons I will give you one chance to prove yourself worthy.”

She produced a small pouch of red velvet and handed it to Elmonrona who opened it to reveal four small round colored stones.

“Take these to the source of the Farawad River,” said the queen. “If you can decipher the riddle of these stones and so unlock the secret of that place then you will be the one to go after Drazil. If you cannot, you must defer to another.”

Elmonrona pulled the drawstring closed and wrapped her fingers around the soft fabric.


With an excited tingle lending her strength, Elmonrona bowed and set off in the direction of the river cutting through the center of the forest.

The water of the Farawad was covered by a thin layer of ice. The air beside the river was biting cold and even her constant movement couldn’t keep Elmonrona from feeling its chill. She pulled her cloak tighter around her body and pressed on, following the icy water upstream past bare branches and the dry darker patches beneath a few evergreens. By midday the ground grew steeper as it rose into the first row of foothills guarding the Emerald Mountains. During the afternoon she found herself climbing the slopes of the first mountain where the river was little more than a narrow stream. At last she reached the place where the spring feeding the mighty river flowed out of the side of the mountain.

Facing the stream, she poured the stones onto her right palm and examined them closer. The stones were smooth and unmarked. Each was a different color; one red, one blue, one green and one white. There was nothing very remarkable about them save that they were all solid colors without any streaks or patterns running through them. She rolled them around on her hand as she tried to understand their significance. Four stones each a different color. What did she know of with four parts each represented by a different color? An idea came to her and she smiled at the simplicity of it as she spoke the thought aloud.

“The stones represent the four major elements. Red is fire, blue is water, green is earth and white is air.”

She waited for some confirmation that she had found the answer but nothing happened. Frowning, she realized there must be more to the riddle. After all, why would she have to come all the way to the source of the Farawad just to find out the stones represented the elements?

Closing the stones in her fist she moved to look at the stream and the area surrounding it hoping it would reveal some clue. As she stepped onto a rise behind the spring, she slipped on a patch of ice. As she reached out to catch herself, her left hand landed on some long rocks whose shape felt like a cross. Kneeling beside the spot, she brushed away the snow, revealing a circle of tiny stones surrounding four longer rocks which formed a four pointed star. At the tip of each star point was a hollow about the size of the stones in her hand. The shape instantly reminded Elmonrona of a compass rose and she realized it was her job to figure out which color stood for which direction.

She opened her hand and hesitated for just a moment before taking a deep breath and reaching for the first stone. The color she lifted first was white. This she placed at the in the direction of north. White must stand for snow, she reasoned, and the ice lands of Imla lay in the far north. She place red in the position of south to represent the Sardi Desert which lay on the southern end of the main continent. Green she guessed was west because the Emerald Mountains lay west of all the human lands save a half-wild country called Algamar. That left blue to fill the eastern slot, which made sense since the ocean lay to the east past a kingdom called Caramyth.

As soon as she placed the last stone the rocks shifted apart and a long thin hole no more than a foot wide opened in the frozen ground. Sunlight glinted off a metallic object which lay hidden in that spot. Carefully Elmonrona pulled her newfound treasure out of the hole and looked it over. The object was a long broadsword which gleamed of polished silver in the sunlight. On the hilt and hand guard the metal twisted around itself forming a simple pattern. The sword was otherwise unadorned.

Elmonrona gasped as she realized that this was the Silver Sword she had heard about in legends. It was said to be the most magical weapon on the world of Irowasa, forged by dwarves out of silver blessed the Lord of Light Himself and given to the fairies for safe keeping. Elmonrona knew that being given the opportunity to wield it was the highest honor she would ever receive from the fairy queen. Getting to her feet she gave the sword an experimental swing and felt its energy sing through her body, renewing her strength and returning warmth to her numb fingers. With a smile on her face she headed back into the forest. She knew that the sword itself proved her to be the right person for the job for it was a weapon of justice and it had chosen to help her fight Drazil.

Silver Sword Saga continued in The Great Magic War.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

NaNoWriMo 2010: Magic War

This November for National Novel Writing Month I, Rebekah Prudhomme, am proud to present the tale of Irowasa’s magic war!

Synopsis: Luker and Agwana, the children of witches possessing strange abilities as the after effects of magical experiments, escape a cult of Dark Magicians and flee to Fairy Wood. Fearing they will jeopardize his secret plans, the sorcerer Drazil hires mercenaries to hunt them.

For Elmonrona, the fairy queen's monster hunter, a partnership with Luker and Agwana provides the key to finding Drazil, whom she has been hunting for years. The trail takes an unexpected turn when they stumble upon a village in the kingdom, Windola which is plagued by monsters. There Elmonrona and the children form an alliance with other warriors determined to use all their skills to stop Drazil's evil from spreading.

Background: Magic War was inspired by a trip to York, England in 2006 and was more fully fleshed with the help of a few friends with big imaginations and the inclination to dress up in odd costumes and fight battles against imaginary monsters. Now all those friends finally get to see their daring deeds written as a novel just as I promised when the “war” ended. For those of you who were waiting for this story I apologize that it took me so long to organize my notes. To the rest of you I just have to say, get ready for a super exciting story full of magicians, monsters, fairies and warriors battling for dominance through magic! Also be sure to watch for a couple teaser clips from the book which I’ll be posting later this month.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Silver Sword Saga: The Fairy Vault

This next episode in the Silver Sword Saga takes place about 100 years after the time of Norin. For the Silver Sword's background please refer to: Forging and the 1st Unworthy. For the story of the Silver Sword's first hero please refer to Swan Warrior parts 1, 2, 3, 4 & 5.

The Fairy Vault

Let the praise of God be on their lips and a two-edged sword in their hand, to deal out vengeance to the nations and punishment on all the peoples.
Psalm 149: 6-7

The pounding of feet and a shout of the name, “Weston!” were the first signs of trouble. As the gypsy pounded on the door of the caravan, Weston untangled himself from the arms of Ysla, the gypsy girl who currently held his interest, and the only reason he remained in the camp this late in the night. Grumpily, he pushed open the top half of the caravan door, smoothing his rumpled brown hair and worn clothes.

Glaring at the gypsy man with clear blue eyes, Weston crossed his arms over his chest and demanded, “Well what is it?”

“News just reached our camp,” said the gypsy. “The Sardi Empire raided your village.”

Weston’s expression changed. He dropped his arms and leaned forward whispering, “Mira.”

The image of a slim fourteen year old girl with chocolate brown hair and eyes sprang into his mind and his chest tightened in worry. He moved back inside the caravan, gathering his few belongings from the floor.

“Leaving?” Ysla murmured propping herself on one elbow to watch him from her bunk.

“There’s been a raid on my village,” Weston replied. “I have to make sure my sister’s all right.”

Ysla grabbed his arm as he passed her. “Be careful. Sardi raiders are like poisonous snakes just waiting to strike.”

“I’ll keep that in mind,” said Weston.

He landed a quick kiss on Ysla’s lips then flung open the door of the caravan and dashed in the direction of the village.

There was not another living being there when he reached it. Moonlight glinted off broken glass littering the streets from shattered windows. The few doors still intact swung loosely, creaking on their hinges, while the rest were only gaping mouths with teeth of shattered wood. Assorted items of clothes and furniture were scattered here and there across the roadway. The village was as silent and deserted as a ghost town.

The sight of it made Weston’s heart beat faster. He raced down the street to his own house feeling as though his lungs were no longer pumping enough air. The door to the low wooden building which once housed Weston and his younger sister, Mira, had been knocked down. The gap in the frame revealed a scattered mess of their belongings similar to those he had passed on the street.

Pushing his way through the debris, Weston made his way inside rushing to each of the small rooms in turn shouting, “Mira!” He barely noticed as he tripped over broken tables other bits of furniture in the darkness. He strained to hear a reply but only his own voice echoed back to him. Tears prickled his eyes as he realized that his sister was gone, taken prisoner by Sardi raiders who would most likely sell her as a slave in their country and he hadn’t been there to stop them.

He staggered out of the tiny house and ran from the village, blind with guilt and despair. He ran for a long time without any sort of destination until dense branches slapped his face. Each time the twigs and leaves hit his cheeks they seemed to be an echo of his own thoughts, How could you let this happen? If you had been there you could have saved your sister! At last Weston stopped and sank down on a patch of moss, sobbing uncontrollably.

It was said that the current emperor of Sardi was sending the raiders as a way to goad the king of Windola into war. The emperor had a particular hatred for the people of Windola, partly because they offered sanctuary to slaves who escaped the Sardi Empire and partly because the Windolise religion of Light was spreading across much of Irowasa while Sardi’s devotion to the gods remained the belief system of only the people of Sardi. Soldiers from Sardi had been raiding towns and villages in Windola’s four southern most provinces, Oathswine, Fingred, Akayen and Milarko for the past three months. Though Weston and Mira lived in the province of Oathswine, Weston had believed they were far enough north of the Sardi border to be safe from the raiders. He saw now that he was wrong.


Weston didn’t realize he had fallen asleep until he woke to the pale morning light filtering through a canopy of leaves and pine needles. He felt cold, stiff and numb. Birds sang and small animals moved among a carpet of old leaves making rustling sounds. The air smelled fresh tinged as it was with scents of pine, damp moss and clean earth. Still, nothing lifted Weston’s spirits because Mira was gone. Grunting, he got to his feet and followed the sound of running water until he came to a wide river which sliced its way through the ranks of trees as it moved south. Kneeling, Weston cupped his hands, scooped a little water into his mouth and splashed another handful over his face. Glancing around again he noticed a place to his right where the forest floor was strewn with boulders. The area was shaded by thick pine branches, giving it a dark forbidding look. Weston was intrigued by it in spite of himself.

Beneath the pines his boot brushed the edge of a low flat stone, knocking pine needles off its surface. This revealed a shape that most people would take as simply a crack in the stone. Weston, who had ventured into Fairy Wood before, recognized it as a rune. Bending to better examine the rocks at his feet, he discovered three more runes. With growing curiosity, Weston snapped off a bough from the nearest tree and used it to sweep dirt, needles and dead leaves from the stones.

When he finished, he found himself staring at a number of small rocks each marked with a rune symbolizing a letter of the fairy alphabet. The runic rocks spiraled out from a single flat unmarked stone.

Weston stepped onto the unmarked stone, which was just large enough for both his feet, and contemplated his find. It had to be some sort of puzzle. Perhaps there was a code hidden in the letters. He squinted as he tried to remember the symbols for the few words he knew in the fairy language. Driven by a strange compulsion, he lifted his right foot and brought it down on one rune stone after another until he had spelled the fairy word for "open".

A tremor ran through the ground as though the earth shivered. Weston stumbled to one knee, twisting to avoid bumping the runes. Trees creaked and swayed. A small hill swelled in front of Weston as a boulder at its front rose, freeing itself from the dirt encasing it.

When at last the world stilled, Weston found himself staring through an arched doorway carved into the boulder which had risen, revealing a large stone vault hidden inside the hill. Objects from within glittered with promise. Pushing himself to his feet, Weston stepped carefully over the runes and slipped beneath the archway.

Once his eyes adjusted to the dim light of the cool, narrow room, he took in piles of gold, jewels and strange items lining the walls. He gazed into the depths of tiny crystal balls filled with swirling colored mist, then tugged open a leather pouch to reveal glittering white dust. Glancing around, he noted a gilded cage holding a carved wooden bird painted in bright colors. The bird turned its head and chirped as he moved past. The sound caused a small spark of hope to settle in Weston’s heart. All of these items were clearly magic, surely at least one of them would allow him to find and rescue Mira.

As if hearing his thoughts, a broadsword resting on a stand near the center of the vault drew Weston’s attention. He stepped forward to get a better look. The sword seemed plain beside the glittering jewels, though it gleamed of polished silver even in the thin light. The metal forming the hilt and hand guard twisted and curved around itself in a fascinating way which drew the eyes. Yes, with this weapon in his hand he could kill the raiders and avenge his sister. He reached out to take the sword. His finger tips had just brushed the hilt when an icy female voice came from behind him, causing him to jump.

“I thought my vault was protected against thieves, even ones with the Sight. It seems I will have to create a stronger spell.”

Weston turned to face a slender woman with silvery blond hair and intense blue eyes. She was a few inches shorter than him and wore a long green gown. A wreath of leaves and flowers adorned her head. Muscles in her back twitched as she folded a pair of delicate gauzy wings into the hollow between her shoulder blades.

“I’ve heard of you,” the fairy woman continued. “Gypsies pay you to steal magical trinkets from my forest so they can sell them as amulets to weak-minded aristocrats.”

“It’s a living,” said Weston. As the fairy queen’s expression darkened he added, “Granted it’s not always an honest one.”

“Taking magical artifacts from my people is illegal both in my forest and in your country,” the queen replied. “I would be well within my rights to hold you here for several years.”

As if to emphasize her point, a shower of dust rained down and the arched doorway began to sink back into the ground. Weston’s eyes widened with panic. He stepped toward the fairy queen holding up his hands.

“Wait, listen! It’s true I’ve stolen from you before but that’s not why I’m here today. My sister was taken by Sardi raiders. I was looking for something that could help her.”

The coldness in the fairy’s eyes and the continued descent of the doorway made it clear she did not believe him.

A sudden anger filled Weston, fueling his actions. He turned, grabbed the Silver Sword off its stand and flung it through the gap at the fairy queen. Instead of striking her, the sword changed directions in midair and imbedded itself in the ground at her feet. As soon as the sword landed, the doorway ground to a shuddering halt. Weston ducked under the low archway and retrieved the Silver Sword, pointing it at the queen in a threatening gesture.

“I may deserve to be punished for the things I’ve done but my sister does not. I will not yield to you or anyone else until I know she is safe, especially since I know you have the power to save her.”

The fairy queen’s gaze locked on the Silver Sword. For a moment some strange emotion flickered across her face before she returned to looking cold and impassive.

“I will give you one chance to redeem yourself,” she said. “You may take that sword and use it to free your sister so long as it is the only thing you take from the vault. You must swear never to steal from me or my people again and instead work to protect your own people from Sardi.”

“How will I find my sister?” asked Weston. “I don’t know which way the raiders went after they left my village.”

“The Silver Sword knows who the enemy is. Let it guide you.”

Weston lowered the sword and said, “You have a deal.”

“Some of my people will watch you and report your actions to me. Just remember, if you get yourself into trouble they cannot offer assistance. You must defeat the raiders alone.”


The fairy queen bowed her head. Unfurling her wings, she flapped hard several times and flew into the depth of the forest.

Once she was gone Weston felt the tension go out of his shoulders. A grinding sound drew his attention to the boulder behind him where the vault was once again threatening to close. The thought of all the treasures the vault contained filled his heart with a greedy longing. He and Ysla could earn a fortune selling the artifacts contained here. He might never have an opportunity like this again. The only thing stopping him was his promise to take only the sword from the vault. That promise was made to a woman who wished to trap him below ground, perhaps for the rest of his life.

That thought decided him. Remembering how the vault had stopped closing when the Silver Sword struck the ground, Weston stabbed the sword into the earth again. Sure enough, the door stilled as if waiting his command. Leaving the sword in place, he ducked into the vault where he grabbed a handful of jewels and stuffed them into his pockets. Continuing through the vault he grabbed several small leather pouches, a couple crystal balls filled with colored mist and various other interesting objects until there was no room left in any of his pockets. Satisfied, he exited the vault and pulled the Silver Sword out of the ground. He proceeded through the forest to the echo of the vault door slamming shut.


The Silver Sword proved to be a reliable guide. It sang with an energy which tugged Weston in the right direction. As daylight dimmed into evening he found himself walking a ledge which skirted the edge of the forest. On the plains to his left he heard hoof-beats and the cries of harsh voices. Crouching, he crawled forward until he could see over the ledge and onto the open plain. His heart sped up at the sight of a dozen Sardi soldiers with a group of prisoners chained between them. Is Mira there? Weston leaned forward, straining his eyes until he made out a familiar girl’s figure near the center of the group.

He closed his eyes for a minute, steeling himself. What he was about to do was crazy. He was an untrained man going up against the warriors of Sardi, the most deadly warriors on Irowasa. Yet he had to do it for Mira’s sake. There was only one way he would have a chance: he would have to use trickery.

Taking a deep breath, Weston opened his eyes and lifted the Silver Sword. With his left hand he reached into a pocket pulled out a leather pouch. With the sword in one hand and the pouch in the other he dropped from the ledge and onto the back of the rear guard, knocking him from his horse.

Weston sliced the guard’s throat before the man had a chance to react. Using his teeth, Weston tugged open the drawstring on the leather bag in time to throw the white powder it contained into the eyes of two other nearby warriors and their horses. Their cries as they fell from their horses and landed, clawing at their eyes, drew the attention of the rest of the soldiers. An order was barked in the Sardi tongue. Four warriors drew their scimitars and turned their horses in Weston’s direction. Weston retreated, scrambling back up the ledge and swinging himself into the branches of a tree before the raiders caught up with him. He ducked behind a leafy branch and pulled the Silver Sword against his chest. There he waited until the warriors passed below and entered the forest before jumping back to the ground. Again he scrambled over the ledge and moved part way down the hill before ducking behind a rock to watch the five raiders who remained to guard the prisoners. They had dismounted. One man held the horses while the others herded the prisoners into a tight knot then stood talking in their own language and casting glances at the top of the ledge. The two men whose eyes had been burned by the fairy dust blinked and stumbled around as they tried to recover.

The last light of the sun glinted off a set of keys hanging from the belt of one guard. Weston waited until the man moved a little closer to him then pulled out a crystal ball and smashed it on the rock in front of him. Green mist spilled out of the broken ball. It curled around the raiders making it hard for them to see. Weston jumped forward, slashed the leg of the nearest raider and cut the keys from the man’s belt. He moved into the mist with the keys in hand before the guard could draw his scimitar. The other raiders all had weapons in hand and were running through the mist, calling to each other in a vain attempt to figure out what was happening. Weston dodged them before they could figure out he was an enemy. He came to a halt beside Mira who was watching the confusion around her with frightened eyes and didn’t notice him.

Stabbing the Silver into the ground beside him, Weston lifted Mira’s chained wrists. Mira flinched and tried to pull away until she lifted her eyes and saw who it was. Her expression changed from fear to relief. She opened her mouth to say something but Weston motioned for her to keep quiet so they wouldn’t draw the attention of the raiders. As soon as he unchained her, Mira threw her arms around Weston’s neck. He pulled her close in a tight hug. Suddenly Mira cried out in alarm. She grabbed the front of Weston’s shirt and tugged him roughly down toward her just in time for the blow intended for his neck to imbed itself in the flesh of his left shoulder instead. Weston yelled in pain then grabbed the Silver Sword and smashed the hilt into the face of the raider behind him, breaking the man’s nose. As soon as their enemy collapsed, Mira ripped a strip off Weston’s ruined sleeve and tied it around his shoulder to keep the wound from bleeding. Once she finished Weston pressed the keys into her hands.

“You free the others, I’ll keep the raiders busy,” he cried as he turned and took up a defensive stance in front of her.

By this time the green mist had mostly dissipated. Sardi warriors had remounted and turned their horses this way and that as they tried to locate the threat. Catching sight of Weston, one of them pointed with his scimitar, yelled and charged. Weston glanced around for anything useful. He took in the fallen raider still clutching his bloody scimitar and the chains which had fallen from Mira’s arms and now rested on the ground beside him. Gritting his teeth against the soreness in that arm, he switched the Silver Sword to his left hand. Then he bent and grabbed the manacles. He swung the chains over his head a couple times to build momentum then flung them at the charging warrior, knocking him from his horse.

The last three Sardi warriors were now advancing as well. Weston ran forward and grabbed the dead raider’s scimitar which he flung at the horse on the far right. The blade slashed the horse’s chest causing him to stumble and throw his rider. One of the remaining warriors threw a knife at Weston but he ducked and it sailed over his head.

At that moment Mira yelled, “Weston, come on!”

Weston turned to see Mira at the head of the newly freed prisoners leading them north along the ledge. The uninjured horse whose rider Weston had unseated stopped a few feet from him in confusion. Grabbing the reins, Weston turned the animal toward the last two mounted raiders and slapped its rump to send it in that direction. The riders split in opposite directions to get out of the way. Switching the Silver Sword back to his right hand, Weston ran to catch up with Mira and the other refugees.

“We have to hurry,” Weston told Mira. “It won’t be long before they organize themselves enough to come after us.”


All too soon the sounds hoof beats warned Weston and Mira that the raiders were in close pursuit. Mira led the group away from the sounds and nearly ran into a second group of raiders on foot. She dropped to the forest floor and ducked into the underbrush signaling the others to do the same. Weston crouched beside her, his heart pounding as he listened to the soft noises of Sardi warriors searching the woods around them.

“They have us surrounded,” Mira whispered, leaning so close to Weston her breath tickled his ear. “Any minute they’ll find us. We don’t stand a chance.”

She jumped as a raider smacked a bush a few feet away with the flat of his scimitar. Weston carefully stretched his stiff left arm then wrapped it around Mira’s shoulders. He felt her shaking against his side. The Sardi warrior was moving closer. Mira was right, he would find them in a matter of minutes unless someone stopped him.

Weston placed his mouth beside Mira’s ear and whispered, “Mira, listen closely. I’m going to break cover and draw the attention of the raiders away from you…”

“Don’t you dare!” Mira hissed interrupting him.

“If I don’t they’ll find us all,” Weston said. Shifting, he removed his arm from around her so he could pull the remaining magical trinkets out of his pockets. He handed them to Mira. “Take these. Once it’s safe, move deeper into the woods and offer these things to the fairies in exchange for their protection.”

Mira closed her hands around the items then locked eyes with Weston.

“What about you?”

“I’ll lead the raiders out of the forest then lose them and double back to find you,” he replied.

“You better,” said Mira.

Weston gave her a quick hug then moved past her. He crawled through the underbrush until he felt he was a safe distance from the refugees. There he stood and intentionally snapped a twig under his heel. For a moment nothing happened, then a net landed on top of him dragging him to the ground. Through the mesh tangling him, Weston spotted the shadowy figure of the raider who had thrown the net. He twisted the Silver Sword until its double blade sliced through the cords, allowing him to struggle free just before the Sardi warrior reached him. Weston ran, stumbling over roots and log as the raiders called out to each other and gave chase.

One of the mounted soldiers thundered past and pulled his horse to a halt, blocking Weston’s path. Weston tried to stop but his momentum carried him forward, strait toward the animal’s leg. As he got close the horse spooked and reared. Weston ducked around the flailing hooves and continued his hurdle toward the edge of the forest. He was nearly there. He could just make out the shape of the moon hovering at the edge of the horizon.

There was a whistle as an object sailed through the air. The sound was followed by hot pain which spread from the spot where a throwing knife found its mark in Weston’s right thigh. Weston stumbled and fell onto a mixture of tree roots and dead leaves. The raiders were closing in and with panic he realized he had to keep moving or be caught. Shifting the Silver Sword to his left hand again, Weston gritted his teeth and took hold of the knife. With one hard yank and a pained moan he removed it and tossed it aside. Leaning on the Silver Sword for support he attempted to get to his feet. His injured leg buckled under him and he found himself once again on the forest floor.

Footsteps drew closer. Weston pushed himself to his knees and moved the Silver Sword back to his right hand in preparation for a fight. He lashed out as the Sardi warriors moved to form a circle around him. A blade slashed his back and he collapsed as stars brighter than those in the sky exploded in his vision. One of the raiders kicked the Silver Sword out of Weston’s hands. Two others pulled him to his feet and held him upright between them. A tall bearded man who was clearly the captain of the groupdismounted and stepped in front of him. Weston’s heart pounded a furious rhythm but in his mind he repeated the mantra, Mira is safe. Whatever happens to me my sister will stay safe.

“Where are others?” demanded the captain.

A faint smile twitched the corners of Weston’s mouth.

“Safe,” he whispered in a hoarse voice.

The raiders conversed for a moment in rapid Sardi, most likely deciding what to do with him. At last the captain made a gesture. Without waiting to find out what it meant, Weston shifted his weight to his left leg and shoved his right elbow into the gut of one of his captors. He continued to struggle until he pulled his arms free. Before he could flee, one of the warriors kicked the backs of his legs, striking the wound on his thigh and forcing him to his knees. At the same moment the captain raised his scimitar. Weston had only enough time to think, Mira is safe, one last time before the blade crashed into his skull.


The fairy queen stood with the Silver Sword in hand like a sentry overseeing the humans and fairies piling stones on a fresh burial mound. The forest was silent save for the sounds of Mira’s weeping.

The queen had heeded Mira’s call for protection as the girl guided the refugees through the forest. The fairy was stunned when Mira returned most of the magical items her brother had stolen. Was he trying to redeem himself after all? She still wasn’t sure.

The following morning, after the Sardi raiders left the forest, fairy spies had found both the Silver Sword, which they returned to the queen, and Weston’s body. By the looks of it, Weston had received a blow to the head hard enough that it killed him instantly. The fairy queen ordered him buried in Fairy Wood with the honor she felt he had unexpectedly earned.

At last the burial mound was complete. The queen came out of her reflections and stepped forward with a rustle of her silky silver dress. Mira still knelt at the foot of the grave but her sobs were quieting to silent tears.

“I have something for you, Mira,” said the queen in quiet voice.

She opened her left hand, revealing a silver pendant covered in swirling patterns. A shining white stone dangled at the bottom of it.

Mira glanced at it then turned away and snapped, “I don’t want your sympathy.”

“I’m not offering it to you out of sympathy,” said the queen. “This is my way of honoring your brother. Weston loved you more than his own life. He sacrificed everything to keep you safe. The necklace is an amulet. It will grant you my protection. I only ask that you wear it to honor what your brother did for you.”

Mira turned and hesitantly took the necklace from the queen’s hands, then turned away as fresh tears well up in her eyes.

“You are welcome in my forest at any time,” the fairy queen added before turning and leaving the girl alone to grieve.

As she walked the queen considered what she had gained and what she had lost. She had prayed for a hero to claim the Silver Sword and rescue her beloved people of Windola from the threat of Sardi invasion. The wielder who had come was incapable of such a feat yet still had the heart of a hero. She doubted she would find another wielder for at least a hundred years by which time there would be new threats to handle. In the meantime something had to be done about Sardi and the Silver Sword must be placed somewhere safe until the next wielder should come. The sound of water rushing in the riverbed reached her ears and she smiled as she decided what to do.

The fairy queen flew to the spot in the mountains from which flowed the stream which was the source of the Farawad River. Bowing her head in a prayer to the Lord of Light, the fairy queen placed the tip of the Silver Sword on the earth above the stream. A hole opened beneath the blade. The sword sunk into it and the ground resealed itself. For a moment the stream went dry and a number of rocks rearranged themselves to form the shape of a compass with four small colored stones marking the directions. The queen noted which color marked which direction then scooped up the four rocks. Water gushed from the stream again and things seemed to return to normal. Yet far to the south where the river broke from the cover of Fairy Wood, the foamy water changed its course to form a natural boundary between Sardi and Windola.

Silver Sword Saga continued in Riddle of the Stones.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Silver Sword Saga: Swan Warrior Part 5

This story is concluded from Swan Warrior parts 1, 2, 3 & 4.

For the Silver Sword's background refer to Forging and The 1st Unworthy.

Swan Warrior Part 5

Let the praise of God be on their lips and a two-edged sword in their hand, to deal out vengeance to the nations and punishment on all the peoples.
Psalm 149: 6-7

Elena met Norin at the edge of Oathswine’s camp. She said nothing, but once he dismounted she brushed her finger tips over the welt a slaver’s whip had left on his cheek. Out of the corner of his eye Norin noticed Oathswine watching them.

When the chieftain made no move to separate them, Norin caught Elena’s hand and whispered, “I made it back. Please don’t be angry with me.”

Elena dropped her eyes but nodded. She took Norin’s hand and escorted him to a cot in a nearby tent where she left him, allowing him to surrender to exhaustion.

Once all the warriors were somewhat rested, Oathswine brought Utaria’s messenger before the chieftains and Norin. The young clansman repeated the warning that an invading force was marching out of Rovinien to attack the allies.

“Lady Utaria believes the Rovinien king is angry with us for making his soldiers look like fools,” the messenger added. “Two more clans came to us for protection once they saw Rovinien advancing. One is led by a chieftain named Salsdor. The other is a clan who lived near the ford of the Taratin River and suffered heavy losses when the army crossed there.”

“The soldiers of Sardi will no doubt continue to pursue us even as Rovinien advances,” Keth said. He added in despair, “What chance do we stand if both enemies attack us at the same time?”

“We must rely on our combined forces and do the best we can to hold them back,” said Norin.

“All the members of the clans who are not warriors will have to go into hiding,” added Tayad. “Even then I fear they may not be out of danger.”

“The best we can do is stand strong and not yield to Rovinien or Sardi,” said Oathswine. “If they wipe us out in the end at least we can go down fighting. I know I’ve had my differences of opinion with all of you before, but I refuse to let you face these enemies without my help.”

Norin nodded then said, “We should move the clans of Oathswine, Akayan and Milarko into hiding. Once they are safe the warriors can ride to the aid of rest of the allied clans and work to find hiding places for the rest of our people before our enemies swarm us.”

Fin sighed. “That seems to be our best option at the moment. We will have to move fast.”

They broke camp and moved north all the while watching the horizon for any sign of troops approaching from Sardi. Elena pulled her horse alongside Norin’s so she could ride beside him. Norin’s eyes once again shifted toward Oathswine. Elena noticed this and cocked her head by way of question.

“Your father made it clear to me he does not want us to be together,” said Norin.

Elena’s jaw tightened and she lifted her chin as she replied, “It is not my father’s choice to make. If I choose you he will someday have to accept that.”
The confidence in her tone made Norin relax. He smiled at her and she smiled back.


By nightfall they were little more than halfway to their destination. They chose to stop a while and rest themselves and their horses. Norin woke at dawn, restless with thoughts of the coming battle. He stepped outside his tent and breathed in the cool, fresh air trying to calm his mind. At the edge of camp, silhouetted by the sun hanging just above the horizon, Elena stood with her arms wrapped around herself.

“You should be resting,” she said as he walked up beside her. “You’ll need your strength more than I will in the next few days.”

Norin sighed then held out a hand to her. She took it.

“Let’s take a walk,” said Norin.

They moved away from the tents and sleeping horses. A thick stream skirted past the east end of the hastily constructed campsite. Norin and Elena followed this until it emptied into a wide calm pond. At the south-west end the pond opened once again into a stream then branched out as it searched for larger waterways to join. In the soft marshy grass at the pond’s edge Norin stopped forcing Elena to halt also.

“Do we really stand a chance?” Norin whispered.

“I’ve always believed in you,” Elena replied. “The other allies now trust you too. You must remain strong and trust the Lord of Light to see us through this.”

Before Norin could reply the sound of wings caught their attention. Norin and Elena both turned to see a flock of swans make a graceful landing on the water.

“Look!” said Elena. She leaned closer to Norin and pointed to a magnificent bird with feathers the color of coal. “It is your sign. The Lord of Light has blessed you.”

Norin’s heart warmed at her words. He took her hand again and smiled before returning his attention to the beautiful bird. As Norin stared at the black swan everything came clear in his mind and he suddenly realized what he needed to do.

“What have I been thinking?” he cried squeezing Elena’s hand. “We have the warriors of ten clans ready to fight. Because Tayad had us camp in hiding, I doubt Rovinien or Sardi know our true numbers. If we can draw them to us by appearing helplessly caught between them we can lure our enemies into a trap. Elena, we can defeat Rovinien and Sardi in one fell swoop!”

Elena’s face broke into a wide grin and she threw her arms around Norin’s neck shouting, “I knew you would find a way!”

Laughing, Norin picked her up and spun her around.

“Norin!” a voice interrupted.

Norin set Elena back on her feet and turned to face Tayad who was watching them with an amused twinkle in his eyes.

“A fairy just arrived in camp,” Tayad said. “He says his queen offers us her protection and asks that we make camp in Fairy Wood.”

“We should take her offer,” said Norin. “Fairy Wood is the perfect hiding place for the woman and children while we fight Rovinien and Sardi. I have a plan to defeat them. We need to gather all the chieftains and warriors, including Wiltor, Utaria and the newcomers to Utaria’s camp, for a council of war.”

“I’ll tell the others and urge them to break camp,” said Tayad. He headed back toward the tents.

Norin turned back to Elena who stood behind him still smiling.

“Will you wait for me in Fairy Wood?” he asked.

Elena nodded then stepped forward, took his face in her hands and kissed him hard on the lips. After a second of surprise Norin returned the gesture. Heat flowed through him and he thought he might melt.

At last Elena pulled back, looked deep into his eyes and said, “Go defeat those villains once and for all.”


Late the following day, after the woman and children were safely in Fairy Wood, Norin stood in the center of a ring formed by the nine chieftains and Lady Utaria. They sat together in the canyon which once hid Utaria’s camp.

“All we need to do is make a fake campsite, fill it with warriors and bait one army or the other them into attacking it. Once they are in the camp we can bring in more waves of warriors led by different chieftains to attack them from every angle, including their own camps, until we force them to admit defeat,” Norin explained. He then added, “If we drive Rovinien and Sardi out of the midlands each of you could claim part of the land as your own. Your clans could live side by side in peace. First we have to defeat our enemies in a way they will never forget, a way which will make them understand that we are not people they want to meddle with.”

“That should not be hard,” said Chieftain Fin. “They already fear you, Norin, and they are coming to respect the rest of us too.”

“All these years I have dreamed of a time when we could live without the fear of constant attack,” added Keth. “To think that dream could be a reality!”

“How would we divide the land equally between the ten of us without starting a clan feud?” asked Oathswine.

“That is a problem for another time,” said Tayad. “Our first order of business is to drive out the invaders.”

“Since it seems you are all with me,” Norin added with a smirk, “let us set to work.”


Norin sat astride his horse amidst the warriors of Utaria. To his left were Chieftain Fin and his warriors, to his right the warriors of the clan of Salsdor, one of the two chieftains who sought protection during the rescue of Akayen and Milarko. The warriors formed a ring around a cluster of tents. They held weapons at the ready as they waited for the attack of surrounding Rovinien army. Of all the clansmen’s forces this group would be in placed in the most danger, yet the chieftains insisted Norin be part of it. If their enemies had not seen the warrior with the sword of white fire in the ranks of the defenders they would have been suspicious. The army of Sardi was camped on a rise to the south waiting like vultures to finish off any warriors who escaped the Roviniens.

The dead silence of the plains broke as the commander of Rovinien gave a cry and raised his sword, urging his men to charge. Norin braced himself and raised the Silver Sword, blocking the blow of an advancing soldier with a mighty swing. For several minutes Norin’s entire world seemed filled with flashing blades, bone rattling blows and the blood of fallen enemies. Little by little the fierce Roviniens pushed the warriors back until they were fighting between the walls of the canvas tents.

From the corner of his eye Norin saw a Rovinien soldier knock Fin out of his saddle with a hard thrust of his blade. As Fin lay dazed, the soldier dismounted and raised his sword to finish the chieftain. Just before the soldier’s blade fell, a new group of warriors belonging to Keth, Akayen, Milarko and the River Clan burst out of the tents. Keth slit the throat of the soldier threatening Fin then turned to attack the other Roviniens. Norin’s warriors doubled their own efforts at the sight of Keth. Before long the Roviniens were forced to retreat to the open plains, jumping their horses over the bodies of the dead which clogged the areas between the tents and slowed their progress.

With a mighty shout, Norin raised the Silver Sword and wheeled his horse to give chase. Many of the warriors rallied to him and they charged onto the plains where they once more engaged the Roviniens. Another war cry rang out from the hills. Norin stabbed a soldier who made a mad rush for him then raised his eyes to see warriors led by Oathswine, Tayad and Wiltor charge, trapping the Roviniens between ranks of clansmen. Finding his men thus surrounded, the Rovinien commander made a sudden unexpected move. He charged, slamming his horse into Norin’s. As Norin fought to control his spooked animal, the commander banged his blade against the side of Norin’s helmet at his temple. Dazed and thrown off balance, Norin toppled from his horse’s back.

Norin rolled away from the horse’s hooves but not in time to avoid a sharp kick which knocked all the breath out of his body and left an insistent pain in his left side. The commander rode forward, fighting back the warriors who tried to surge to Norin’s aid. The other Rovinien soldiers rushed to follow, seeing their advantage. Norin tried to crawl to the side, knowing if he didn’t he would be trampled to death under the hooves of so many horses. Pain flared in his side. He gasped, unable to move fast enough to save himself. The pounding of the hooves mixed with the beating of his heart until Norin could not tell one from the other. He twisted and slashed at the legs of a horse.

Just when Norin felt sure he would be crushed, a strong arm yanked him out of danger. Tayad released his hold on Norin’s back and stood over him in a defensive stance, keeping the enemy’s animals at a distance. The horses spooked and veered sideways, breaking through the ranks of warriors.

Tayad took a deep breath to calm himself, sheathed his sword, then knelt beside Norin and asked, “Can you stand?”

Norin nodded. Tayad wrapped an arm around him and pulled him to his feet. Norin groaned and gritted his teeth but managed to stay upright.

“Where’s my horse?” asked Norin.

Tayad pointed to a place beyond most of the warriors where the horse pranced, watching those around him with nervous eyes. Norin signaled a warrior who calmed the horse enough to grab the reins and lead him to Norin.

“Help me mount,” Norin instructed Tayad. “We need to start the next stage of our attack.”

“Are you sure you’re up to it?” Tayad asked giving him a sideways glance.

Norin gave a tight nod. “It will take a lot more than that to make me sit this one out.”

He sheathed the Silver Sword and placed his hands on the saddle. Tayad cupped his hands, allowing Norin to place his foot on them, then boosted Norin onto the horse’s back.

“Gather our warriors,” Norin said as he lifted the reins. “Tell Oathswine, Fin, Akayen and Milarko to join me. We attack Sardi. You gather the others and pursue the Roviniens.”

Tayad nodded and ran to relay the orders.


Oathswine led the charge into Sardi’s camp brandishing his sword in one hand and a lit touch in the other. He never slowed his pace when two guards moved to stop him. With a couple quick sword strokes he dispatched them. Then with a fierce roar to equal that of a fire-breathing dragon, he touched the torch to the tents he passed, setting them on fire. Akayen and Milarko followed Oathswine with their warriors, engaging the soldiers who staggered out of smoking tents shouting curses in their own language. As the soldiers broke free of the burning camp they met with Fin’s warriors.

A handful of Sardi men moved through the chaos to carry buckets to a stream just downhill from their encampment. As the first man lowered his pail to the water a blade flicked out and knocked it from his hand. With a cry the soldier drew his scimitar and spun to face his opponent. When his blade struck that of his enemy, the soldier’s courage drained from him. The sunlight played off this warrior’s sword, making it shine like white fire. The soldier raised his eyes, met Norin’s calm gaze and backed away in fear. An archer from Fin’s ranks shot him down as he tried to run. Norin turned on the soldier’s companions. They dropped their buckets and drew their weapons but only one succeeded in leaving the smallest cut on Norin’s leg before he ran them through.

Norin and circled the camp a couple times, making quick work of a few lone soldiers. Satisfied there were no more escapees, he urged his horse onto the plains and joined Oathswine’s ranks. He surveyed the damage they had done to the army of Sardi. The soldiers who had survived Oathswine and Fin’s fearsome assault were now ringed in by warriors whose archers shot into their midst. At the sight of Norin the soldiers panicked. Most shifted as far from him as possible, avoiding the Silver Sword as best they could. Only one crazed soldier desperately leapt at Norin. Oathswine lifted his torch and with a vicious blow slapped the man with it. The soldier fell back, shrieking in pain and batting at flames eating his face. The remainder of the Sardi troops took advantage of a few warriors frozen in horror by the terrible scene, cutting them down and forcing their way into the open.

“Shoot them!” cried Oathswine.

Arrows flew at the retreating figures but only a few found their mark.

“After them!” cried Oathswine. He thundered down the rise and tossed his torch into the stream. The other warriors followed his lead and the rest of the day was spent pursuing the battered remnant of the army of Sardi.

At sunset a lone rider appeared on the northern horizon. As Oathswine and the other chieftains continued their frenzied hunt, Norin took a handful of warriors and lagged behind to learn the rider’s business. When the man finally reached him, Norin recognized him as a warrior from Tayad’s clan. The rider was sweaty and covered in grime. His eyes held the wild look of bad news.

“What happened?” Norin demanded as the warrior dismounted.

“The Roviniens have Keth and Wiltor cornered in the canyon lands,” the rider reported. “Chieftain Tayad wanted to go to their rescue but then he noticed another troop of Roviniens marching into Fairy Wood.”

Norin pictured the Roviniens finding the camp of the clanswomen and children hidden in the woods. He could almost hear the screams and see the terror in Elena’s eyes. A sudden wave of panic swept through him as he realized he might lose the very people for whom he fought hardest.

“Do the Roviniens know…?” Norin began but the words seemed to choke him and he could not continue.

“We’re not sure but it’s what we fear,” the messenger replied. “We had to split our forces and Chieftain Tayad fears it is a trap to spread us thin and so weaken us. He ordered me to slip past the Roviniens and get word to you in hopes that you could bring more warriors to our aid.”

Norin turned to one of the warriors standing beside him and ordered, “Ride ahead and tell Chieftain Fin to gather his warriors and join me heading north to assist Chieftain Tayad. The others can handle the army of Sardi, especially if Chieftain Oathswine remains in command.”

As the warrior spurred his horse forward to obey, Norin silently prayed, Don’t let us come too late!


Norin’s sense of urgency pressed him to ride so fast the other warriors struggled to keep up with him. Near the end of the night they passed the canyon lands and entered the section of Fairy Wood on which the Roviniens were marching. The pale grey pre-dawn light illuminated the ranks of soldiers beneath the tangled branches. Tayad’s warriors formed a line in front of the Roviniens, blocking them from the first of the camouflaged huts hiding the clanswomen and children. A number of elvin warriors mixed with the clansmen and fairies watched from the trees.

Without hesitation Norin drew the Silver Sword and charged into the midst of the Rovinien forces. The soldiers moved to close ranks around him and cut off the warriors trailing behind him. With the terrible battle light glowing in his eyes, Norin turned away weapons from all sides. Every soldier who moved too close fell to the Silver Sword, forcing another to take his place. Norin moved with a strength and speed his enemies were not expecting and even his allies had never seen in him. He no longer felt the ache in his side or the sting of a dozen minor wounds inflicted by chance blows from the Roviniens. Only one thought filled Norin’s mind and made him an unstoppable force: If I fail now I lose everything I fought for.

A few points made a vague impression on Norin through his battle haze. At some point during his rampage Tayad’s men charged. Then seemingly without warning, Norin found Fin’s warriors at his side rather than Rovinien soldiers. Last the fairies and elves advanced on the soldiers and something in their hostility made it seem as though the forest itself rose against Rovinien. Then the soldiers were retreating from the clansmen in fear. Suddenly the trees were gone and they were fighting on the plains. They moved to the canyons, sweeping away the last of the Rovinien army, which now seemed unable to hold them back. More clansmen poured from the canyons and joined the fray.

A large foamy waterway rose before them and Norin realized with shock they had reached the Taratin River. The Roviniens splashed into the water of a wide calm bend, nearly riding over each other in their haste to cross and escape the crazed warriors. Someone gave a great shout of triumph. Norin turned as Chieftain Keth lifted his sword, a gesture in which the other warriors joined him with victory cheers.

“Let this be a warning to you,” Norin shouted to the Roviniens across the noise of the river. “If another of your soldiers crosses into our territory without our permission it means certain death for that man!”

Norin turned back to the warriors and with a grin led them in a victory march through the forest. Norin rode to each of the hidden campsites, spreading the news of the victory. As he reached the middle of the forest, where the women and children of Oathswine's clan were camped, his mind filled with a single question he wanted answered. The thought of this question made his pulse race with excitement very different than what he felt in battle.


A few days later Fairy Wood was filled with the sounds of a joyful celebration. With sparkling eyes and flushed face, Elena trailed at the end of a procession of warriors, fairies and clanswoman. Flowers were braided into her golden hair and she wore a fine gown of silver and white which was a gift from the fairy queen.
Elena stopped before Norin. His armor was replaced with a fine tunic though the Silver Sword still hung at his side. There, with the fairy queen and members of all ten clans as witnesses, Norin and Elena made their vows to each other and the Lord of Light.

When Oathswine and his warriors returned to camp, Elena told her father of Norin's proposal. She made it clear to him that she intended to marry Norin with or without his consent. In the end Oathswine gave her his blessing. Norin wondered if Oathswine's recent victory over Sardi made him easier to persuade.

Once the ceremony was over and as the clans people celebrated beneath the canopy of leaves, the chieftains and Lady Utaria approached Norin. After they congratulated Norin and Elena, Keth stepped forward and spoke for the rest of the group.

"Norin, we all know it was you who led us to our great victory and that it is you that our enemies fear most of all. For this reason we have all agreed to place our clans under your protection if you will agree to lead us."

"I am honored that you think so highly of me," said Norin, "but I could never take away your places as chieftains. Besides, leading all ten clans would be no easy task."

"If you wish you can leave us in command of our clans," said Tayad. "However Keth is right when he says it was because of your leadership that we defeated Rovinien and Sardi. For this reason we all swear allegiance to you. All the members of the clans including the chieftains will defer to your judgment should you choose to give it."

"Very well," Norin agreed."I will agree on one condition."

"Name it," said Keth.

"I wish to honor the memory of my clan," Norin explained. "We have built ourselves a kingdom here in the midlands and I wish to name it after my fallen clan."

The chieftains all agreed and so Norin's kingdom came to be known as Windola in honor of the Wind Followers.


Norin divided the land into ten provinces, each led by a different chieftain. Most provinces were named for their chieftains save one in the north which was called Utaria and another in the north-west bordering the Taratin River. That province came to be known as Routsford because it was at that point in the river the warriors had routed the troops of Rovinien.

Though all the warriors spent some time on border patrol, Rovinien and Sardi showed no signs of invading again. Both countries feared the new king of the midlands and wished to avoid crossing blades with his magic sword.

In the peaceful years that followed, Norin began construction on a great city of stone in the heart of his kingdom beside the black swan’s pond. When news of Norin’s construction plans reached the fairy queen, she sent a number of dwarves to Norin with a gift of fine stones from the Emerald Mountains. These Norin used to construct a palace of sparkling white quartz for his family and a temple to the Lord of Light supported by pillars of different colored marble. Several generations later, when at last the city was completed, it was named in Norin’s honor.

Elena and Norin had three children, two sons named Nexis and Quinn and a daughter named Myria. When they were grown, Nexis became king and Quinn took Oathswine’s place as leader of that province. Myria married Keth’s son and helped him lead his own province.


After many long years ruling Windola, Norin returned to Fairy Wood one last time. When several fairies crowded around him he told them, “I wish to speak to your queen.”

A few fairies flew to inform her while the rest escorted Norin to the dancing meadow. When the fairy queen glided from under the trees, Norin bowed to her then took the Silver Sword out from under his cloak.

“I thank you for the honor of using this sword and I am grateful you found me worthy of it,” he said holding it out to her. “However, it is too much to hope that all my decedents will be worthy heroes. I wish to return the Silver Sword to you so that you may keep it safe until the time comes when it is needed again and someone else shall rise to take it.”

The fairy queen gave him her knowing smile, took the sword and said, “So be it.”
Norin bowed to her again then walked out of the forest. Fairies and elves lined his path, peering out of trees and from behind branches to catch one last glimpse of the first hero worthy of the Silver Sword.

Silver Sword Saga continued in Fairy Vault.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Silver Sword Saga: Swan Warrior Part 4

This story is continued from Swan Warrior Parts 1, 2 & 3.

For the Silver Sword's Backgroung please refer to Forging and the 1st Unworthy.

Swan Warrior Part 4

Let the praise of God be on their lips and a two-edged sword in their hand, to deal out vengeance to the nations and punishment on all the peoples.
Psalm 149: 6-7

Norin had chosen to spend much of his time in Tayad’s camp and was there when the guards announced the guest. Yet he took little notice of this announcement until Tayad tapped his shoulder.

When Norin turned, Tayad said, “Someone is here to see you.”

Past the last huts, Tayad indicated a blonde girl who stood with her back to them as she spoke to a guard. Even from the back Norin recognized her.


She turned, locking her bright blue eyes on him. Norin noticed one of Oathswine’s warriors standing behind her. No doubt he was her escort.

“Norin, I’ve come because I’m afraid you’re in danger,” said Elena stepping closer and taking Norin’s hand. “My father moved our clan to the south near the Sardi border. This spring we met a gypsy who wandered in Sardi for many years and knew the language of that country. The gypsy said that the emperor of Sardi is offering a huge reward for the capture of the warrior with the sword of white fire, which I know is what the slavers call you. According to the gypsy, the emperor wants you brought to the temple in Sardi’s capital to be sacrificed to his gods. The emperor believes that the offering of your blood will please the gods enough that they will strengthen and bless his own warriors.”

Norin stared at her, his expression blank as he took in this news.

“The loss of a great warrior like Norin might dishearten the clans enough that the emperor’s troops might seem strengthened by gods,” said Tayad who stood listening a little behind Norin.

Elena nodded hard then continued, “I recently heard of slavers capturing the clans of chieftains Akayen and Milarko. I knew that when the news reached the allied clans you would want to ride to their rescue. Norin, I beg you, don’t go south. It is too dangerous for you.”

“It would be selfish of me leave clans in danger to protect myself,” Norin replied.

“Your enemies know that is how you think and they will use it against you,” said Elena.

“The other chieftains and I can still rescue Akayen and Milarko,” added Tayad. “There is no reason you need to come with us. We will need guards for the campsites after all.”

“No, I still intend to join the rescue party,” said Norin. “I swore to fight for the clans and that is what I will do even if I must die for it. The risks have always been high but that never stopped me before and the same is true now.”

He pulled his hand out of Elena’s grasp and turned to walk away from her.

Tayad fell into step beside him and commented, “We will have to be on guard if what she says is true. Keth and Fin should arrive soon. A messenger told me that Utaria and Wiltor have chosen to supervise the warriors guarding the campsites. We must be sure all the warriors in our rescue party know of this new development.”

Norin nodded.

Just then Elena ran up beside them, grabbed Norin’s arm and spun him to face her.

“Have you been listening to what I’ve been telling you?” she snapped. “The capture of Akayen and Milarko is probably a trap and you’re walking right into it!”

“Trap or not those clans need my help,” Norin shot back.

“Just for once can you not be so noble!” Elena cried getting more upset with every word. “If they catch you it won’t be the same as if you died in battle. If you are taken to Sardi your death will be so horrible I won’t be able to bring myself to think about it and I would never see you again, even dead!”

Tears streamed down her face. She took an angry swipe at Norin’s chest but he caught her arm mid-blow. With a look of defeat Elena collapsed on Norin’s shoulder, sobbing. With an uncomfortable look Tayad turned away from them. Norin stroked Elena’s hair until she calmed a little.

“If I remain here will you stay with me?” Elena whispered.

Norin sighed. “You know I can’t. Besides, you should return to your father’s camp. Your clan may need you.”

“Very well, but you better come back safe.” She pushed away from Norin and wiped her eyes.

“I’ll be fine. Don’t worry.”

He took her hand and they turned back to Tayad.

“I suggest we let Lady Elena ride with us as we make our way south until we pass her clan’s camp,” said Norin.

“All right,” Tayad agreed glancing at Elena as though not sure what to make of her.


Not long afterward a group rode out from the hidden campsites. They passed through plains and over hills where new grass was springing up, dotted with flowers which gave off perfumes fragrant enough to tickle the noses of the riders. The leaf-bearing trees were covered in fresh buds unrolling to stretch toward the sun which warmed the air and skin. Near the encampment of Chieftain Oathswine, Elena and her guard broke away from the warriors to head home but not before Elena had repeated her words of warning to Norin.

As they reached the border of Sardi the group noticed smoke rising from campfires whose lights dotted the land in the night. In the day-time they spotted dark robed riders who could only be soldiers of Sardi.

“The emperor must truly fear us to put this many troops on his border,” Keth commented.

“I only hope border patrol really is their only duty,” said Norin.

“We must be careful to avoid them if at all possible,” added Tayad.

At last they spotted men clothed in more simple robes who were using whips to drive a long line of people before them. Several soldiers rode beside the slavers as guards, forcing Norin and the chieftains to follow at a distance.

As the sun set, the slavers pitched their camp at the base of a small hill. The chieftains and their warriors stopped and dismounted in a nearby copse of trees where they watched the tents until full darkness fell. Tayad waved Norin and the other chieftains over to hold a whispered conference.

“Chieftain Fin and I will take a handful of warriors, scout out the area and hopefully take out a few of their guards. When I think it is safe I’ll make an owl noise and Chieftain Keth and Norin can lead the rest of the warriors into the camp to free the prisoners.”

Fin added, “We should leave the horses here. We’ll be quieter and harder to spot without them.”

The others agreed. So Fin and Tayad chose a few warriors and crept toward the slavers’ campsite. Norin waited with the remaining warriors for several long agonizing minutes before he heard Tayad’s signal. He drew his sword and waved forward the warriors. A quick glance at Keth confirmed that the chieftain was doing the same.

The group slipped almost noiselessly between the tents. Everything was so quiet that the place seemed deserted. Wary of attack, Norin watched the dark landscape for movement and listened for a sound which would betray the presence of a watching slaver. By the time he reached the center of camp with the warriors there was still no sign of life. At last they saw the captive clans-people where they sat chained. As Norin approached with Keth close behind, a bound man looked up, took in the Silver Sword and raised his fearful eyes to Norin’s face.

“You should never have come,” the man said.

The soft rustle of fabric and a muffled groan as someone collapsed behind him alerted Norin to danger. He whirled just as a slaver charged him holding a scimitar. He raised the Silver Sword to catch the blow but it never came. The slaver reeled backward with an arrow imbedded in his chest. Norin turned to see Keth’s archer standing behind him, his bow still raised. As the archer reached for another arrow the rest of the slavers rose from their hiding places, ringing in the warriors. Norin’s heart pounded as he saw that they were completely surrounded. The archer fired again, hitting the arm of a slaver advancing on Keth. The slaver cursed in the Sardi language. One of his companions standing behind the archer raised an arm.
Norin cried a warning and leapt toward the slaver but he was not fast enough. With a gasp of surprise and pain the archer fell, his bow slipping from his hand and a throwing knife protruding from his back.

Norin leapt at the man who had thrown the knife and stabbed him before he could react. The remaining slavers closed in, making their ring around the warriors smaller. All around warriors fell, either killed or subdued by the slavers. Norin’s hands were now coated in cold sweat but he tightened his grip on his sword and forced himself to focus, swinging at his enemies every time they tried to come closer. The slavers danced away from the Silver Sword in fear, seeming reluctant to come too close to it.

Keth let out a cry that was half desperate howl and half plea for help. Norin turned just enough to see several slavers forcing the chieftain to his knees. A wave of panic washed over Norin. With the slavers threatening Keth his warriors would be forced to surrender. Thrusting his sword arm out to force his own attackers back several steps, Norin turned toward Keth then raised the Silver Sword to strike down the chieftain’s captors. Suddenly a whip snaked out and wrapped around Norin’s raised arm. The slaver holding it tugged, using Norin’s momentum against him. Norin’s feet slipped out from under him and he fell on his back at the feet of his enemies. His wrist was on fire with pain but he kept his grip on the Silver Sword.

As the slavers closed in on him Norin struggled to free his arm from the cords of the whip. He kicked away the arms of one man who reached for him and grasped at the Silver Sword with his left hand. One of the slavers kicked Norin’s jaw then grabbed his left arm and pinned it to the ground. The slaver holding the whip stepped forward and placed a foot on Norin’s right arm before untangling his whip. Norin writhed, trying in vain to swing his sword around and land a blow. With an evil grin the slaver shifted, resting his foot directly on Norin’s wrist which still stung from the whip. Norin gritted his teeth and tightened his hold on the Silver Sword. The slaver ground in his heel until Norin’s fingers opened and the sword slipped from his grasp. Norin gave a cry of despair as he saw it fall. The slaver stepped off of Norin’s arm, kicked the sword aside then jumped back as though it would bite him.

Norin swung his fist at the slaver. The man stepped back to avoid the blow then grabbed Norin’s arm and with the help of his companions forced Norin into a kneeling position. One of the slavers came forward with a pair of manacles. At the sight of them Norin renewed his struggles in a last desperate attempt to break free. One of the slavers hit the side of Norin’s head with the end of his scimitar just enough to throw him off balance. While Norin was still dazed from the blow, they succeeded in chaining his hands. One of the slavers removed his cloak and used it to pick up the Silver Sword, careful not to touch the weapon with his skin. He then nodded to his companions who moved to organize their prisoners.

Norin winced as loud commands were barked in the Sardi language. The slavers pulled him to his feet and forced him to walk at a hurried pace. All around the slavers brought the rest of the captives to their feet and herded them out of the campsite. Through his blurred vision Norin caught a brief glimpse of Keth chained with several of his warriors before the entire group made its way south at the urging of the slavers. Norin had just enough time to steal one last glance at the fallen warriors before he was pushed forward into a forced night march.


Norin’s body ached with exhaustion when the slavers called a halt. A slaver pushed him to a sitting position, produced a pair of shackles and fastened one end to Norin’s left ankle and the other to a sapling. Norin felt too weary to resist. Another man stepped forward with a bowl of water which he pressed to Norin’s lips, forcing him to drink. The liquid stung Norin’s parched throat. He coughed but managed to swallow most of it. As the slavers moved away he closed his eyes and leaned back against the tree. A sharp whisper caught his attention and ended any hope of dozing.


He opened his eyes and could just make out Keth straining against his chains to speak to him without drawing the attention of the slavers.

“Where do you suppose we are?” asked Keth.

Norin tried to decipher the hurried images of shapes he’d passed in the dark. He remembered a long line of campfires with soldiers patrolling between them and swallowed before replying, “We must have crossed the Sardi border nearly an hour ago.”

“I saw how the slavers feared your sword,” said Keth. “I’m surprised they brought it with them.”

“They probably need it to prove my identity to the emperor.”

An image of a bloody altar flashed into Norin’s mind. Please not like that, he silently prayed. He forced away the dark thought and balled his hands into fists to keep them from trembling.

Keth must have guessed at Norin’s thoughts for he said, “They still fear you too.”
Norin took a shaky breath then asked, “What do you think happened to Tayad and Fin?”

“I wish I knew. The signal was the last…”

There was a soft whistling sound and Keth gave a cry. A moment later the cord of a whip slapped Norin’s face leaving a burning sensation in its wake. A slaver barked something in the Sardi language. Though Norin and Keth did not understand the words the meaning was clear enough: no talking. Norin turned and glared at the man until he became uncomfortable and turned his back on them. Keth shifted closer to his warriors and the imprisoned clan members. Norin closed his eyes again. There was little chance of talking more that night.


Norin woke from a restless sleep to a rough kick in the side. A slaver stood over him holding another bowl of water. He bent and held it to Norin’s lips. Once Norin finished drinking the slaver dropped a small slice of bread before moving to the other prisoners. The bread tasted stale but Norin finished it anyway, unsure of when he would receive more nourishment.

Norin just swallowed the last bite when the slavers removed the chain from his ankle and pulled him to his feet. With cracks of their whips the slavers set their captives marching once more. As the day wore on the air became hot and heavy with humidity. The worn group entered a large tangled forest which seemed to stretch on without end. As the day moved toward its end and the shadows lengthened, Norin wondered how many days journey it was to Sardi’s capital from the border. Once darkness fell the slavers made camp following a similar pattern to the previous night. This time they watched Norin and Keth more closely, keeping them from speaking to each other.

Morning found the camp in chaos. Slavers ran here and there shouting at each other and turning out the contents of their tents. Norin watched them in silence without making out the reason for the confusion.

At last a slaver approached him and demanded, “Where sword of white fire?”

When Norin just stared at him in shock the slaver slammed his fist into his temple and yelled, “Where?”

“When have I had the chance to take it?” Norin snapped.

The slaver looked at him blankly.

“I don’t know.”

The slaver made a quick search of the area where Norin was chained as though he thought he might find the Silver Sword hidden there. After satisfying himself that Norin didn’t have it, he checked Norin’s bonds and moved away casting a nervous glance over his shoulder.

Taking advantage of the slavers confusion, Keth called, “Norin, if the sword went missing right under their noses it can only mean one thing.”

“What’s that?” Norin asked.

“Tayad is still alive.”

Norin thought of all the times he had watched Tayad slip silently into an enemy camp to raid their supplies and knew Keth was right. Who but Tayad could have stolen the Silver Sword with the slavers watching it? The hope this idea sparked set Norin’s body tingling with excitement. Perhaps all was not lost yet.


The slavers were on edge as they forced their captives farther south that day. Just before midday the group crossed paths with a number of soldiers. One of the slavers hailed them and spoke rapidly in the Sardi tongue. Though he could not understand what was said, Norin guessed that the slavers were explaining the disappearance of the Silver Sword and asking for the protection of the soldiers. The captain accepted with a few short words and his men joined the slavers’ guards and rode with the party for several hours.

Just as the path became lighter and the trees thinned, marking the edge of the forest, the captain of the soldiers gave a sharp cry. The soldiers and slavers’ guards drew their weapons. The slavers stared at them in confusion then cried out in fear as a man at the front of the group drew the Silver Sword from under his cloak. This soldier removed his helmet revealing the face of Chieftain Fin. Norin turned toward the captain and recognized him as Tayad.

Tayad dismounted and holding a black scimitar in a threatening position, stepped closer to a slaver.

“Give me your keys,” Tayad ordered.

The slaver stared at him in terror and confusion and babbled something Norin doubted
he would understand even if he spoke Sardi. Tayad stepped closer to one of Akayan’s men and pantomimed unlocking his chains.

“Keys,” he repeated.

Fin also dismounted and stepped forward, emphasizing Tayad’s command by placing the tip Silver Sword under the man’s chin. The other slavers stepped as far as they could away from Fin and one of them produced a ring of keys. Tayad nodded to one of his disguised warriors who took the keys and split them between several other warriors who worked to free the prisoners. The rest of the warriors moved to disarm the slavers. As the slow process of freeing the clansmen proceeded, several slavers fell to their knees, pleading with Tayad in their own language. Tayad snapped a sharp single word at them in Sardi and they quieted, cowering from him in fear.

Once Keth was freed from his chains he stepped toward Tayad glaring at the slavers in hate. Norin held out his arms as one of the warriors stepped toward him to test several keys on his chains before he found the right one.

“Let’s kill them and get out of this cursed empire,” Keth said.

Tayad drew a knife from his belt, handed it to the other chieftain and gestured at the kneeling slavers saying, “They’re all yours.”

“I have a better idea,” said Norin.

He picked up the manacles which fell from his own hands, stepped toward the nearest slaver and fastened them on the man’s wrists. Turning to the warriors who were freeing the few remaining prisoners, Norin commanded, “Bring those chains over here once you finish.”

Fin moved toward Norin, bowed his head and offered him the Silver Sword. As Norin closed his fingers around the hilt he felt relieved and whole again. Fin smiled and drew his own sword.

“What should we do with these?” asked a voice from behind them.

Norin turned to see the warriors holding the chains as he had instructed.

“Chain the slavers together,” he said. “Show them their own cruelty.”

Tayad smirked and nodded. The slavers tried to back away as the warriors moved to bind them. Norin stepped forward and used their fear of the Silver Sword to herd them into position.

Stepping close to stare directly into the face of one terrified slaver Norin said, “Give my regards to your emperor.”

Grabbing a whip from the pile of weapons at Tayad’s feet he gave it a loud crack sending the slavers tripping over each other in their hurry to get away from him.

“Everyone grab a weapon and find a horse,” Tayad ordered once the slavers were out of earshot. “We will need to ride north quickly before the emperor receives Norin’s message.”


Tayad and Fin had gathered all the warriors’ horses plus those of a group of Sardi soldiers they had defeated several days earlier. Much of the herd they left with a guard a few miles behind the slavers. Between these animals they were able to get the newcomers from Akayan and Milarko’s clans mounted though in several cases two people shared one horse. Most the other riders also carried a small child or two in the front of their saddles. They rode hard through the rest of the day and on into the night. The constant noise of pounding hooves filled their ears. They made only a few short stops to rest and water the horses.

At the northern border of Sardi Tayad and Fin ordered their warriors to dispose of the Sardi armor.

“It helped us get into the empire but I don’t want clansmen shooting us down thinking we are enemies,” said Tayad.

The unwanted gear was deposited in a ditch. After a moment’s hesitation, Tayad picked up a black scimitar and buckled its sheath to his belt.

Noticing Norin watching his actions with amusement, Tayad explained, “It’s a good weapon. I’d hate for it to go to waste.”

Several hours later as dawn lit up the world; Norin spotted the first of the pursuing soldiers as dark spots on the edge of the horizon. Though the clansmen never slowed their pace, the soldiers gained on them as the day progressed. By the afternoon Norin knew the pursuers would overtake them. He drew the Silver Sword in preparation for a fight and saw the chieftains and warriors do the same.

Before the soldiers came close enough to exchange blows with the warriors, a sudden hail of arrows rained down on them. Several men of Sardi fell under the shots while their horses reared and panicked. In the confusion that followed a new group of warriors rode out of the surrounding hills and dispatched the few remaining soldiers. Norin recognized Oathswine at their head. As the last soldier fell and everyone sheathed their weapons, Oathswine wheeled his horse around to ride at Norin’s side.

“Are there more of them?” Oathswine asked.

“These were the first, but I wouldn’t be surprised if the rest of the emperor’s army follows before long.”

Oathswine’s brow darkened and he said, “Utaria just sent word that a large army is advancing on the rest of the allied clans from Rovinien.”

“Then we must return to them as quickly as possible!” cried Norin.

Oathswine moved his horse to block Norin’s path and said, “I won’t let you ride yourself to death. Come back to my camp, rest, hear our news then continue your journey.”

“We should do as he says,” said Keth, who had overheard this conversation. “I know you must be as exhausted as I am and we won’t make it much farther in such a state. Besides, we have Akayan and Milarko’s clans to think of.”

Norin turned toward Tayad whose face wore a worried expression though he said nothing. Norin returned his attention to Oathswine and gave a slight nod.

“Come with me and hurry!” called Oathswine waving them after him.

Oathswine and his warriors led them over the hills and into a thin gulch where they were forced to ride single file. After a few short minutes they moved out of the gulch and into a wooded hollow which sheltered Oathswine’s camp. Norin thought about the advancing troops and realized he was the cause of their wrath. A sudden fear came over him that by fighting so hard to save the clans he had actually brought about their destruction.

Story continued in Swan Warrior Part 5.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Silver Sword Saga: Swan Warrior Part 3

This story is continued from Swan Warrior parts 1 & 2

For the Silver Sword's background please refer to Forging and the 1st Unworthy.

Swan Warrior Part 3

Let the praise of God be on their lips and a two-edged sword in their hand, to deal out vengeance to the nations and punishment on all the peoples.
Psalm 149: 6-7

Norin crossed the quiet campsite easily despite the dark. A sentry guarding the dwelling of his chieftain looked up in surprise as Norin and the small ragged man following him stopped in front of the tent.

“I need to speak with Chieftain Keth,” said Norin.

“He’s sleeping…” the guard began but Norin interrupted him.

“This is urgent. Wake him.”

With an uncertain look over his shoulder, the guard entered the tent. There was a shuffling sound inside then Keth emerged, fully dressed and looking worried.

“What is it, Norin?” he asked.

Norin opened his mouth to reply but before he could speak, Oathswine’s voice cut through the silence of the camp.

“What is the meaning of this, Norin?”

Norin clenched his hands into fists as he turned to face Oathswine and Utaria. Now there was no chance of keeping this from the rest of the camp.

“The guards said they woke us on your orders,” Utaria added in a softer voice. “What is the trouble?”

Norin gestured at the man beside him and said, “This man stumbled upon our camp and needs our help. I think you should hear his story.”

The man swallowed, nodded to the chieftains and Lady Utaria, and fiddled with the frayed end of his tunic. At last he took a deep breath and worked up enough courage to speak.

“Sardi slavers came up from the south and captured most of my clan. I’m one of the few who escaped.”

“This is what you dragged us out of bed for?” demanded Oathswine. “Slave traders often turn on the clans at this time of year. The seas are so rough this season that Sardi can’t send ships to make raids on the islands where they usually get their slaves.”

“Why should that make it any less our concern?” asked Keth.

“He was not finished.” Norin snapped. “Hear him out!”

Encouraged by Norin’s support the clansman continued, “There is a rumor that the southern empire’s slave markets are paying the slavers extra if they capture chieftains and bring them to Sardi alive. I heard of another clan who lost their chieftain to the raiders much earlier in the year, before the seas would have been rough.”

Norin watched Oathswine and Keth’s expressions change and Utaria’s eyes widen, satisfying him that they understood the threat to themselves.

“It is said that Chieftain Tayad will provide protection to the survivors of any clan which is attacked,” said the clansman. “The survivors of my clan chose to send runners in each direction to find him and his warriors. We figured with so many slave traders in the area he couldn’t be far.”

“Tayad is hardly a chieftain!” Oathswine scoffed.

Norin cocked an eyebrow. “You’ve heard of him?”

“Most of the clans have,” said Keth.

“Tayad appeared shortly after the attack on your clan, Norin,” Oathswine added. “Most of the clans see him and his band of vagabonds as saviors. To me they just sound like trouble makers.”

“Tayad was the second son of a chieftain but he was never meant to lead the clan,” Utaria explained. “His father died of a wound inflicted in a battle against the Roviniens. Not long after the death of Tayad’s father, Sardi slavers found the clan’s campsite. The slavers took his mother and older brother captive along with many members of the clan. Tayad and a few warriors who escaped chose to live in hiding. It is said they raid the encampments of their Rovinien and Sardi enemies in retaliation for their injustices on the clans. I have also heard what your friend here tells us, that Tayad offers protection to clansmen in trouble.”

“I think I should like to meet this Chieftain Tayad,” said Norin. “Before that, though, it is our responsibility to rescue this man’s chieftain…”

“Chieftain Fin,” the clansman said.

“Chieftain Fin,” Norin repeated. “We cannot let the Sardi slavers believe that they can continue to capture chieftains and prey on their people. If we are to save Fin’s clan, we’ll have to reach the slavers before they make it to Sardi. The clansman can lead us to where they attacked. From there we will do our best to track them.”

“If you are suggesting we attack the slavers you are mad!” cried Oathswine.

“No, he's right. If we do not wish to be oppressed we must fight back,” said Keth. “I’ll rouse my warriors at once.”

He called his guard, instructing the man to wake the warriors then gathered his weapons and gear.

“I do not agree with your methods,” said Oathswine giving Norin a hard look, “but I am not going to let you and Keth ride into danger alone.”

He moved toward his tent calling orders to his own warriors in his loud voice as he went.

“We will need my warriors here to guard the camp,” said Utaria. “I will remain to supervise them.”

“Very good my lady.”

Norin moved quickly toward his tent, returning a few minutes later wearing chainmail and carrying his horse’s gear. As Norin readied him, his horse flattened his ears in annoyance at being woken.

“Norin!” a voice cried from behind him.

He turned to face Elena.

“My father told me what you plan to do,” she said taking his hand. “You are doing the right thing, Light bless you for it! Just be careful.”

“I promise,” he said.

“We are ready Norin,” Oathswine called.

Norin turned to see a small group of mounted warriors with Oathswine and Keth at their head. The refugee clansman rode between the two chieftains. Oathswine frowned deeply at Norin and Elena. Norin gave Elena’s hand a quick squeeze then released it and mounted his own horse. He followed the warriors with one last glance over his shoulder in time to see Elena wave. Oathswine’s frown deepened.


The warriors rode far south through dark, silent hours of the night, tracking the course of the slavers. Cool wind slipped over their backs as they followed Norin, turning into a ravine near the dark mass of a campsite. There they would be out of sight of any Sardi guards. Norin nodded at Keth, who signaled two of his warriors. They slipped over the rocky edge to crawl on their bellies toward the campsite. The morning star shone in the east and the horizon was edged with grey light when they returned.

As Keth, Oathswine and Norin clustered around them, one of the scouts whispered, “The clan is chained together in the center of the camp guarded by four men. Judging by the snoring, I’d say there are at least five more asleep.”

“We’ll be more than a match for them,” said Keth. “Besides, we have the advantage of surprise.”

“We need a solid strategy,” Norin replied. “I suggest we creep into the camp and take out the guards as quietly as possible. Once the guards are down, Keth’s warriors and I can free the prisoners while Oathswine’s warriors enter the tents and kill the remaining slavers.”

Keth’s eyes gleamed. Oathswine nodded then turned to his warriors and commanded, “Dismount. We will leave the horses here. You are to enter the camp through stealth and take out the guards. After that, follow my lead.”

The warriors left the horses huddled beneath the walls of rock in the care of the refugee clansman and moved through the dewy grass at a crouch. As clouds in the east turned glorious colors, Oathswine, Keth, Norin and the warriors drew their weapons and stalked between rows of dark cloth. Norin came upon the first guard who was pacing from tent to tent on his watch in a bored manner. Leaping up from his crouch, Norin drove the Silver Sword into the Sardi man’s back, covering his mouth to muffle his cry as he slipped to the ground. One of Oathswine’s warriors took out a second guard by slitting his throat. An archer of Keth’s shot the third near the center of camp. A voice yelled something in the Sardi dialect from close to where the third guard fell. The last guard had seen his companion fall and raised the alarm. He slipped behind a tent still yelling.

As the guard dashed forward, making his way deeper into the camp Norin cried, “Stop him!”

Keth’s archer took aim and shot. His arrow buried itself in the back of the guard who staggered forward another couple feet before falling face down on the grass. The damage had already been done. Five slavers hurried out of their tents armed with scimitars forged from a strong black metal only found in the Sardi Empire. A few also carried whips. The cord of one slaver’s whip shot toward Norin’s left ear. He twisted in time to catch the blow on the Silver Sword. The cord wrapped around his blade and he yanked it toward him. The slaver stumbled as the Silver Sword sliced through his whip, which fell in several harmless pieces at Norin’s feet. The dark man of Sardi tossed aside the now useless handle and advanced on Norin with scimitar raised.

The slaver’s first blow vibrated up Norin’s arm but the man gave him little time to recover. He was fast and agile, forcing Norin to use all the skills he learned from the elves just to keep him from landing a blow. Norin danced to the side putting a tent between himself and his attacker for a minute in which time he realized that the warriors were overwhelming the slavers by sheer numbers. He turned just as his attacker came around a corner. Norin focused all his energy on forcing his opponent toward a large group of warriors led by Oathswine.

Suddenly a voice rang out commanding, “Stay!” in the language of the clans with a heavy Sardi accent. Norin flung his opponent away, and positioned himself so he could see in the direction of the voice while still watching his enemy for another attack. Near the center of camp a slaver was holding a knife to the throat of a man bound in shackles whose brown eyes were wide with fear. More clan members old and young were chained nearby, many of them weeping, all looking terrified.

“Stay,” the slaver repeated, “or chieftain dies.”

Oathswine cursed, the warriors froze and the slavers moved closer to the man holding Fin. Out of the corner of his eye Norin saw Keth’s archer move behind the slaver and his hostage. The archer took up a shooting position near the group in chains and slowly raised his weapon. Everyone’s attention was so focused on Fin they didn’t notice. Norin gave a slight nod and he released the shaft. The arrow pierced the slaver’s right shoulder causing him to drop the knife with a howl of pain. Norin leapt forward, grabbed Fin’s arm and pushed him in Keth’s direction before stabbing the wounded slaver in the chest. The remaining slavers turned and fled.

“My warriors, to your horses, we will pursue them!” cried Oathswine.

As Oathswine and his warriors thundered into the distance, Norin and Keth worked to free Fin and his clan from their chains. As Keth told Fin about the allegiance of the clans and offered to make him part of it, Norin called to the archer, “Good shooting.”

The archer smiled and nodded his thanks.

Soon the group headed back toward the joint campsite. The warriors allowed the children of Fin’s clan to ride their horses while they themselves walked beside the liberated clan members. The refugee clansman who had first spoken to Norin found the members who were still in hiding and gave them the news of Fin’s rescue. Before long they also came to the large camp. Late in the night Oathswine and his warriors returned and reported that the slavers had escaped but even this bad news couldn’t damper the spirits of the camp for long. Fin chose to remain with the other clans, swearing that someday he would repay Oathswine, Keth and Norin for his rescue.


As the fall days turned shorter and the season became colder, Norin collected information from other clansmen about Chieftain Tayad. On days when affairs at camp seemed relatively calm he took to riding out in search of Tayad and his elusive warriors.

When Elena asked him the reason for his search, Norin told her, “I believe Tayad is a warrior much like myself, fighting for the future of the clans. He and his men would be invaluable if they become part of our alliance and I doubt that either Rovinien or Sardi would dare stand in our way with him in our numbers.”

“Perhaps you are right,” Elena agreed. “Already the mention of you strikes fear into the hearts of soldiers and slavers, but if you were to join forces with another of their enemies, the men of Rovinien and Sardi might think twice before crossing their borders.”

So the search for Tayad continued even as fall gave way to winter.

One cold morning as a soft snow fell, Norin rode into a narrow valley surrounded by
naked trees. As he passed the edge of the first hill a soft sound reached his ears. A puff of snow drifted down the slope and swirled around him. Had it fallen from one of the trees? Another noise similar to the first came from his other side. Sensing danger, Norin pulled his horse to a stop and placed a hand on the hilt of his sword. A man wrapped in furs sprang out of a drift to the left of the horse. Norin drew the Silver Sword and swung at his head out of pure instinct. The man caught the blow on a long knife then danced aside laughing.

“It’s no wonder you’ve lasted so long! You’re quick,” said the man.

Norin’s eyes moved to the hills which were covered in more fur wrapped men.

“And alert,” added the first man.

Norin returned his attention to him and lowered his sword. The man had the look and sound of a clansman. He was young, probably in his twenties. His over long blond hair was tied back with a thin leather strap.

“Chieftain Tayad?” Norin asked.

“That’s right. I heard you were looking for me. After all the talk floating around Rovinien and Sardi camps about the unstoppable warrior with a sword of white fire I knew I had to meet you, so I decided to camp to the area.”

Norin took a breath to calm himself and sheathed the Silver Sword. Tayad smiled and put his knife in a sheath hidden beneath his furs.

“Come with me,” Tayad said nodded in the direction of the valley. “The falling snow will cover our tracks.”

Norin dismounted and followed Tayad, leading his horse. Tayad’s guards remained on the hillside where they stood vigilant. After a few feet the valley floor dropped into a deep, rough bowl. Tayad and Norin stopped at the edge of the drop-off and stared down at a village of small crude huts. A few people wrapped in layers of warm clothing moved about, but it was clear that most of the inhabitance were staying out of the cold.

“This is my clan,” said Tayad gesturing at them. “We’re a tribe of refugees and survivors nothing like the ones you brought together.”

Norin turned to him, surprised by his words.

“I have eyes and ears all across the land,” Tayad explained. “It’s the only way I can find out when soldiers or slavers are near or if there is another clan in trouble. Of course you’ve done more than I ever could.”

“From what I hear you have done plenty for other clans.”

Tayad shrugged. “I give them a place to stay when they have nowhere else to go. I get back some of their possessions when the Roviniens steal from them or rescue a few people from Sardi slavers. I’ve never been able to help more than one or two people escape at a time or unite rival clans against groups of soldiers, though.”

Now it was Norin’s turn to shrug. “We have each done the best we could for those we care about.”

“There is at least one other thing we have in common.”

“What is that?”

“Rovinien and Sardi want us both dead.” Tayad turned to grin at Norin as he added, “Unfortunately for them we met before they could kill one of us.”

“So you will join the allied clans?”

“On a few conditions…”


“There are too many of you to be in one camp out in the open,” Tayad told the chieftains once they called a council in a hut near the center of the joint campsite. “This camp is too easy a target for your enemies if they choose to attack you.”

“But there is strength in numbers,” Keth argued.

“Only if you use your numbers wisely,” said Tayad.

“What are you suggesting?” asked Fin.

“You would be safer if each clan made its own camp in hidden spots across the land.” said Tayad. “You can send messengers between camps when you wish to communicate. When men of Rovinien and Sardi are in the area our warriors can raid their camps to dwindle their supplies. If we diminish their stores enough they won’t be able to make it through the winter and will be forced to return to their own countries.”
Norin watched the chieftains’ faces as they considered this. Most of them seemed to see the sense in Tayad’s words. Only Oathswine continued to look unhappy.

“You cannot seriously be considering living like a band of thieves, can you?” Oathswine demanded giving the other chieftains a deep scowl.

“This may be the best way to keep your clans alive,” Tayad replied. “If you wish for your clans to survive you must develop methods which allow you to attack your enemies from hiding.”

“We are the chieftains,” said Oathswine, his voice angry. “We do not have to take orders from this boy.”

He jabbed a finger in Tayad’s direction.

“Chieftain Tayad is right,” said Utaria. “I for one agree with his plan.”

“So do I,” agreed Fin.

Keth nodded.

“He is not a chieftain!” cried Oathswine jumping to his feet. “You are all fools.”

He turned to Norin and snapped, “You most of all for bringing this rogue into our midst. Go on then, join Tayad’s group of bandits. I will hear no more of your foolish plans.”

He stormed out of the hut while the other chieftains stared after him in shock. Norin followed the angry chieftain, gesturing the others to return to their council. Oathswine paced on the already hard packed snow between two huts. He turned at the sound of Norin’s approach.

“Being a good fighter does not give you the right to lead clans as you and Tayad seem to believe,” Oathswine snapped before Norin could say anything. His breath made little clouds of fog with every word.

“I am not trying to take control of your clan away from you,” said Norin.

“Do not lie to my face! I see through your plan and I have seen the way you look at my daughter. Elena will marry a chieftain not some lone survivor of a dead clan!”

Norin took a step backward, too stunned to speak. Oathswine pushed past him before he could recover. For a minute Norin stood there feeling like he had been stuck by lightning until Keth’s voice called him back.

“Norin, were you able to talk some sense into him?”

Norin let out a long cloudy breath before answering. “Oathswine has chosen to go his own way. We can’t force anyone to join us if he’s not willing. Come on, we have to prepare the rest of the clans to move to the hidden campsites.”


Around the middle of winter another clan sought Tayad’s protection. The chieftain, a man named Wiltor, asked for an audience with Tayad and Norin, who was at Tayad’s camp at that time.

“I have lost many good warriors fighting the Rovinien soldiers,” said Wiltor. “Now I have so few left that they cannot properly defend my campsite. The Roviniens are taking advantage of this. Every time their supplies run short they steal goods from my camp. I was hoping you could me defend my clan against this persecution.”

Norin told Wiltor about the alliance of the clans and the rules by which they lived. “So long as you can live by this code you are welcome.”

“I would consider myself honored,” Wiltor replied.

“In that case we must help you retrieve some of your stolen goods,” said Tayad.

Three days later they marched against an encampment of Roviniens. A group of warriors led by Tayad, Keth and Wiltor crept into the supply tents and took some of the soldiers’ food. As they made their way back toward their horses, a guard spotted them and raised the alarm. Soldiers grabbed weapons, stumbled out of their tents and hurried to meet the intruders.

While the Roviniens were thus distracted, Norin waved forward a second smaller group of warriors led by himself and Fin. They scraped away some ice stiffening a rope securing the gates of a corral containing a number of horses. Then Norin tugged at the creaking wood to open the pen. Some of the animals were brought from the plains of Rovinien by the soldiers, others were stolen from the clans. As Fin’s warriors mounted several horses and the herd thundered onto the snowy fields, one of the Rovinien soldiers cried a warning. The heads of several other soldiers turned and Tayad, Keth and Wiltor took advantage of their distraction to mount their own steeds and ride into the distance. The Roviniens found themselves at a disadvantage because of their lack of horses. The soldiers split their forces, some following Tayad’s group as best they could on foot, the others charging Norin and Fin. Norin and a handful of Fin’s warriors rode forward cutting the supports of several tents to further slow the Roviniens. Then they too rode away from the camp.

About a mile east, Norin, Fin and the warriors herded the horses into a narrow canyon between huge cliffs. Once they were deep in the gorge, a number of people led by Lady Utaria moved out of caves pock marking the rocks. They ran to the place where the warriors had turned toward the canyon and, moving backward toward the rocks, used branches cut from evergreens to clear the snow of tracks. Norin spotted Tayad as he dismounted and felt relieved that his group was already there. Taking a pine bough from a clanswoman, Tayad beckoned Norin and the other chieftains onto the high canyon walls. From there they watched for the Roviniens. Tayad joined them once he wiped away the traces of their climb. At last the soldiers ran into view and came to the place where the tracks ended. They stopped and huddled together for a moment then spread out, searching for more tracks.

Tayad leaned closer to Norin and whispered, “Their confusion makes it all worthwhile.”

A smile spread across Norin’s face and he nodded.


Tayad’s raids lasted all through the winter and the return of spring brought a new set of problems. Tayad’s scouts reported the return of the Sardi slavers. The slavers were capturing more people from the southern clans than anyone could remember them taking at a single instance in time. Norin, the chieftains and their warriors were gathering a rescue party and preparing to ride south when Tayad’s guards reported the presence of an unexpected visitor.

Story continued in Swan Warrior Part 4.