Chapter 1. (Thorns of the Shadow: Blood, Blades, and Bacon)

A dark shape flew through heavy clouds above Abernethy Forest. In a land of ancient myths such as Scotland, where mountains vie with dark forests and cold winds cut across the rugged landscape, it was all too easy to see contorted faces staring down from the icy heavens. 

There were few signs of civilisation here other than the large wooden building known as Aife’s Lodge. It had once been a private manor house but now served as a homely hotel. Fitting with its remote location, it was the kind of place where people went to escape society completely. 

The clouds parted just enough to reveal the moon through the black veiled sky. It was just before midnight on New Year’s Eve and the few guests of Aife’s Lodge had forgone seclusion and gathered together in the main hall to celebrate. A stone fireplace dominated one wall while numerous mounted animals showcased the local fauna. Long dead deer and wildcats seemed almost alive in the flickering light. The guests mingled awkwardly in groups of two or three, the conversations gradually becoming less passive as the alcohol flowed.

“Tell me again why the hell we’re stuck here?” muttered a black clad teen who lounged on the broad staircase. He wore a hoodie bearing the name of an obscure rock band, The Sightless Protectors, who hadn’t been famous since before he had been born, and toyed idly with an array of silver rings that adorned each of his fingers. Poorly drawn skulls marked the back of his hands, poking out from the edge of low-cut fingerless gloves. 

“I should be back home, partying it up with friends and hot girls, not sitting here in the middle of nowhere with a bunch of anti-social old people and weirdoes.” As he spoke he brushed dark hair from his eyes and tried to suppress a yawn. Crimson highlights ran through the carefully constructed mess of black. He was the picture of a rebel without a cause.

“Stop whining already, Kai,” said the girl on the opposite side of the step. She was dressed similarly to the male. Her hair was long and straight, ending at the small of her back. Vivid blue streaked through it in contrast to the red of her brother. Her jewellery was kept to a minimum and a few splashes of colour from a multitude of wristbands broke the monotony of black jeans, shirt and hair. She had an athletic figure, as did Kai.

“Look, I don’t like it either but it’s one week. Aunt Susan hasn’t asked us to come up here in years.”

Kai sipped glumly from a glass of cheap cider as he surveyed the room. “She can’t imagine the amount of parties I’m missing out on because of her. ‘Tis the season to be blackout drunk while surrounded by pretty girls.”

“Every season is party season for you.” She took a sip of her own drink, which was also cider but with enough blackcurrant cordial to drown out the bitter taste, then continued. “After all the money she’s given us over the years, we owe her a few weeks of our time every now and then.” Despite her words, she didn’t sound too happy about it either.

“Still doesn’t justify her timing. She’s rich though so she must have a pretty good inheritance for us. Maybe we should be kind to her. KT, use your female bond to get in her good books or something.”

“You’re a terrible person,” she said. She sighed then stared glumly into her drink.

Kai noticed her expression and frowned. “You still beating yourself up about uni? It’s been months now. Forget about it.”

“Yeah, I know. There’s just nothing to distract me from it here. This should have been my first Christmas as a student in the big city and instead I’m sat here. I worked so damn hard for years to try and get into that veterinary degree and one bad day screwed me. One bad test and suddenly everything else I’ve ever done is now worthless.” She made a frustrated sound then downed her drink.

“That’s where you went wrong. You tried. You had hopes and dreams. Expect the worst and you can only ever be pleasantly surprised.”

KT shook her head. “That doesn’t work and you know it.” Her eyes glanced around to a large picture that had pride of place at the top of the staircase. Blue eyes stared down at them from a young face. If they didn’t know better, it could easily have been an image of KT herself. “Being here doesn’t help. Seeing her face everywhere is kinda unsettling.”

“Yeah, no kidding. For someone who died two decades ago, she could be your identical twin. Christ. Imagine there being two of you.” Kai frowned and looked away. “I never did like photos anyway. Not hung up like that. It always feels like they’re watching you. Judging you. Knowing they’re dead just makes it weirder.”

“You can’t imagine how awkward it is talking to Aunt Susan. It’s clear that she only sees her when she looks at me. It’s so sad.” KT muttered. Kai wasn’t listening to her though. His eyes were locked on one of the guests below.

It was a young female guest. She had blonde hair, blue eyes, red lips and two very defining features that instantly drew attention. Her low cut top allowed a fair view of these features while long legs led up to a very short denim skirt. A small love heart tattoo adorned her chest, rising up from the gap of her cleavage. Kai stared at her with a dumb grin on his face.

“Scratch my previous comments, this place just got good. Time to work my charm,” he smirked, rising up from his perch.

His sister shook her head. “You’re hopeless. A damn hopeless pervert. Women will be the death of you.”

“And a good death it’ll be,” he joked as he made his way down the stairs. Still shaking her head, she put on the headphones that rested across her neck. Heavy guitar cut off the world around her.

Kai wove through the hall and stopped beside the girl, confidence radiating from his every feature.

“Hey,” he greeted with a friendly smile and a sparkle in his eyes. “I’ve not seen you around here. You just arrive?”

The girl nodded, locking eyes with him. She bit her lip slightly and played with her skirt.

“You in need of some company? I’ve been here a few days now so can show you the surroundings if you want.”

“Ya. I would like that,” answered the girl with a thick accent. Her eyes never strayed from Kai’s. They seemed to tug at him, pulling him closer.

Kai’s grin widened yet further. “Is that a Swedish accent?” The blonde nodded. “You’re a long way from home. You here all on your lonesome?”

“Ya. I am exploring the world. See new sights, meet new people, find new experiences,” she purred.

Kai coughed and fought to calm himself. He looked again and noticed that her eyes seemed more green now. It must have been a trick of the light, or maybe the alcohol was starting to kick in. He downed the rest of his drink and set the glass down on a table beside a basket of grapes. The woman skewed one with an overly long nail and held it up to Kai’s mouth. A heavy scent rose from her skin that seemed to muddle his thoughts. He took it in his teeth.

“It is getting hot in here,” the woman stated. “Come. Let us go outside.”

She smiled at him and took his hand in hers. She had the most beautiful hazelnut eyes. Or were they red? Kai couldn’t tell any longer. She led him to the door as he staggered clumsily after her. He couldn’t believe his luck. 

They quickly eased open the door and slipped outside. The cold hit Kai like a physical blow despite his thick clothes. He suddenly realised how ill equipped the girl was for the Scottish winter, though she showed no sign of discomfort. Her hands were cold against his skin but they looked warm.

“Aren’t you cold?” he tried to ask but his words came out slurred. He didn’t think that he’d drank that much.

“No.” Her voice echoed hollowly and her accent seemed less pronounced.

Kai tried to pull away from her but the woman spun him around and planted a hard kiss on his lips. The feeling was nice but sent cold shivers down his spine. Her lips were as cold as her hands. He vaguely noticed that her breath didn’t mist in the air like his own.

The girl pushed him against a tree with a strength that contrasted with her slender frame. Her hands were all over his body. Each touch burned even though her skin was like ice. Kai was struggling to breath. He tried to move her back slightly but she slapped his hand away.

In the heat of activity she lifted her shirt until it hung around her neck like a scarf. Her hands slid under his shirt, her nails raking sharply across his back. Kai felt the skin break and welt, small trails of blood forming in the nails’ wake. He tried to move aside but was locked firmly in place.

He looked down at her face and suddenly tensed up. Her eyes were changing, growing darker, their colour indistinct. He’d known people’s eyes to dilate through bliss but never anything like this. Her pupils spread out like a drop of ink until her entire eyes were consumed with darkness.

Things were moving faster than his muddled mind could manage. Her hands moved lower down his body. In their transition from his shirt to his belt he saw that her nails had grown to resemble claws. He knew that this wasn’t right but his body wouldn’t obey his commands. He watched in horror as her lips parted and a snake’s forked tongue slid out.

He tried to scream, to fight, but his limbs felt numb. He should have been wide awake and roaring with energy, lust and fear flooding his body with adrenaline, but instead he could feel his strength seeping from him with every passing second. Every touch the girl made sucked the life from him. He could feel the energy bleeding out of him, draining him and leaving behind only a sour sensation.

In an instant she had sliced through his belt with one knife-like claw. She reached inside his trousers. Kai shuddered, his brain flickering in and out of consciousness.

There was a snap of a branch behind them. “Damn it Kai! You can’t just take a girl you’ve only just met into the forest to have your way with.”

He saw KT enter the clearing and freeze. The other girl whipped around at the intrusion, hissing like an animal. Without the woman’s attention on him, Kai could feel his thoughts drifting back into place.

“What the hell?” KT began, but the monstrous woman bounded at her and slammed a fist into her gut. The force of the blow threw her back into a tree several feet behind her. She hit it hard then slumped to the ground, coughing up a mouthful of blood. Faint music still played from her headphones. The sounds drifted hauntingly in the quiet of the night.

As though nothing had happened, the beast turned her attention back to Kai. He had tried to escape, dragging himself forward through the snow, but his strength was dangerously low and he had only made it a short distance. She pulled him around to face her then shoved him to the ground, climbing onto him to straddle his waist. The weight was like lead on his soul, contracting it and pulling it down into the abyss. He was struggling to even keep his eyes open regardless of the immediate danger. Everything grew dark. She grew more beautiful…

A bang roared through the forest, shattering the quiet like a hammer on ice. The woman screamed a monstrous scream that sounded more like a crazed bat than a human. Kai was vaguely aware of being showered in dark blood as his assailant’s right shoulder and breast blew away in an explosion of gore and bone. A white shard sliced across his cheek. Blood drenched him, running down his face to drip into his gasping mouth. Enough of his mind remained to make him gag at the burning taste.

The woman jumped away from Kai with astounding speed. He watched vacantly as the grievous wound knitted itself back together like a spider weaving a web at high speed. Then his eyes closed and his body became still as his consciousness finally surrendered…

“Kai!” KT shouted as she tried to pull herself to her feet using the tree as support. Her stomach was in agony but she forced it to the back of her mind as she took a determined step towards her brother.

The monster screeched again, this time in rage. It charged forward, sprinting on all fours like an animal. Another bang echoed out into the night as a cloud of blood erupted from the woman’s body. A new figure entered KT’s line of sight, his right arm held straight out, a pistol in his hand. More jarring cracks assaulted her ears as tainted blood cut crimson streaks through the snow.

The ensuing sound was almost more than KT’s ears could handle. She saw the man step into the clearing beside the tree she had hit. The monster screeched but he ignored it, instead bending down to pick up the discarded headphones. They were broken in half but KT’s phone still hung from the wire. The woman’s screech became a howl as it burst into a sprint, razored claws flashing in the moonlight. 

“Watch out!” KT yelled. The man made no effort to raise his gun.

The hellish woman had closed the gap almost instantly. Without looking up, the man grabbed the phone and pulled the wire out. The background crackle of sound became a blaring guitar solo that seemed to fill the forest.

Claws lunged and the man grinned. He flowed around the attack with inhuman speed, slamming his head into the creature’s skull, using its own momentum against it. She staggered back then tried to slice at the man’s throat only to be blocked by the pistol. He span in time with the music, stamping a booted foot into the woman’s knee with a sickening crunch then firing a point blank shot at her face. Blood-slick teeth exploded out like a nailbomb. She screamed gutturally and hopped back with increasing panic.

KT watched wide eyed as leathery black wings ripped through the skin on the woman’s back and spread out around her like liquid shadows. The monster flexed its beautiful body as the wings shuddered then started to rise and fall. She shot into the sky and attempted to make her escape. Gouts of blood marked the passage of another volley of bullets. The winged creature faltered and crashed into a tree which she used it as a springboard, launching back into the air and out of sight. The man shrugged then tapped KT’s phone screen, killing the music. Silence flooded in like a tide.

KT tried to move to her brother but pain shot through her again. She fell face first to the ground. She lay there panting through the snow, tears in her eyes. Her hand reached out towards Kai. There was the sound footsteps and the crunch of snow.

“He’s fine,” came a deep, rough sounding voice. She turned her head slightly to see the gun wielding figure bent over Kai’s prone body. “Just sleeping,” the voice explained.

“Sleeping? But she… but he…Y-you shot her! What the hell is happening?” KT stammered, unable to get a single clear thought into her brain. Everything hurt.

“Would you believe this was all a dream? It would certainly make my job a lot easier,” continued the man, his voice taking on a lighter tone.

The girl stared blankly at the shadowy figure. He shrugged. “Didn’t think that would work. Right, let me think how to put this. This guy is asleep because he had his life-force drained by that creature. You might know it as a succubus. That means he just needs to sleep and he’ll be fine. She didn’t go far enough to do any real damage, if you catch my drift.”

KT stared at him in disbelief as a thousand thoughts fought for control of her mouth. Pain underpinned them all. “You want me to believe we were almost killed by a sex demon? That’s impossible! My drink has been spiked and all of this is a bad drug trip.”

“Of course. This was all a figment of your imagination. Problem solved. My work here is done.”

KT tried to focus on the man as he spoke. He was tall and well-built from what she could see of his body. He wore a hardened leather jacket and dark trousers, both of which were covered in straps and pockets. A dark green cloak draped him from his shoulders to his knees and sturdy leather boots covered his feet. Black fingerless gloves and long sleeves hid his arms. His face was angular and weatherworn, handsome in a rugged kind of way. His golden blond hair was tied into a loose ponytail. Over his shoulder she could see what looked like a guitar case hung across his back.

It was too dark to make out any extra detail. What she could make out was becoming harder to focus on as her vision blurred. Anything further than the man’s face was an unintelligible smear.

KT coughed up more blood as a sudden spasm wracked her body. She heard the man rush to her side. He rolled her onto her back then she felt his hands on her stomach. She struggled to open her eyes through the pain but managed on her second attempt.

A look of surprise flitted across his face as he stared down at KT. It almost seemed like he was frozen in time for a moment until he blinked and visibly shook himself. His face became a blank mask and concentration filled his eyes.

“Lie still,” he commanded. He sounded shaken but he quickly composed himself. Whether it was his voice or her own pain, she felt impelled to obey. He moved her limbs gently and straightened her body out. “It’s just severe bruising, some internal ruptures. Nothing too bad.” She gave him an incredulous look through the pain. Internal rupture was not good in anyone’s book.

He dug through one of his many pockets until he pulled out a small blue pill. “Here, swallow this. It’ll ease the pain.”

Warnings of not accepting tablets from strangers swam through her mind. She had no idea who he was, what his motives were or what the hell was happening. She tried to turn her head away to refuse the pill but a sudden jolt of pain made her cry out. The man sighed then grabbed her head, forced open her mouth and slid the pill between her lips. KT tried to fight but the man kept her firmly pinned down. A few seconds passed. Numbness began to spread across her stomach. 

“You’ll start to feel drowsy now,” he informed her. “I’m going to try and sort you out but I need you to stay awake. Always remember, it’s when we don’t feel pain that we’re most vulnerable to death. Do you understand?”

She nodded, unable to prevent a shiver running through her.

“What’s your name?” he asked calmly, his tone becoming casual, friendly.

KT stared up at him. His relaxed posture and soft voice couldn’t disguise his threatening presence. She felt short of breath and afraid but almost against her will the words started to spill out clumsily. “Catherine Redthorn. Katie for short. Just the two letters, K and T. Why use nine letters when two works just fine,” she babbled. She was becoming delirious.

“That’s good,” he soothed. He pulled her shirt up slightly and placed his palms against her now purple skin. They began to glow faintly with a pale blue light. She watched blearily as the bruised skin seemed to soothe itself, the dark colours fading, becoming paler. The tension inside her gut grew looser, more natural.

KT’s mind felt clearer by the second. “Who’re you?” she asked. “What happened?”

The man hesitated for a moment. “Like I said, your brother was drawn in by a succubus. She gave you a good beating and took all of his energy before fleeing. Strange but true.” He spoke matter-of-factly, as though this kind of thing happened every day.

“That’s not right. I’ve read about them. If succubi are real then they’re supposed to target people who’re asleep.”

“Try telling her that,” commented the man with a slight grin. KT didn’t look in a joking mood so he returned to a stern look. “Think of it this way: times have changed. When the prey changes, so must the predator. Society is more…open with sexuality now so there is less need for stealth. Hmm, an example of this change is the way she looked. That appearance a few hundred years ago would have been a no go. Men back then preferred the more petite figure while men now like more…exaggerated features. In reality they look more like giant bats than humans. It’s an individual’s perception that gives them a more pleasing form. Are you following?”

“I-I think so,” KT replied shakily. Her shattered thoughts were quickly rebuilding themselves. “What about my first question?” she pressed, her confidence and strength returning to her.

He sighed. “The name’s Déaþscúa.”

“Death-shoo-a?” KT repeated, rolling the strange word across her tongue.

“Yeah. Lots of funny letters and accents. It’s a long story.” He offered her his hand and she took it.

With his help KT struggled to her feet. She lifted her shirt to examine the wound but nothing remained other than a large red mark as though she had been slapped. Tentatively she prodded the skin and winced slightly after realising it still felt tender. Her legs shook but she willed herself to stand tall. Subconsciously she took on a fighting stance.

“How did you do that?”

“Questions, questions,” the man said agitatedly. “Make yourself useful and help me get your brother back inside. Exposure to this cold won’t help him recover.”

Each grabbed one of Kai’s arms and hoisted him up. The man took most of his weight as they made their way back toward the lodge. KT checked her watch. 12:15. Lights were still visible within and sounds seeped dully through the walls.

“You’ll have to take him from here,” Déaþscúa told her. “If anyone sees you just say he drank too much. He’ll wake up sometime late in the day feeling groggy but will otherwise be fine.” He positioned Kai fully onto KT then turned to leave. Without looking back he spoke again. “Some parting advice. Don’t go out again at night. Don’t go out in the day alone. It’s a dangerous world for the unwary, especially at the moment. Stick to that and you’ll be fine.”

Then he was gone, his shadowy form melding into the darkness between the trees. She stared after him but all evidence of his presence had vanished with him. Stood there beside the lodge, bathed in light and surrounded by the sound of merriment, KT could almost believe it had all been just a strange dream.

Next – Chapter 2.

Epilogue. (The Sword Summoner: History Repeats)

In a vast golden chamber at the heart of an empire fought eleven warriors. Eight were men, three women. Each had a different weapon and knew how to use it. The warriors twisted and curled in a vicious dance of death to the symphony of clashing blades.

One man fought the other ten, testing his skill to the maximum. He fought on equal grounds against every opponent and showed no sign of struggling. His cropped golden hair and short beard framed a hard, sharply defined face.

A colossal bell toned high above them and the fighting stopped. The lone warrior strode to a highly decorated throne that was positioned behind the open space they had battled in, then sat. The ten others lined up with the throne, five on either side.

Every person stilled like a statue as the huge, gold plated doors opposite them groaned open. A tall, lean man with fuzzy hair wearing a white robe walked in and stood where the men and women had sparred moments ago then bowed deeply.

The warrior on the throne inclined his head slightly for the man to begin.

“Sir, the scouts have just returned and have brought information you will want to hear,” reported the man in a very deep tone.

“Very good. Tell me,” said the seated warrior in a waxy voice.

The messenger removed a sheet of paper from a pouch on his belt and began to read from it. “Ninety percent failed to find anyone of higher skill than normal war heroes but the other ten percent found some very interesting warriors.”

“In the country of Edu there are two brothers who can control the very elements. In Jorig there is a man that survived nine poisoned arrows then butchered the men who shot him. In the land of Sikame there is a group of mercenaries that destroyed the Lorilian Empire without aid.”

None of the warriors looked impressed with the lineup as the list was read out. The messenger continued the report before he reached the last part of his list.

“The last scout to report in had by far the best feedback. He was assigned to a distant country called Farava. While there he found five warriors worthy of your attention. There is a male and female that fought in the Klade wars yet still somehow live. The Alpha of the brutish Forukks was last seen in the same battle as the other two. A descendant of the last Seshikedasu has also made a name for himself there. The most notable warrior is far more to your liking though, my Lord. The current Seshikedasu resides in that land.”

The eleven warriors in the line perked up as the messenger finished the report.

“So there is a Sword Summoner within my lifetime. He, along with the other four will give me the war of the century. It may even match the Klade wars. Men, ready your soldiers. We head out for this Farava.” The warriors at his side bellowed and cheered.

“I, Emperor Relious Olingus Xui of the Khawei Empire will slay a Sword Summoner!”

From beyond the door echoed the roar of a hundred thousand warriors as they raised their weapons to the sky and howled out war cries at the top of their lungs.

The Emperor turned to the men at his side. “Dragon generals, kill all that you want, but the Summoner is mine.”

The End.

You did it! You finished my first ever completed novel! I know that The Sword Summoner is less than perfect, but it will always hold a special place in my heart. I hope that you enjoyed it.

If you did and would like to pass along a little money to help me to continue telling stories, then you can check out my Patreon, or donate any amount via the Paypal link below.

Thank you 🙂


Previous – Chapter 59. A New Normality.

Chapter 59. A New Normality. (The Sword Summoner: History Repeats)

The early morning sun shone down past nomad clouds before bathing the city below in warmth. A gentle breeze drifted through the grass and birds sang in every tree.

Trey walked slowly through the empty streets of Pastrino while assessing the last few weeks. They had gone by so fast and there had been so much to do that all of the recent events still had not fully sunken in yet.

After the battle at Lanstiro, they had all gorged themselves in a well deserved feast before resting in the mass of rooms that littered the fortress city. Those who could stomach food and find sleep from the waking nightmares anyway. The host of animals had left as soon as the last living Forukk had been butchered. When the morning arrived the grief of loss came with it. Every person that still lived had lost a friend or family member and were only now able to properly mourn the dead.

Work had been done to collect and burn the enemies’ bodies before preparing their own dead to be transported. The journey had been long and hard and almost had not seemed worth it after arriving back at the ruins of Pastrino.

Buildings lay as rubble and bodies still littered the streets. Ashes formed the top layer of soil for miles around the city and all but the strongest trees had died. The taint of the Shadow Lands had been brought with the Forukks and was only fading slowly. There were no crops, no food left in storage and staying warm in the winter months had become a problem.

A vast graveyard had been constructed for the victims of the war and all of the bodies were buried, including Sarah and even Zendek. Xion had been left to rot where he had fallen. Almost two thirds of the city would never return home beyond that grave-filled field. The Yuxova and Onlasarian armies had left Pastrino after only a single night’s rest before heading out to return their dead to where they belonged and rebuild their own homes.

Every able bodied person was tasked with tilling the fields so that crops could be planted and grown to insure their survival over the coming months. Then the construction began and consumed every waking hour until every house with living occupants was fully rebuilt.

These efforts were ongoing; even now as Trey walked the streets he could see half finished buildings. Trey had worked from sun up to sun down, as had every other Pastrinian. Every other waking minute had been spent training with Zenbou. Without the pressures of a battle the sword was near impossible to control but he was learning, slowly but surely.

Between Zak and the Heptalli Elder he had learned that Zenbou was the mark of the Sword Summoner. That marked Trey out as a warrior of legend, however much he wanted to avoid it. People were suddenly placing titles upon him and were bowing on sight while others now pushed him to step up and be the grand saviour that they expected him to be. Trey just wanted to sit alone and forget it all. That was not an option any longer. He pushed these thoughts from his head.

From the fires of war and death, strong bonds had been formed between the peoples of the cities and desert. Liam and Dawn had become representatives of their people and worked tirelessly with Pastrino to rebuild Farava into one great nation.

Trey stepped through a shining gate and walked among the rows of gravestones until he had arrived at the one he was looking for. He knelt down next to his mother’s grave and placed a single flower on the mound. He had come here every day to talk to Sarah and inform her of how things were going.

“Hey Mum, it’s only me. Things are going well. Our house is almost back to normal and we’ve also fixed all the things you always complained about while we were at it.”

“Billy has recovered well, both physically and mentally, as has everyone else. Life is good but I still miss you so much,” he said to the stone. “Liam was given a position as a sergeant in the Onlasarian army and is finally gaining the respect of his peers. I think he is finally starting to enjoy life. There’s still no message from Htaed and Lily on their hunt for the Alpha Forukk but we’re keeping our ears open.”

“You have to stop talking to yourself, people will think you’re crazy,” came a voice from behind Trey. He turned to see Blake.

“Oh, hey Dad. I was just talking to Mum,” replied Trey. “Did anything come up in the reports?”

“Nothing of note,” Blake answered. “I have gotten further with the books from Dill’s old house but they don’t help us a great deal. They chronicle the fall of Lanstiro and fill in a lot of the past but don’t mention anything that is relevant to us now. It’s funny, Dill’s descendent was a prince who escaped the city after realising that the corruption was consuming everything. He was the last heir to that land and so cut off Lanstiro’s growth. By going back there, Dill unwillingly set everything back into motion. I still have no idea what the coming storm was that he mentioned.”

Too much had not been answered. What was the threat that pushed Zendek to harden Farava? Where had Maklar and the Alpha Forukk disappeared to and when would they return? Was Mellow truly dead or still alive as Dawn believed? Just what was the smiley-faced reaper they had seen in the desert? Too many questions.

Trey sighed, his eyes drifting up to the clear sky. “It is strange to think that a strong man with a pure heart and dreams of peace could be warped so badly by something out of his control. I guess in the end we are all weak to fate.”

“Maybe,” shrugged Blake. He knelt down beside Sarah’s grave.

“Any news on your end?” he asked while he offered up a prayer to his wife.

“Yeah, you have to become our new leader.”

Blake raised an eyebrow. “Oh really? Why is that?”

“They tried pushing it onto me but I refused. If you don’t take it then Zak is the only one who wants the job,” said Trey with a smile.

“I can see your concern,” laughed Blake. His face became more serious as he continued. “You know how I said we need protection against future enemies? Well I have talked it through with some select people and we have decided we need something more than guards, peasant militia and hastily built armies. We need a group of strong warriors who are willing to fight for peace. I just can’t shake Dill’s final words about strengthening us for the coming storm. Are you in?”

“I suppose I have to as the new Sword Summoner,” sighed the teen, still not used to the idea of being a legendary warrior.

“Not at all,” smiled the man. “Although I’m sure that the other members would be very sad if you didn’t accept.”

“Other members?” questioned Trey.

“Yeah. I picked people who had proved themselves worthy during the war. I think you may know them.” Blake whistled loudly then a group of people entered through the gates.

At the front of the group were Commander Nakai and his Lieutenant Suzy Fireblood. Behind them came Billy and Zak who were closely followed by Liam and Dawn. Pux stood proudly upon Zak’s shoulder. Lieutenant Gapon arrived last. They walked over to Sarah’s grave and greeted the two already there.

“We made a few suggestions for a name but we wanted you to make the final say,” said Blake.

“Okay,” said Trey, not fully sure what was happening.

“We thought of ‘The Order of the Blue Sword’. What do you think?” asked Dawn as she tried to keep a straight face at Trey’s reaction.

“Sounds good to me,” chuckled the teen.

“Good,” said Blake with exaggerated relief. “It would have been bad if you hated the name after we had already gotten our tattoos.”


“Yes,” Dawn smiled. She pulled up the sleeve of her right arm to reveal a finger-length image of Zenbou inked into the skin of her inner wrist. The glorious blue of the blade appeared slightly illumines, almost glowing in the early morning sun. The others raised their sleeves too and showed off identical copies. Nakai’s was the odd one out on his left wrist.

“Think of it as a badge of honour, a mark of our rank.”

Trey didn’t know what to say. He just stared at the blue blades that would be a part of his friends’ bodies forever.

Blake clasped Trey’s shoulder. “Come on then. There’s a lot still to do, least of which is giving you a tattoo as well. We can’t have our leader go without, can we?”

“Right. Just give me a minute alone please,” asked Trey.The others nodded then left him to finish talking to his mother.

He smiled reflectively. Things really were moving fast. “Times will be tough and stronger enemies will always try to shatter the peace but I will protect everyone. If I had been stronger that day then you may never have died and I can never forgive myself for that. I will get stronger though and shield my friends from all harm. This I promise to you, Mum.”

He could feel Sarah’s presence at his side and knew that she would always watch over him.

“I will not fail you again.”

Previous – Chapter 58. Endings.

Next – Epilogue.

Chapter 58. Endings. (The Sword Summoner: History Repeats)

Dawn struggled to heal Lily’s wound as man and beast fought within inches of where she knelt. Zak had warded the enemies off but then he had run off and had not returned. Without his support she doubted her ability to save the young woman.

She was deep into enemy lines and soon the last human was slain. Forukks formed a ring around her, readying themselves for an easy kill. Dawn knew that she could not fight them so instead she grabbed the amulet that hung from her neck. It had worked well on the assassin so she was sure it could deal with a few Forukks.

The ground around her shook as her amulet pulsed. From the earth lifted odd grains of sand. More and more rose from the soil, some churning the ground as they shot from several foot under the surface. The sand curved around her, floating in a spiral pattern as more and more grains joined the mass. Within moments there was so much sand that it fully encased Dawn. Then suddenly the sand shot out as a fearsome sandstorm, hitting the front Forukks with such force that it stripped their hides from their bones.

Her lungs caught when she tried to breathe. Dawn knew that that move was too powerful for her to use but it had been her only choice. Having done it twice in one day though left her doubts if she could survive the consequences.

“It appears that our caged bird needs our assistance,” said an old, ragged voice.

Dawn’s lungs began to let air in once more as a soothing sensation bathed her body. She looked up to see her grandmother, the Heptalli Elder, standing over her. Dawn gave a gasp when she saw who attended Lily. Her mother stood with one arm in a sling and a black eye but still very much alive. The Heptalli Matriarch smiled at her daughter and Dawn returned the smile, relieved beyond belief that her mother had not died in the explosion.

“Rest my little desert princess,” cooed the old woman. “Do you still have the same opinion of the princess life? Do you still want to live this life?” asked the Elder as she motioned at the death around them.

Dawn thought for a moment. She was terrified, her whole body ached and she had not had a good night’s sleep or a hearty meal since they left Onlasar. The answer became clear to her.

“Yes. This is the life I wish to lead.”

Her mother looked shocked but the Elder shook her head like she had expected that answer.

“We shall see where your path leads if we all survive this battle,” the old woman stated. “Anyway, you are fine, as is the young woman. We end this now.”

* * *

Htaed had not fought so hard in centuries, he noted dryly in the back of his mind as his duel with the Alpha Forukk continued. Both bled profoundly from hundreds of small cuts and dozens of life endangering wounds. Fatigue burned at their muscles yet still they fought like mad men.

The Alpha Forukk fired a green beam from its mouth that Htaed had not expected. The beam struck his chest and sent him hurtling to the ground. Somehow that attack had paralysed him so all he could do was glare angrily as the Forukk approached him.

“Time to die, mighty warrior,” hissed the Forukk with the faintest touch of respect in his voice.

“That’s what you think!” shouted a voice from behind the Forukk. It looked up to see that it was surrounded by humans.

Under normal circumstances he would have butchered them all but he was already drastically weakened. To make matters worse there were several notable foes. The two warriors that had fought at Htaed’s side were worthy opponents to all but himself, there were three generations of the Heptalli tribe leaders and most interesting of all was the boy who held in his hands a sword that the Alpha Forukk had hoped never to see again.

A wave of pressure hit the humans in front of him and they all crashed to the ground. The strange being known as Maklar stood with one hand out, straining to keep the humans down.

“It is time for us to leave, King of all Kings,” droned the humanoid in his usual dull tone.

A black light shot up from the ground around the Forukk. It bared its fangs then disappeared. Maklar gave them all a creepy smile before he too stepped into the light and vanished. Htaed roared in frustration at having his foe escape him. The others sighed in relief at not having to fight such a powerful creature.

After having both their leaders taken from the battle and their men vastly reduced in number, fear began to spread through the enemy armies. They still vastly outnumbered the human armies but after seeing one leader slain and the other flee, the moral fell drastically. The allies were severely weakened though and the fate of the battle still balanced on a knife edge.

Through the chaos sounded a single piercing howl. Humans and Forukk alike turned to the east to see a large, white furred wolf standing proudly atop of a steep hill. Its fierce eyes glowed in the dim light and wicked fangs shone in the surrounding flames.

It howled again and the horizon burst into motion. Hundreds of forest wolves bounded down the slope, covering the distance before their appearance was fully registered. Wildcats danced among them and hulking bears thundered along at their rear. Even elegant stags flowed around the predators, their antlers lowered and ready to strike. A cacophony of bestial roars filled the air as the host of forest animals crashed into the Forukk ranks. Teeth and claws punctured leathery flesh while darkened metal hacked at fur-coated skin. Blood misted in the air and streamed across the craggy ground.

After initial resistance, the Forukks were swept up by the wrath of nature. Their lines shattered and panic spread through the remaining Lanstirian forces. Seeing no way to stand against the relentless hammer blows of the ravishing animals, the Forukks turned and fled back toward the protection of Lanstiro’s walls.

The enemy forces converged on the fortress city’s gates when the doors swung shut in their faces. From the walls, thousands of tiny pin sized arrows flew down at them. Volley after volley came down around them, leaving the terrified enemies looking like pin cushions. The remaining allied forces and the frenzied beasts of the forests obliterated the remaining enemies with ease.

From the wall flew a single bird. On its back was a tiny man the size of a man’s finger.

“Pux! Glad you could join us,” yelled Zak as he held out his hand for Bo-bo to land on.

“Welcome to the newly named castle Yuxa. You may rest in our many beds and may eat our wealth of food until your health is replenished,” greeted the small Captain.

“How the hell did you take this place over?” asked Billy.

“We Yuxova weren’t about to let you humans take all the glory. After dealing with our internal problems we gathered our army and set off to save your sorry hides. We mustered our woodland allies while we were at it as they too were eager for revenge upon their ancient enemies. Upon arrival we felt we would make a bigger impact by taking over their fortress so we swooped inside, killed the few guards that remained then began preparing a victory party,” laughed Pux as he took a bite from a small fruit.

“Amen to that little dude. We’re ready for some victory celebrations!” shouted Zak, followed by a vast cheer of agreement from the people behind him.

Previous – Chapter 57. Destiny from the Flames.

Next – Chapter 59. A New Normality.

Chapter 57. Destiny from the Flames. (The Sword Summoner: History Repeats)

“You’re kidding me,” spat Billy as he watched Mr Xion weave his way through the battle, staying clear of conflict. He was carrying a long item wrapped in cloth. “First he joins the enemy, now he is trying to run away from his comeuppance.”

“We should leave him. We have other things to worry about than that gutless worm,” reasoned Trey as he scoured the battle to see where they would provide the most help.

“I’m not letting him escape after everything he’s done. Why should traitors like him live while good people like my parents died?” Billy hissed through gritted teeth, holding back a fresh wave of tears as he ran after their former teacher.

Trey followed reluctantly. It was hard to keep track of the man in the chaos that enveloped them but Billy’s determination soon paid off when he was within swords reach. With a quick burst of speed, Billy caught up to Xion and grabbed his collar, swinging the man around to face him. A quick punch to the nose sent the man staggering back, his hands cupping his face.

“You really think that you can run without being punished for what you have done?” growled Billy.

“Ah, if it isn’t Billy Delb. Are you looking forward to your family reunion?” smiled Xion cruelly.

“You scumbag!” snarled Billy as he leapt forwards to attack, rage overriding common sense.

Xion flicked his wrist and the cloth fell from whatever it was that he was carrying. His arm lashed out and before either teen could register what had happened, Billy crashed to the ground as blood began to soak his clothes.

In Xion’s hands was a large metal lance unlike anything Trey had ever seen before. It was a black metal like the usual Forukk weapons but it was smooth and glossy like glass and had fine golden inlay that made strange symbols and patterns. Along one side was a blade so that the lance could be used to slash as well as to lunge.

“So, once again we are at a face off, Trey,” spoke the man as he fixed Trey a death glare. Trey stared at the lance, mesmerised by the dancing flames that reflected off of its surface.

“You like this?” Xion asked, amusement evident on his face. “You see, I never joined these mindless brutes because I believed in their cause or feared for my life. No, I joined them because it was the only way to get hold of this. The Lance of Arkima, fabled slayer of Sprites. With it in my possession I can raise my own army and take over the world with minimal effort.”

“I will stop you,” stated Trey as he blanked his face of emotion.

Near ecstasy played across Xion’s features. “I have wanted to kill you for so long and now that time is finally here. I shall truly enjoy this.”

As Trey dodged a lunge from Xion’s lance he saw Liam in the distance fighting with a guard. “Liam! Get Billy to safety,” he shouted as he rolled away from a high slash. Liam nodded and quickly finished off his opponent before running to Billy’s side.

“You can’t avoid my lance forever,” sneered Xion while he lunged at the boy again.

The very tip pricked Trey’s stomach and his nerves exploded in an outburst of pain. It was like being shot by a flaming arrow despite the fact that the wound was nothing more than a pin prick. Only with intense concentration did he not fall to the ground in agony.

Xion laughed like a mad man, upping the pace of his lunges until Trey could not see the individual thrusts. Unable to dodge the attacks, the teen tried to parry the blows but each time the blades connected chunks of Trey’s sword flew off as deadly shrapnel.

Xion’s grin could not have grown any more. His eyes shone feverously with glee. “Do you like the lance’s power? Only a truly evil being could create such a weapon but now that it exists, to not use it would be idiocy.”

After a second attack hit him, Trey was in too much pain to defend against the others. Dozens of small cuts and scratches appeared on his skin. Xion was only playing with him, causing him a world of pain without inflicting a single serious wound.

The attacks stopped and Trey just lay on the ground twitching in pain. “Time to end this!” screamed Xion in excitement. He lunged at Trey one final time, putting all of his strength into the attack.

Warm blood splashed Trey’s face and a pain like no other he could ever imagine ripped through his whole body. He felt his world disappear. The pain was not physical though.

Stood in front of him with arms stretched out was his mother. Xion’s lance protruded from her chest and blood covered her whole body. She was facing her son, her back to the enemy.

“T-Trey…” she gasped.

“It seems we have an uninvited guest,” cackled Xion. Keeping his eyes on Trey the whole time he swung the lance around, flinging Sarah’s body away into the chaos around them. An insane smile spread across his face.

Emotions cascaded through Trey’s mind but at the same time it was blank. No thoughts entered his head, just a swirl of riotous feelings with no meaning. Wind eddied around him as his body stood up without conscious thought.

He locked eyes with Xion, his muscles shaking and his hair lashing around his face as the wind became fiercer. “I…will…KILL YOU!” the teen screamed as all of his emotions burst from his soul.

A blinding light enveloped the battlefield, stunning every warrior present. A hurricane raged outwards like a ripple from where Trey stood, knocking down every person within a mile radius. As the light faded and the winds ebbed, Trey was once again revealed to the stunned Xion.

The man who stood before Xion was not Trey. That is to say, not the same Trey that had entered the battle. No vestiges of childhood remained on his person. His eyes were hard and his mouth was stern.

Xion hardly noticed these changes. His focus was on the sword in Trey’s hand. Its blade was pure energy that glowed azure and was double the length of common swords. Its guard looked as though it belonged on a lance, its conical shape curving down to protect the wielder’s hands. The metal was elegantly engraved like a king’s personal blade and small hollows suggested that jewels had once graced the hilt. Its handle was wrapped in dragon skin and what appeared to be a giant jagged tooth stuck out from the pommel.

A deep voice inside Trey’s mind told him what to say and the teen obeyed without conscious thought. “The scourge of the Klade has risen once again. Zenbou has returned!”

An internal nudge directed Trey to attack without warning. Xion managed to parry the blow but the recoil nearly sent the lance from his grip. Trey allowed his emotions and the rough voice to guide his actions, his own mind retreating into a deeper sanctuary.

Xion knew that if it was not for the Lance of Arkima he would be dead already. Since Trey had gained the strange sword the boy’s skill and power had increased tenfold. He had read about the mystical sword Zenbou and knew it was an even match with his lance if not superior.

Their battle raged on, creating as much carnage as the ongoing battle between Htaed and the Alpha Forukk. The black and blue energies clashed with their own hatred towards the other as did their bearers.

A bone in Xion’s arm shattered as Trey brought down Zenbou into a devastating counter attack. At that moment he knew that he could not win. From one of his pockets he grabbed several small balls and threw them at his feet. The balls exploded into fountains of black smoke, obscuring him from his opponent’s view.

As the smoke cleared Trey saw that Xion had ran for his life, already too far ahead to catch up  with. On an impulse that Trey guessed came from the sword, he faced the blade behind him and poured all of his energy into it. The blade flared up then like a rocket propelled him forward. Everything immediately behind him was incinerated. Within seconds he had caught up to the coward.

With the blade still propelling him, Trey slashed at Xion’s back. The additional force shredded the man’s body and caused him to topple over. Xion rolled onto his back so that he faced Trey and made one last thrust at the teen. Trey yanked the lance from the man’s grip and cast it away in disgust.

“P-please don’t kill me,” whined Xion. He was already a bloody mess who looked on the verge of death. “Please, please-” his cries were cut off as Trey stabbed down with all his might, splitting the man’s heart into two. The blue energy burned at the man’s flesh, reducing his organs to ashes.

Trey watched Xion die instantly, then Zenbou disappeared. Without the sword’s power he collapsed to the ground. Unable to move he decided to look around him at the battle. A few foot to his side he noticed the body of his Mother. Even though he had no strength left he still managed to crawl to her side. She still breathed but only just.

“Mum?” he asked softly. One of her eyes half opened and she tried to smile.

“My beloved son,” was all she managed before stopping to regain her breath.

Unable to control himself he sobbed at her side, only stopping when someone else rushed towards them and knelt down next to him. It was Blake. Tears filled his eyes too and his clenched fists shook at his side.

“Go away,” muttered Trey to the man, anger and sorrow raging through his brain.

“Trey, I know it is hard but don’t let the anger take over you,” Blake tried to soothe him. His voice was strained and he too seemed on the verge of lashing out at the world.

“What would you know?” Trey snapped. “Why would you care? She is the only family I have. How could you possibly understand what I feel?”

“I understand all too well. She…she is my wife.

“Your w-wife. But that means… No you’re lying!” shouted Trey as he grabbed Blake around his already bruised throat.

“It is true, Trey,” whispered Sarah. “He is my husband, and your father.”

“My f-father?” stuttered Trey. He released Blake from his grip.

“Yeah. I was shocked too, son,” said Blake. It felt strange calling this kid son, he thought to himself.

Sarah coughed weakly. “I’m so sorry I cannot be here for you. Promise me you will look after him.”

“I will,” promised Blake.

“I was talking to Trey. It’s you who needs looking after,” she laughed. The laughs grew quieter and quieter until Sarah made no sound at all. Blake clasped one of her hands while Trey held the other, both shuddering as they tried to put on a brave face for the dying woman.

“Goodbye,” she breathed. “I will wait for you in the next life, but don’t try and rush there.”With her last breath the words “I love you,” escaped her lips.

After a long moment of silence Blake rose. “I suppose we should finish up this battle, son.”

“I suppose we must, Dad.”

Previous – Chapter 56. A Long Awaited Showdown.

Next – Chapter 58. Endings.

Chapter 56. A Long Awaited Showdown. (The Sword Summoner: History Repeats)

Blake’s face shone red with effort as he clove a Forukk’s skull in two. Dashing to the side he ripped open another’s chest with a mighty swing of his sword. His hands bled as his skin had begun to wear away with friction.

Somehow he had been separated from Sarah and the others and was now surrounded by enemies. Sweat ran into his eyes and dripped from his nose, chin and fingers, mixing in with the black blood that splattered his clothes and skin.

A strange aura caught his attention. He shivered at the feel of it. It was like emotions could physically hurt him, the hatred, anger and cold heartedness hitting him like paper cuts. Blake turned, already knowing what would be there. Zendek strode towards him, slitting his enemies’ throats one by one without missing a single step, his eyes focused only on Blake.

“Hey,” greeted Blake as though things were like they used to be and he was talking to his best friend Dill, not the maniacal and evil Zendek.

“Hey indeed,” answered Zendek blankly, revealing no emotion.

“Here we are again.”

“Looks like it,” said Blake as he flexed his hands.

Zendek stepped forwards. “If I remember correctly I won last time.”

“True,” sighed Blake.

“This time the gap in our power has greatly increased. While you spent fifteen years as a slave having no weapon practice and always half starved, I practiced constantly and learned the dark Nimula that is my birthright. Fighting you will hardly be worth the effort.”

Blake stepped forward as well. “We’ll see, my old friend.”

Both men raised their swords in the traditional sign of respect, then crossed blades. There was a moment of calmness like a still lake in the eye of the storm, then the serenity was broken by the sharp clash of steel as their final duel began.

Blake was weak. He knew he was. Years in Lanstiro hadn’t been kind to him. With every lunge and parry of his blade he could feel the ache of his muscles and the sluggishness of his movements. Dill had always been the better swordsman, but now their skills stood in sharper contrast than ever before. 

It only took seconds for Zendek to push forward and overwhelm Blake’s guard. He staggered back and tripped on the uneven ground. Zendek watched him impassionately. Grunting with the pain, Blake picked himself up and faced the man again. 

Zendek advanced towards him. “You can’t win. You know you can’t.”

“You took me away from my wife and kept me prisoner for fifteen long years. Because of you I missed my son’s birth and all of his childhood. My friends and relatives thought me a good for nothing traitor, all because of you. I will win you here even if it costs me my life!” shouted Blake between attacks.

“How touching,” sneered Zendek. He made a short strike that cut through Blake’s finger.

The finger was only kept attached to his hand by a thin string of skin. It hung uselessly, blood streamed down to its tip. Bracing against the pain, Blake ripped it fully off of his hand so as to not obstruct his sword control. He placed the digit into his pocket and tried to wipe away some of the blood from the leaking stump.

“It wasn’t easy for me either,” scoffed Zendek. “I left everything I’d ever known behind to come here. Slowly, almost unnoticeably, I felt myself change. I truly am no longer your old friend Dill for he died many years ago. Take solace from the fact that it isn’t him that kills you.”

“You chose for all that to happen, I didn’t,” growled Blake.

Rushing forwards once again, he poured every ounce of energy he had into the attacks but it never seemed enough. Zendek swayed away from strikes as if he anticipated every move that Blake threw at him.

Shadows flickered around Zendek, rising to sway around his body like tendrils of darkness. He pointed a ringed hand at Blake and the shadows leapt to his command. Blake escaped the shadow spears by a single heartbeat after diving to the side. The tendrils continued past him and tore into two unfortunate Onlasarians who had happened to be fighting behind him. The black vines lashed through their flesh, their skin boiled and their veins filled with thick black liquid.

More shadows shot out from Zendek’s hand at the now prone Blake. Blake rolled and pushed himself to his feet. The ground was churned up around him. He broke into a shambling run to avoid the attacks, rushing straight for the enemy leader.

A single bolt of dark rushed straight for him. Blake slashed at it with his sword. The metal was sheared straight in two, the upper half of the blade flying through the air, slashing across Blake’s face before landing behind him. He had succeeded in deflecting the shadow spike though. With the remaining half of the weapon, Blake slashed at Zendek.

Zendek used a counter attack that threw Blake to the ground. Before he could pick himself up again, Zendek was above him. In a last bid attempt at survival, Blake struck out with a small combat knife from his belt. It bit into his opponent’s arm but it did not seem to faze him. Staring wildly down at Blake, Zendek’s eyes took on a less human look; his pupils dilated and became bloodshot, all emotion draining from their depth.

Forcing the pain back Blake kicked out at Zendek. The man showed no sign of pain. Claw-like fingers dug into Blake’s throat as Zendek lifted him from the dirt then threw him back down. Bones broke but all of Blake’s body hurt too much for him to decide which. Zendek moved to pick him up again when Blake smashed his head into the other man’s face. The enemy leader staggered back giving Blake enough time to stand.

“My head always was harder,” laughed Blake darkly as he booted Zendek’s shin.

All weapons lost, both men began to fight with their hands and feet. After a savage punch up both warriors fell to the ground but the fighting continued. They became more like beasts than men as vicious hatred took over their actions.

With a howl of mixed emotions, Blake punched at Zendek’s face again and again until blood drenched his knuckles. Zendek struggled and punched at his stomach but Blake no longer felt it. Tears streamed from his eyes as he struck down at his old friend. Zendek stopped struggling, his body going limp.

Blake stopped suddenly as he stared dumbly at Zendek’s body, shocked at what he had done. Coughing up blood, Zendek’s eyes eased open, humanity returning to the tear filled orbs.

“Good match, my old friend,” groaned the Lord. “I’m so sorry.” A single tear tried to roll down his face but mixed into the blood.

Blake did not know what to say. “You’ll be alright. You can come back and things will be like they used to be.”

“Things will never again be as they used to be. This place has changed me too much to live a peaceful life. The evil of this land has consumed my soul. I feel it clawing to the surface as we speak. It cries out to rip you to shreds. I either die here or continue to destroy the free world. I…that is Dill, doesn’t wish for that to happen.” Zendek’s eyes began to glaze over and he reached out a hand towards the heavens. Blake grasped his hand tightly, showing he was there.

“Thank you for being my friend, Blake. Despite all that I have done you still are by my side to the end.” Zendek tried to laugh but it turned into a blood spluttering cough. “Deep down I always regretted leaving Pastrino. Given the choice I would give up all this power to stay and live my life like I should have. I came here to reunite the three cities era and bring peace to the land but instead this place tainted me. I needed to make our people strong so that we could stand against the coming storm. Now, we are all dead. Please…forgive me.”

“I do forgive you,” sobbed Blake as the light faded from Zendek’s eyes and his arm went limp. “Rest in peace, Dill,” he said before positioning his friend’s body into a peaceful pose.

Slowly he rose to his tired feet. “Time to save my family,” Blake muttered to himself as he pulled himself together. He picked up Dill’s discarded blade and headed out to find the last things he cared about in the world; his wife and son.

Previous – Chapter 55. The Beginning of the End.

Next – Chapter 57. Destiny from the Flames.

Chapter 55. The Beginning of the End. (The Sword Summoner: History Repeats)

The grey sky began to beat its own thunderous war drums as lightning forked down, lighting up the battlefield and dispelling the last of the tainted mist, replacing it with a wall of water.

As the rain cascaded down around them and they faced certain death, Trey could not help but chuckle. “Have you ever noticed it always rains during the main battle in epic tales.”

“Yeah, but in those same tales, the good guys always win,” said Billy grimly.

“You never know, in decades to come our descendants might be telling of us to their children. We could be the main characters in our own epic tale,” smiled Trey despite the situation.

“We can live in hope,” sighed Billy.

The conversation ended as both enemy forces began a steady march ready to engage with the slave forces. Young children screamed and cried while the adults stood in morose silence.

Luckily for the slaves, both enemy forces thought the slaves so weak that they did not utilise their ranged weapons. If they had, the battle would have been over after one volley. Trey silently thanked the Sprites for the Forukks’ bloodthirsty nature and love of close combat.

“I’m not waiting for them,” shouted Lily

“I’m with you,” agreed Zak. Both charged out to meet the larger of the two forces. Htaed shook his head with a sigh then followed them.

“Are they crazy?” asked Blake to no one in particular.

“Yes,” replied Trey and Billy in unison. They did not have time to worry about them though as seconds later blades met and the battle of the century began.

* * *

Zak’s mighty axe tore through the stomach of the first Forukk before decapitating another’s leg, causing it to collapse onto the ground. Lily spun around with her arms held out at her sides lopping off the heads of any creatures near her. Htaed made a single cut through the air and felled two Forukks instantaneously.

For every beast that fell, two more took its place but it made no difference. It just meant more killing. Zak killed another and was surprised when another one did not jump out at him. Htaed and Lily had run out of opponents as well. The Forukks charged around the group, heading straight for the slaves.

Zak was about to head back to the others and help when he noticed one more Forukk stood in the circle of bodies. It was taller than normal Forukks with large muscles but built very differently from the Nis’Forukk. It had the same kind of stature as Htaed. Its black armour was polished to a glass finish that even the rain could not dull and strapped to its back was a long jagged scythe.

“I am your opponent,” it snarled.

“Your funeral,” laughed Lily as she lunged at the Forukk.

Seemingly without moving the scythe appeared in its hand and he parried Lily’s attack with such force she crashed to the ground. Zak jumped in to defend her but was butted in the chest by the weapon’s handle. Htaed struck out with both his swords at once but the Forukk ducked under the first blade while parrying the second, closely followed by a sharp kick to the man’s gut causing him to stagger back.

The Forukk just stood and waited while the three humans regrouped. As one they attacked, surrounding the beast and delivering a flurry of blows that would have destroyed buildings. The only part of the Forukk that moved were his arms. They moved with such speed that they were just a blur. Somehow it managed to defend against all three warriors at once with narrow arcs of its weapon.

The scythe span with such speed that it disappeared from vision. Unable to defend against something that they could not see, all three were wounded by lightning quick slashes. Blood sprayed and the humans collapsed into the mud.

Htaed was the only one to rise to his feet. “This ends now,” he spat. The Forukk seemed amused. “Htaed is your name. Destroyer of armies, slayer of kin, enemy of the Klade and strongest manling in the world. Impressive titles but you are no match for the Alpha Forukk.”

“Shut up!” roared the man, his calm demeanour instantly disintegrating. He held both of his blades horizontally facing outwards and brought the two hilt ends together. Vicious wind shot out around him, knocking over many Forukks as they charged past. His blades joined together to form a double-ended sword that was taller even than him.

The two insanely powerful beings dived into combat, creating a maelstrom around them. The blades met with such force that sparks flew wildly around them making a fire rain effect as they fought. Zak was strong but even he was amazed by the sheer power that the two fighters were showing. Lily seemed amazed as well although a hint of terror glinted in her eyes. Zak was sure that if it was not for his enhanced vision he would not be able to follow the separate moves of the fight.

The Alpha Forukk lunged but the blow was not aimed at his opponent. Lily held up her chakram at the last second in defence. The scythe cut through the weapons like butter, barely slowing. It hit the woman and was back in the Forukk’s hands before Htaed had even finished his attack.

“You’re fighting me!” roared Htaed as he redoubled his efforts. The Forukk did not respond.

Zak rushed over to Lily’s side. Blood gushed from the wound across her stomach and Zak did not have the slightest medical knowledge. He stared helplessly for a few moments before an idea popped into his head. Jumping to his feet he ran towards the slaves, hardly pausing to kill in his haste.

* * *

A blade cut across her cheek but Dawn ignored it as she fought viciously with the Forukk before her. She had already killed two and now she had little strength remaining. She had tried to stay near Trey, Billy and Liam but in the chaos of the battle they had all been separated.

A moment’s lapse in concentration caused Dawn to react a split second too late as the Forukk’s sword rushed towards her head. The blade never made contact as the beast’s arm fell to the ground. Zak stood next to her, out of breath and looking beaten up. Without facing the Forukk he sliced its head off of its shoulders.

“Lily… injured…needs help,” he panted. Dawn nodded and Zak suddenly seemed revitalised. He ran off in the direction that he had come.

Dawn followed in his blood-soaked wake, glad that she had found one of her friends. The more rational part of her mind screamed ‘If something can injure that crazy woman you want to be as far away from it as possible.’

When they reached the woman, Dawn was almost knocked from her feet by the sheer power that the two fighters nearby were giving off. She turned her attention away from the blurs and focused upon the woman below her. The wound was deep. Dawn was trained to be a healer but this was out of her depth. She had to try though.

“Zak, I need bandages and fast,” she said as she tried to stop the bleeding.

Removing the shirt from the dead body of a slave, Zak tore it into one long ribbon with his axe then returned to Dawn.

“Make sure I don’t get attacked while I work,” she told Zak as she closed her mind to the battle around them, focusing solely on the task at hand.

* * *

Trey had formed a tight team with Billy, Liam, Sarah and Blake, keeping them all close together to avoid being separated. In their section of the battle things were looking relatively secure. He had lost sight of Dawn and worry for her wracked his mind but to be distracted for even a second meant death.

A horn sounded in the distance and Trey looked up to find its source. He cursed loudly as yet another enemy army came into view.

“We need to split into two teams, one group stays here, the other defends the far side,” announced Trey.

“Why bother?” said Liam.

Trey was about to snap at the depressive for a defeatist attitude when he saw what Liam was looking at. On the crest of a hill in the east stood a man. Trey looked harder and saw that it was Commander Mike Nakai. He blew his own horn and a varied army charged into view and engaged with the new enemy force.

Nakai’s army looked mixed and matched, having several different colours and armour types. There were Onlasarian soldiers in their brightly coloured leather armour, Heptalli warriors in flowing yellow robes and guards from the various small villages that dotted the eastern landscape of Farava.

In the ensuing chaos, all of the armies had mixed together, spreading out men all throughout the battlefield. Rivers of rainwater and blood flowed around the soldiers’ ankles and corpses littered the ground like leaves on an autumn day.

Billy and Trey had fought their way into a circle of allies, creating a lull in the fighting. “I’ve been practicing some stuff from Garvel’s old book,” said Billy. “It’ll make the enemy suffer for what they have done.” He waved his arms around while chanting some words then an orange light shot from his hand. It hit a Forukk but nothing happened.

“What? It should have blown that scum up!” shouted the boy in anger. A few seconds later the Forukk burst into thick smoke. Billy looked triumphant until the smoke cleared and the Forukk was still alive. The only difference was that the Forukk now had a large ginger afro that had replaced its helmet.

Trey could not help but smile. Billy on the other hand was distressed that that was all his spell had done. “Stuff this, I’ll do it the old fashioned way,” he yelled as he charged at the nearest enemy.

Men and Forukks alike catapulted through the air as a pair of Nis’Forukk stampeded through the battle, swinging huge weapons in wide arcs around them. If left to their own devices they would obliterate the forces of the east.

“Billy, Liam!” called Trey, motioning to the two marauding monsters. The two teens nodded, having no idea how to stop them but knowing that they somehow must.

“Out of the way. Clear the area!” hollered Billy at the people around him. No one needed telling twice. Even the lesser Forukks moved to form an empty ring around the colossal creatures before continuing their mindless slaughter.

“For the first time in my life I wish Zak was here,” said Billy as he sneered at the Forukks who had now stopped and were staring menacingly at the three teens.

“Any plans?” asked Trey.

“Just one,” shouted Billy as he charged forward and thrust his sword up into one of the monster’s groin. He was expecting something dramatic but he didn’t even receive a yelp.

“Lily might have mentioned that Nis’Forukk don’t physically breed so have no use for genitalia,” informed Liam.

“Thanks for that, Liam,” snarled Billy as he leapt back to avoid the Forukk’s fist. “Now what?”

“Now you fight,” barked Nakai as he leapt from out of nowhere and landed on the Forukk’s back. Dangling from his mouth by a lit fuse was a boom-ball.

The creature tried to pull the Commander from its back but its arms could not reach. The second one made to tug him off but Nakai leapt, grabbing its snout. As the Forukk opened its mouth to bite at the man he threw the boom-ball down its gullet, which seemed a hard task as the commander only had one arm. Nakai dived away as the Forukk exploded, sending chunks of flesh flying out, covering the nearby warriors.

Liam had used this time well. While Trey and Billy had watched the explosion, he had wrapped the remaining Nis’Forukk’s legs together with a thick rope that he had packed into his rucksack. When it sank in that its companion was dead, the Forukk boomed in anger and attempted to charge the Commander. As it tried to move its legs it fell forwards like a falling tree. It’s head landed right where Liam had anticipated. He had stuck his halberd into the ground pointing to the heavens to mark this spot. The Forukk’s rock-like head snapped his halberd but not before it had pierced the beast’s brain. It released a slow moan then died.

The commander approached them. “My Lieutenant is leading the battle against the new enemy army so you needn’t worry about the beasts here receiving reinforcements. The battle is far from over though so let’s get going.”

* * *

Kelly whimpered as a terrifying Forukk towered over her. It bared its teeth in a show of enjoyment as it slowly placed the tip of a jagged blade against her neck. It growled softly to itself as it began to apply pressure.

The girl yelped as the blade cut across her throat leaving a shallow line of blood. Zak stood before her, his axe locked with the Forukk’s sword, his clothes tattered. He was panting, having just run as fast as he could after sensing a source of power nearby.

The Forukk looked akin to the Alpha Forukk that fought with Htaed but had a slightly smaller stature and less power flowed from its body. It was still by far the strongest creature Zak had ever fought alone. It wielded a long bladed sword and wore dark armour that appeared to constantly flow around its body like a sickly liquid.

“You dare to attack a Forukk Prince?” snarled the beast in an arrogant tone.

“You dare to attack a defenceless girl,” spat the teen venomously.

The Forukk broke the lock then lunged. Zak did not have enough time to dodge the attack completely so suffered a glancing wound to his side. Spinning on the ball of his foot, Zak swung his axe but the Forukk parried it as though it was nothing. They exchanged a few rapid attacks when Zak jumped back. His breathing was heavy and he had received many small cuts that sapped at his strength.

“Done already, mortal?” taunted the Forukk.

Zak swung his axe around with renewed energy. “You wish!” he roared as he put all his strength into a downwards chop.

The Forukk Prince parried with such force that the impact rippled through Zak’s arms and caused his axe to hurtle from his grasp. It embedded itself in the ground several dozen feet from Zak’s reach.

“You lose,” rumbled the Forukk cockily.

Zak stared deep into the creature’s eyes and laughed. “I’m only just getting started.” Drawing his twin katana from their sheaths he whirled them through the air, listening to the satisfying sound as they swished in graceful arcs.

With speed that defied logic, Zak slashed, chopped and lunged at the Forukk Prince, who struggled to block such high speed moves. Within moments it looked like Zak would defeat the beast when it roared out, abandoned its defence and slashed with all its might. Blood spurted out around them both. Zak’s blades dug deeply into the Forukk’s shoulders and the Forukk’s sword had ripped a gash through Zak’s chest, decimating his armour.

Both pulled back then re-engaged into the combat. The Forukk swung, catching Zak’s right hand. It opened up on reflex and his katana fell from his fingers. With his other hand, Zak had slashed at the Forukk, cutting into its gut. The Prince delivered a vicious kick to the teen’s stomach then broke his wrist. With a final punch to the face, Zak landed roughly on the ground with no weapons within his reach.

“You put up a valiant fight, for a mortal,” the Prince snarled. It lifted its sword and made to cleave the boy in two.

Before the sword struck the beast screamed in pain. Stood behind him was Kelly, a terrified but determined look on her young face. In her hands was a small, pin like dagger. She had impaled it into the Forukk’s leg using all of her strength. Her hands were covered in black blood that sizzled her skin.

With another roar the Forukk turned to face the girl. Its fist shot out and hit her with enough force to break bones. Her body flew through the air then landed sprawled out in the mud.

Before the monster could turn back to face Zak, the teen had leapt onto it’s shoulders and dug his katana blade into its throat. Spluttering blood, the Forukk Prince cursed in its own guttural tongue, then with a final slash from the sword, its head rolled from it’s shoulders.

Zak stumbled over to where Kelly lay and made to pick her up. Instead, the last of his strength drained from his body and he collapsed at her side.

Previous – Chapter 54. Fight for Freedom.

Next – Chapter 56. A Long Awaited Showdown.

Chapter 54. Fight for Freedom. (The Sword Summoner: History Repeats)

Trey had arrived at the storehouse to be greeted by hundreds of people. There were so many that even the bottom floor was nearly filled with slaves. He greeted a few faces he recognised while he and Billy shuffled through the crowd to try and find Zak, Dawn and Liam.

On the second floor they were met by Zak and Liam who had created a little platform from the crates where they could escape the people who filled the room to the brim. Liam looked to be just finishing off healing himself. He still looked rough though. Trey did not want to imagine how he had looked before.

“Took your time,” laughed Zak, clapping them both on the back.

“We’ve been here for fifteen minutes already.”

“Any sign of Dawn?” asked Trey as he scanned the nearby faces. Both Zak and Liam shook their heads. “Haven’t seen her since we left here,” Liam answered.

“While we were waiting we realised a few things. Like how do we get out? These people are all malnourished and weak. They cannot go the way we came, they’d all fall to their deaths,” said Zak.

“True. We could-” his idea was interrupted as someone below screamed “Sarah!” catching Trey’s attention. The teens clambered down to the lower level and forced their way to the door.

Trey’s mother stood there, half supported by a man he did not know but who looked vaguely familiar. On the man’s back sat Dawn. All three looked battered but otherwise fine. Trey ran through the crowd of people and without hesitation embraced his mother. He was supposed to be a man now, he was looked upon as a leader to the people around him but he did not care in the slightest. She was safe, that was his only concern. He only let go when Sarah gasped and he noticed her injured ankle. The man crouched down so Dawn could slide off and greet her friends; a strange look was on his face.

“Billy, it’s good to see you,” said Sarah once her attention strayed from her son.

“You too, Mrs Sted,” replied Billy, his voice seeming troubled.

“Have you seen my mum and dad?” he managed to force out after a moment of hesitation.

Sarah did not know what to say. “Billy… I’m so sorry.”

The boy’s eyes glazed over as Sarah’s words sunk into his head. He was trying to keep a brave face in front of the crowd but it was a losing battle.

“T-they’re… they’re b-both… dead,” Billy said. He crashed onto his knees, his hands cupping his face, pulling at his hair. He began to shake as he repeated “Dead” in a whisper over and over again. 

Sarah threw herself down at his side and pulled his head onto her shoulder. The emptiness within him took over and he openly sobbed into Sarah’s hair. Silent tears streamed down Sarah’s face too as she grieved for her lost friends.

“There will be plenty of time to grieve later. We have an escape to plan now and everything else needs to be forgotten until we are all safe. For now we have to content ourselves with paying these monsters back,” announced the man who had entered with Dawn.

“He is right,” said Trey as he held out a hand to Billy. “We can all grieve after we have taken revenge on those who cause us to grieve.”

Billy nodded, wiped the tears from his eyes then took Trey’s hand. Once he was up he held out his hand and Sarah took it graciously. The stranger stepped forwards to grab the crowd’s attention.

“Not that they haven’t done a great job so far but I think that a group of teenagers shouldn’t be responsible for our lives. Unless anyone has any complaints, I will take command until the threat is behind us.”

There were plenty of murmurs in the crowd but no one spoke out openly against the man. From the crowd, Lieutenant Gapon stepped up to the man. They stood face to face, looking ready to trade blows. Gapon grabbed the man’s shoulder roughly. To Trey’s surprise, he did not throw a punch though. Instead he broke into a joyous laugh.

“Damn it, but it is good to see you, Blake. I stand with you, just as I did in the war.”

Trey stepped forward. “Who are you?”

The man seemed to hesitate for a moment but then his loud confidence returned. “I am Blake Hunter, ex-sergeant of the Pastrino City Guards. A former soldier and the longest surviving slave extraordinaire. Any other questions?”

The name sounded familiar but Trey could not think where he knew it from. Too much had happened and much more was to come for Trey to worry over something so small. There were just too many thoughts to process at the moment. Trey shook his head, content with Blake taking control. After all, Trey was no leader; he did not want the responsibility. Blake cleared his throat. 

“Right then, time for a plan.”

* * *

The Lanstiro guards were not stupid. They knew that the only way for the slaves to escape was through the front gates so they had assembled in force to await the slaves exit. All of the slaves that had not managed to escape were already safely locked within the castle. Over three quarters of the guards in the city, both human and Forukk, were ready to give the ungrateful scum a leaving party they would never forget. 

The guards’ mood was light as they were expecting a massacre. The slaves would come in a disorganised rabble, hardly armed and so starved that they could not run. They would come like sheep to the slaughter. The rumble of stamping feet reached the ears of the guards and to their surprise, a large wooden shield was heading towards them at speed. Dirty feet could just be seen under the barrier.

“Fire!” bellowed the lead guard. It took precious seconds to ready their ranged weapons. 

Hundreds of projectiles shot forwards, embedding into the barricade. A few made it through the thick wood but the guards could not see if any damage had been dealt. There was barely time for a second volley before the mobile barricade was upon them.

The barrier suddenly dropped to reveal nine dakdaks, man sized, three legged birds without wings, kept for their rich eggs. The livestock awkwardly galloped towards the guards’ ranks, rode by slaves with makeshift lances and shields. There was a crash instantly followed by screams. The dakdaks did not slow to attempt to make additional kills. The guards hacked at the mounts and the riders. Three animals fell, the others continued forwards.

Several of the guards turned to follow the dakdaks when arrows twanged from behind the fallen barrier to hit them from behind. Hundreds of slaves were charging to the exit, all armed with knives. A few had swords or bows while others just had metal bars or stones. They had formed a square with the men on the outside and the women and children in the core.

“Kill the men! The women and spawnlings will be defenceless then,” barked a grizzled Forukk with horns jutting out of its skull that were twice the size of those on the surrounding beasts.

The Lanstirian warriors charged to engage the ragtag slaves. The two forces met with a clash of weapons, shields and screams. The slaves did not stop to fight but continued to push forwards, struggling to carve a path through their heavily armoured opponents.

* * *

It felt good to have a weapon in his hands again, Gapon thought to himself as he swung a hammer into a Forrukk’s throat. The heavy blacksmith hammer was no match for his mace but it would do. He made a wide sweep that knocked a beast over to be stabbed by the woman behind him. Blake’s orders to him had been simple: protect Sarah and Trey at all costs.

Sarah was well protected already and certainly was not defenceless. As for the boy, Trey, watching him fight left Gapon with no doubt that the boy could hold his own. Another few years and he would surpass both Blake and himself at their peaks.

A blade nicked his wrist. The battle was hopeless at these odds. It didn’t matter how many skulls that he cracked, more just kept coming. Dying in an unwinnable battle still beat living as a slave though. Gapon calmed his mind. He just had to keep swinging. Trying to keep his wards in sight, he let out a battle cry and raised his hammer up high.

* * *

Blake chopped at a Forukk that ventured too close to him as he took another hard earned step forward. Despite all the effort, the slaves were simply too weak to fight against trained warriors. He ducked as a guard flew over his head. Risking a glance at where the man had come from he saw Zak had broken rank and was cutting his own bloody path through the blockade. He was doing a good job of distracting a few enemies but it was not enough.

As Blake dodged a mace he looked over to the left side of the column. Trey fought valiantly, stopping the enemy from overwhelming the other slaves around him. A pang of regret hit Blake as he realised he may never get a chance to get to know his son or even let the boy know that he was his father.

The column came to a halt, unable to push any further forwards. The enemy fully surrounded them. Blake blew on a horn and all the men crouched. The women and children darted out, struck at the guards with their knives then leapt back into the centre. The men were back up and hacking at the surprised enemy without pause. It was still not enough.

Just when the enemies were on the verge of engulfing the slaves, several guards began to scream from in front of the fighting. Blake was about to be cut in two by a twisted looking Forukk when a huge blade ripped through its chest. As the beast fell it revealed a giant of a man, scarred beyond belief. At his side span a young woman with purple hair and two flower chakram.

“Nice timing, Htaed, Lily,” shouted Zak over the din of the battle. After the two strange warriors killed another handful of guards and Forukks each, the remaining enemies fled in terror, leaving the slaves to stagger away from the fortress and towards freedom.

“Sorry we had to leave earlier but those Forukks are tougher than the normal rabble,” chirped Lily happily. “This was too easy though, I was looking forward to another good fight,” she pouted.

“Do not worry,” said Htaed softly. “You will get your fight.” He motioned through the thinning mist at an army of Forukks that marched towards them.

Blake cursed. “We can’t fight them.”

“You either fight and die like warriors or surrender and die like dogs,” said Htaed as he eyed the enemy. “They only outnumber us five to one, its still good odds.”

“The last lot had less than us yet we still would have died if not for you!” shouted Blake.

Htaed answered slowly, as if caught in a memory. “You will one day learn that odds and numbers mean little in battle. Pray to your Sprites and do not falter, then accept whatever fate is destined for you.”

A battle cry broke out behind them and they turned to face a second army flooding through the fortress’ door. It numbered far less than the army on their other side but it was still enough to pincer the slaves from the very start of the battle.

“See you all on the other side,” roared Blake as he tightened his grip on the blade he held and offered up a prayer to every Sprite he could name.

Previous – Chapter 53. Reunited.

Next – Chapter 55. The Beginning of the End.

Chapter 53. Reunited. (The Sword Summoner: History Repeats)

Sneaking in was always the easy part, mused Blake Hunter as he strolled through the castle in a stolen guard uniform. He had done this more times than the guards would like to think possible yet each time was as easy as the last. This time was different though, he had a valid reason to be here and the guards were on edge because of the two man assault on the gate. He had heard that the warriors had been defeated but at a disgusting cost of lives.

Blake was glad he had done this before when there was nothing to lose as he now knew the place like the back of his hand and could get in and out without fuss. He had found the Lord’s private chamber on his second exploration of the castle and was deeply relieved as that was his current destination.

There was a single guard on duty but Blake had timed it so that he arrived at the change of guards. The burly man nodded to him then left his post, thinking Blake to be his replacement. The door was locked and far too thick to break down. 

“He seems to forget that force isn’t the only way to open a locked door,” smirked Blake as he removed a lock-pick from his sleeve. The pick clanked around inside the lock and Blake began to get frustrated when there was no satisfying click signalling it had worked.

“Maybe he didn’t forget then.”

Changing his tactic he lit a torch on the wall and held it against the thick door hinge. Several minutes passed and the metal began to glow a dull red. When it was as hot as it would get, he dropped the torch then hacked at the glowing metal with a stolen sword. Within seconds only scrap metal remained. He repeated the process with the second hinge then noticed an additional third one which was destroyed soon afterwards.

With one last quick look around him, Blake pulled on the elegant ring knocker and the door fell forwards with a mournful groan like a felled tree. Blake stepped onto the great slab of mahogany then hopped into the room.

The room was a vast chamber of stone, much akin to the secret room under Zendek’s old house back in Pastrino. Shelf after shelf of books lined the walls and a large four poster bed sat on a slightly raised platform in the centre. There were a few other items of furniture in the ring between the bed and shelves like desks and cupboards.

Tucked into the bed was Sarah. Blake ran to the bedside and called out the woman’s name but she did not stir. He tried to shake her awake but still she gave no response. Her body was limp like a corpse but her chest still rose and fell as she breathed. Knocking the small bedside table, Blake noticed a bottle of tablets. She had been drugged.

From his belt Blake took a small water flask and splashed its contents onto her face. As the water ran into her mouth she began to choke. Her eyes shot open and her fist shot out, punching Blake in the face.

“Hey, it’s only me, Blake, don’t worry,” Blake said softly, soothing his reddening cheek.

“I know,” replied Sarah as she punched him again.

“Did he do anything to you?” asked Blake, suddenly turning very serious.

“No. He brought me here, gave me some tablets that he said would take away the pain from my ankle then I woke up just now,” she replied.

“Can you walk?” Blake said, glancing around him again.

Sarah made a huffing sound, her face flushed with anger. “Is that all your going to ask? You haven’t seen me in fifteen years, a week after our wedding, and all you want to ask is if I can walk.”

“It was hardly my choice. Being captured by giant demons was hardly my choice of honeymoons. Now is not the time for that though,” interrupted Blake. “We need to get out of here before someone finds us. We’ll discuss pleasantries later.”

Sarah swung her feet over the side of the bed then stood up, immediately falling back onto the bed as pain shot through her ankle. Blake picked her up and slung her over his shoulder. She shouted out in protest and hammered at his back with her fists but Blake ignored her and exited the room.

He stopped in his tracks as he walked right into a guard as he stepped over the door. He probably should have propped the door back into place to avoid suspicion, he thought wearily to himself. Before Blake could react, the guard had grabbed a black horn from his side and blew a deep, violent note from it that echoed through the corridors. Blake ran him through before the guard could draw his blade but the damage was already done. In the distance sounded the heavy dong of the security bell and he knew that guards would be swarming his location any second.

Cursing loudly, Blake broke into a run, taking a back route away from the main areas of the castle. There were a few moments of calm as he thought the enemy would not find him but that was soon shattered as he heard rapid footsteps closing in behind him. While in full armour and carrying Sarah he could not outrun them but neither could he fight his way out.

Just keep running forwards, he told himself. He laughed in irony as he heard voices further along the narrow corridor before him. His laugh faded as he saw it was Zendek himself leading the second group. His old friend smiled evilly as he spotted Blake and Sarah, knowing they had no chance of escape.

“Stuff this!”muttered Blake. He grabbed at a coil of rope that hung from his belt. He made a sudden turn even though there was no corner and dived through an arched gap in the wall that served as a window.

They had been several floors high and the ground looked a long way away. After a few seconds of terrifying freefall, Blake threw the rope, its end tied to a grappling hook and hoped to the Sprites that it would connect to something. The small metal cross landed on a balcony, latching onto the railing. The sudden halt of the rope ripped through Blake’s hands but he did not let go. They were still a fair way from the ground and just dangled from the rope uselessly with nowhere to go.

The rope suddenly became loose and Blake and Sarah fell once more. Someone had found the hook and cut the rope from it, wanting them to fall to their deaths. Blake turned in mid air and embraced Sarah from behind; making sure that he took the brunt of the impact.

The fall seemed to take forever despite the fact it was mere seconds. Finally Blake hit something but it gave way underneath him, fell a split second longer then landed hard onto an unyielding surface. Sarah opened up her eyes and looked up at the grey sky through a large hole in the wooden roof above them. Slowly, like a dream, her eyes floated around the room, taking in its details.

They had landed in a stable. The Sprites must have been with them as out of every place they could have landed, it had been a large straw pile. She glanced to her side and found Blake’s hand sticking out of the greyish straw. The rest of him was not visible.

She dug through the straw and found her husband’s unconscious form at the very base of the pile. She slapped him across the cheek, reminiscing of the past when she woke him up like this. He had passed on his heavy sleeping gene to Trey, another thing to moan at him for when they had time.

“Five more minutes,” groaned Blake as he snuggled deeper into the straw.

“Now,” snapped Sarah as she slapped his other cheek. He grumbled some more then winced as he fully awoke and the pain from the impact hit him.

“Couldn’t you have left me asleep, it was less painful,” he whined while rubbing his back.

“No. Like you said, now is not the time.” She climbed to her feet, keeping her weight off of her hurt ankle.

Blake rose to his feet too and motioned for Sarah to climb onto his back. He staggered out of the stable, remembering he was not as strong as he used to be because of this place.

The couple gasped as they stepped out onto the street. It looked like a sandstorm had passed through that area. Rather than the hard soil, sand covered the ground and coated the buildings. In the middle of the street was a deep crater. The only sign of life was a black cloaked girl who lay next to the crater. Jogging to the girl’s side, Blake knelt down allowing Sarah to get down and check her condition. She moved aside the girl’s fiery red hair to check her pulse.

“She’s alive and seemingly in perfect health other than some minor wounds and major fatigue. As long as we patch up her shoulders and side she’ll be as good as new in no time,” stated Sarah. At hearing the voices, the girl’s eyes shot open and she tried to jump to her feet.

“Don’t worry. We’re going to help you, okay,” soothed Sarah.

“T-Trey?” asked the girl groggily, her eyes trying to focus on Blake.

“You know Trey?” asked Sarah, excitement and concern growing in her voice.

“Yes. He’s here somewhere. We came to free you all,” answered the girl, regaining some of her strength.

Blake interrupted Sarah before she could begin speaking again. “Who is this Trey guy?”

Sarah was silent.

“Whoa. Is he your new partner? I disappear for fifteen years and another guy just waltzes in,” sighed Blake.

“He is not my partner,” Sarah replied in a quiet voice.

“Who then?” demanded Blake.

“Trey is…he’s your son,” she answered softly.

“My son…”

Previous – Chapter 52. Confidence.

Next – Chapter 54. Fight for Freedom.

Chapter 52. Confidence. (The Sword Summoner: History Repeats)

Footsteps echoed through the corridors as a hardened warrior walked around the castle, greeting anyone he met with a few words, never stopping to talk. One would think it was an officer or noble, or at least a mercenary but it was not; it was Zak.

The teen walked through the castle like he belonged there so no one questioned his presence. He was hiding in plain sight and the enemies he greeted casually were none the wiser. He had even redirected several slaves to the storehouse within earshot of guards who figured it must be official business so they should not get involved.

He was not sure where he was going but whichever way he turned he seemed to find the odd slave here and there doing various jobs. He knew from some slaves he had met that many had been taken to the Masters’ private sleeping quarters. He had gotten sketchy directions and was heading in what he hoped was the right way to find the living quarters of the Lanstirian nobles.

Testing his luck, Zak asked one of the guards which way the private quarters were and the man answered with next to no suspicion. Zak had to backtrack fifty yards then turn left and continue down that corridor until he reached the end, then turn right followed by the first left.

Zak smiled to himself, knowing that he was in the right place. It was a huge square room with dozens of elegant oak doors lining the walls. He was about to open the first door when a faint scream came from behind a door three quarters the way around.

Within seconds Zak was at the door. He tried the handle but it would not budge. He tried to kick it down but the oak stayed motionless and Zak jarred his foot. He sighed then readied his axe. He swung the double bladed head at the door and splinters shot out. Another swing followed by a kick and the door was open, or to be precise there was a hole in the door large enough to step through.

The room beyond was fairly simple. There was a double bed, a wardrobe, a desk, a cabinet and two shelves. Zak did not focus on any of this though. In the far back corner cowered a young girl and a fat man stood over her, tugging at her arm in an attempt to force her to her feet.

When Zak had smashed the door down the fat man had turned to glare angrily at him, mild surprise showing on his chubby face. His walrus like moustache twitched slightly. The girl remained crouched, her eyes covered by her hands, crying silently.

“How wude!” exclaimed the man. “You can’t just come and thmath down my door, you thupid thod.”

“What?” asked Zak, forgetting the scene before him as he chuckled at the man.

“If it’s all wight with you, I have a thmall lithp.”

Zak openly laughed then shook his head to calm down. “What are you doing to the poor girl?” he asked as he motioned to the girl who had stopped crying and was now looking up at Zak with wide eyes.

“It’s none of your buthineth what I do with my thlaveth,” said the man, his face becoming flushed.

“Let her go,” said Zak in a low, dangerous tone.

“Don’t talk thuch wubbith. Who are you to owder me awound? Leave me now. Oh, and thend thomeone to wepair my door.” The man turned his back to Zak and focused his attention once more on the girl.

The man had just managed to pull the girl to her feet when Zak knocked him on the head with the end of his axe. The man collapsed onto the bed, releasing the girl from his grasp.

“I hate people like him,” muttered Zak as he picked up the unconscious man and carried him to the door. “Wait here a minute,” he told the girl. She nodded and he left the room.

Zak carried the man across his shoulders like he weighed nothing despite his size. He strode off out of the private quarters and headed towards a place that he had been told to avoid at all costs: the Forukks’ barracks. He knew that he had found the right section of the fortress by the smell that seeped through the gap under the door. Slowly he eased opened the sheet metal door and entered.

It took a moment for his eyes to adjust to the darkness. It was a long, narrow room with nothing but hundreds of ragged mats that lay everywhere without order. Only half a dozen Forukks currently

occupied the room, all of them grunting loudly in their sleep. Zak silently headed towards the closest Forukk and placed the fat man down on the mat beside the monster. As a finishing touch he draped the Forukk’s arm over the man then positioned the man’s hand firmly onto the Forukk’s rear.

Zak laughed to himself as he left the foul smelling room and jogged back to collect the girl. She was standing exactly where she had been when he had left. She fiddled nervously with her fingers, her eyes darting around the room. Much of the tension faded from her body as Zak re-entered.

“Are you hurt?” he asked in a gentle tone. The girl shook her head slightly.

“You think you can walk alright?” This time she nodded her head.

“What’s your name?” asked Zak, determined to get her to talk.

She looked into Zak’s eyes. “K-Kelly,” she murmured in a soft, faint voice.

“Good. Now Kelly, how old are you?”

She answered quicker this time with more confidence but still spoke in a weak voice. “Twelve.”

“That’ll do. Come on, we’ve got to get out of here.” He moved to leave the room but the girl did not follow. “Come on,” Zak said again, this time grabbing the girl’s hand and dragging her out of the door. Kelly blushed wildly at the contact as Zak towed her towards the fortress’ main entrance.

Zak turned a corner and suddenly shot back around, pressing his back against the wall. Walking towards him along the other corridor was a tall, dark haired man who fit the description of the Lord of Lanstiro. Around him were two large human warriors, two grizzled looking Forukks and a small, scrawny man who looked like an assistant or scribe. Even Zak was not crazy enough to attack the enemy leader in the centre of his own castle, surrounded by his guards. Not without backup anyway.

Zak was about to go the way he had just came when he saw a squad of ten Forukks marching towards them from that direction. “Talk about being stuck between a rock and a hard place,” he muttered as he tightened his grip on his axe and the now shivering hand of the girl.

Zak began to concentrate on some spell he hoped would obliterate one of the groups heading towards his position when a thunderous dong rippled through the castle. It rang out twice more, flooding the air with vibrating noise that seemed to take an age to fade.

Both groups had halted and Zak listened intently to see what was happening. He heard running feet from the corridor the lord occupied and for a moment thought he had been discovered. He relaxed fractionally as whoever it was stopped and began to speak to his leader.

“Sir, reports say that someone has invaded the castle and has broken into your bed chamber,” a man’s voice reported.

At first, Zak thought they were talking about him but he had not gone into the Lord’s room. Either the fat man had been passing the Lord’s room off as his own or someone else had invaded the castle as well.

“Hunter! He’s gone too far this time,” growled a man, who Zak guessed was the lord.

Brisk footsteps led away from Zak’s position. He popped his head around the corner and saw all the men disappear around the next bend. He tugged Kelly around the corner to avoid the Forukk that were still heading towards them, then ran down the corridor, retracing his steps to the exit.

Guards swarmed everywhere now but with a mixture of stealth and unquestionable confidence, they made it through most of the castle unhindered. They were about to turn onto the last corridor before the exit when Zak heard another scream. He sighed then ran down a spiral staircase that they had just passed. It led into what Zak supposed was a dungeon. The very air had the feel of death and pain upon it and the smell was a mixture of blood and rot.

Kelly huddled closer to Zak. She was visibly terrified by the place. Zak released her hand and motioned for her to be still. He slowly eased open the rusty gate and slipped into the room beyond. It was a dungeon. There were old chains on the wall, several stone beds with thick leather straps and numerous sharp, painful looking tools lying on shelves. There was even a rack at the far end of the room.

There were six people in the room, two on the stone beds, one in the rack, two hung up on the wall and one stood in a white coat with a hot iron in his hand. On closer inspection, one of the figures on the wall was nothing but a skeleton.

“It hurts you so why not him?” screeched the white coated man.

He pressed the glowing red bar against one of the men on the stones and elected a curdling scream from him. He then pressed in onto the arm of a person Zak could not fully see. This man did not make a sound.

The torturer screeched in frustration and moved to a shelf to grab a corkscrew like device. As he moved Zak got a view of the man on the second slab. His face was badly bruised and cuts and burns covered his chest and arms but he was still recognisable. It was Liam.

Zak walked up to the torturer and tapped him on the shoulder. The man whirled around and received Zak’s fist in his face. He flew through the air and crashed into a shelf full of jars that contained fat leeches.

Untying the straps from Liam, he helped the other teen to his feet then began to free the other men of their restraints. Most could barely stand and Liam did not look too stable either but they could not wait there until they had recovered.

“You all think you can make it just outside then we’ll steal a cart or something to get you to the store house,” said Zak. They all nodded weakly.

Zak supported the two weakest men while Liam and the last man helped each other out. The climb up the stairs was nearly too much for them all except Zak. By the time they reached the top Zak was more or less dragging them along. Kelly clung to Zak’s side making his task harder than necessary but he did not mind. There was only one Forukk guarding the exit and Zak easily defeated it with a blast of Nimula.

It only took a few minutes to find a cart. They emptied the rocks from it then the slaves climbed inside. Liam, despite the pain he must have been in, came to the front and helped Zak and Kelly to pull the cart to the storehouse.

Previous – Chapter 51. Hunter and Prey.

Next – Chapter 53. Reunited.