I had the grand goal of finishing up last night, but in the end I just did not quite have the steam to push across the finish line. However I did manage to get to 48,723 word count. This puts me roughly 1200 words away from 50,000 which I am certain I will make. At this point there are two chapters left that I planned to write. Even if I do make it over 50,000 I will go ahead and write the two chapters I feel need to be there to finish off the novel. I am shocked at just how well overall the pacing has worked. I honestly expected to be “done” and come up way short of the target goal.
Here is the story to date for those wanting to catch up. Found out last night I have a contingency that is waiting for me to finish before starting. Hopefully they all realize just how raw the novel is!
- Shadowed Stone
- Little Giant Girl
- Birthday Wishes
- The Gifts
- The Incursion
- The Watch
- Rough Landing
- Dragon Bone
- People of the Storm
- The Lady
- Cambridge Beneath
- Prisoner of War
- Parting the Veil
- People of the Earth
- The Pack
- Brittagus Escape
- The Lightskimmer
- The Nightlords
- Best Laid Plans
- The Siege
26 – Betrayed
The castle facade was hidden behind a wall of thick smoke streaming up from the strew carcasses of the metal machines that previously guarded it. The skyship payloads had found their targets and sent a scattered mess of gobbley mechanics trying to vain to repair them. Behind the black cloud Merowyn knew lay a portculus, and hopefully in the confusion they could slip into the castle proper relatively unnoticed. She raised her hand waving the gathered group of valkore and her sprites ahead into the dense hanging smoke. They moved along silently ajusting their course periodically to miss a frantic mechanic.
They could see the wall of the castle when the smoke began to break a bit. From directly ahead of them there came a bolt of fire streamed with little rivulets of lightning coursing up and down its length. The bolt missed Merowyn barely but she managed to react and raise a barrier spell moments before the next one would have struck her. Instead it bounced off the barrier sending it careening into a gobbley warmachine causing another fury of sparks and even more black smoke to belch up from it.
Peering through the smoke she recognized her attacker as Baigan, son of Oakswurv and the Winter Prince. Jace and Kale had told her about the events of the farmhouse, but until she saw him herself she had not quite believed that one of the councils children would betray them. When the next of stormfire came, she pushed out on the shield and sent it deflecting back in his direction. The bolt struck at his feet causing him to jump back slightly. Seizing the opportunity of his momentary distraction she pushed the barrier harder sending it out in front of her like a wave of force. The shield struck Baigan squarely in the chest knocking him back pressing him against the castle wall.
He tried in vain to hurl another bolt at Merowyn but she quickly raised another barrier sending it crashing down upon him. How could this be, the power of stormfire was the most destructive magic known in the wildlands. How could a simple barrier spell be getting the best of him. He needed time to regroup. He threw a bolt of stormfire at the ground beneath one of the crashed warmachines sending up an explosion of parts. Reaching out with the power of the north wind he directed the cloud of machinery down upon Merowyn and the others.
“Get to me now!” Mero yelled already extending out a protective barrier and wrapping it around them. The others managed to get inside the bubble moments before a stream of debris crashed down on the bubble trapping them under a dome of spent machinery. Merowyn strained at the weight crushing down upon her bubble, sensing her struggle the sprites clamped around her just like they had done before. She became a luminescent sculpture of green light as the little fae gave back some of the light she had given them. Emboldened by the strength surging into her… she pushed with all her might upon the barrier and with an eruption of force the pile of machinery flew off in every direction raining down upon the frightened gobbley who were still hopelessly tending to their creations.
When the dust cleared Merowyn looked around frantically expecting another round of attacks from the traitor. Instead she saw nothing, he had vanished, most likely into the castle. She took a moment to catch her breath as the others made their way up to the portcullis. The gate was down and no matter how much Kale tried she could not budge it. When she finally gave up on lifting it she began pounding the door with her great big fists, each blow causing the door to echo like a drum.
Jace grabbed her arm trying to stop her, the knuckles of her hands already bloody and cracked from pouding against the dense wood. “We will find another way Kale, you aren’t doing anything but hurting yourself” Jace chided as he tried to think of another way. Merowyn said he was a wood binder, and that was why he could change his staff into a sword. She said he could also manipulate wood and other living and once living things. He wondered if that included a wooden gate on a castle. While he didn’t really understand the specifics of why he could do what he could do, he understood the basics and that was enough to try.
He managed to get Kale to stop, and moved in front of her placing his hands on the wood of the gate. Reaching out with his mind he tried to meld with the wood, sense it, feel it moving behind his fingers. He closed his eyes and imagined the wood of the door parting for him, peeling apart at the grain moving to one side and leaving a wide opening. As he visualized the change in the door he heard a creaking noise and as he dared to open his eyes he watched the wood slowly bending to his will. Cracking down the grain and slowly folding back until there was a warped opening in the door just big enough for them to pass through.
Kale looked at him dumbstruck “How did you do that?” Jace shrugged slightly “Merowyn said Benj and I were woodbinders… I just took a leap of faith that it meant any kind of wood… not just my staff” He was as confused by it as she was, and quite honestly completely surprised by the success. Standing there it felt as though the ground was rushing up at him, and then moments later he realized that it was him falling to the ground. Kale rushed to his side helping him back up. “Are you okay?” He nodded wearily feeling completely drained “I guess it took a bit out of me, I will be fine.”
His head was spinning but as he stood there assisted by Kale the world began to right itself and stopping moving around so violently. Within a few moments the dizzyness had passed, but he felt as though he needed to stand completely still for a few minutes just to make sure. He looked over at Merowyn and similar the Sprites were helping her up. I guess these abilities they had, came with a bit of a price. He was certain they would both be fine they just needed a moment to rest and recover before going further. If they were to encounter Baigan in this state they would both likely end up dead.
Using the shower of machinery as cover Baigan had indeed escaped into the fort and was now streaming through the halls on his way to the throne room. Passing Orts along the way he screamed “Get to the western facade, defend me you oafs!!!” The magical exchange had drained him greatly as well and he needed to gather his strength. Shooting down the skyships and then the exchange with Merowyn had tapped a good bit of his power. He needed a moment to rest and then he could finish them off after the Orts were done with them.
He ascended the stairs leading to the throne and collapsed down into his chair. How could this have gone so wrong he asked himself. Did he not have the most powerful army at his command? Was he not able to wield the most destructive magic? How could these misfits be tearing his army apart at the seams. The Orts were undisciplined brutes, that had to be it… they were not used to fighting without cheating. The Trogjan never fought fair, and they rarely had to defend. They were almost always the aggressor. He had simply miscalculated their strengths.
He could still be the victor. His superior magic would be the key. He had to regain his strength so he could strike down these fools with his mighty storm fire. As Baigan sat there trying to rationalize away his failure he felt a sensation unlike any he had ever experienced. He felt a coldness against his neck and a pressure. He found himself unable to speak, and there was a flurry of movement as at the last moment he finally realized it was a blade slicing into his neck.
The assassin had been completely silent, and his aim true and steady. In a single flash of motion Baigan the traitor was no more, and the other was sliding his head into a leather bag and dropping it into a pack on his back. Reaching out to a pouch on his waist he removed a large crystal, one much larger than the one used to trap the queen, but relatively similar in design. The assassin touched the crystal to the chest of Baigan’s lifeless and now slightly twitching corpse. The room erupted in a cascade of lights that vacillated between a deep cyan and a warm glowing orange.
When the light had faded the assassin stood there holding a crystal that contained a deep fire within it and underneath the surface pulsed with jets of lightning. The stormfire crystal was complete, and the master would be pleased. The assassin slid the crystal back into the pouch at his waist. He looked at the corpse of Baigan and frowned slightly. It was troubling to see any shade die, even a pompous and arrogant one like him. The masters plan however is absolute, and he would get the crystal to him before high night fell. With that the silent shadow of a man slipped out of the throne room, and melded with the corridors rushing out of the castle and into the dim twilight.