Chapter 1 from the Hollow King
When Taraly looked down, she tried not gasp at the sight of the body stretched out on the bed. The battle hard face of her father bore deep ugly red claw marks disfiguring the left side. Empty holes stared at her where brown eyes filled with love had once had been. She bit her lip to keep from screaming, she touched the cold skin around his mouth. It sagged making him appear like a fool in his death.
“Don’t look at that broken carcass,” King Hichel commanded. “It gave me many good years but now it’s time to move on. I’m only sorry I leave you at such a dark period in our history and alone.”
His lips never moved. The king was dead. She scanned the chamber and located her father’s spirit sitting in the far right corner of the bed. This time she did gasp. What she assumed was a young image of her father sat on top of the coverlet. Brilliant red hair, full and wavy framed a handsome youthful face. One free of the scars earned during countless years fighting the Vertivile. She looked at the man her mother had fallen so passionately in love with.
“Don’t you mean you wish you had a son to pass the legacy on to?” Taraly spat. Remorse for her words made her cringe. She had no desire to be hurtful with her father’s spirit, but she feared losing the battle to control the emotional turmoil raging through her. Showing weakness would not make her father proud in his last moments. She felt like a skirt on wash day, beaten against the rocks than twisted until no water remained.
The spirit chuckled. “Never. I thanked the gods repeatedly for the spitfire daughter they blessed me with. The beauty of her mother and the warrior temper of her father. Do not stay mad at Kevath. His words weren’t meant to hurt.” He paused. “He was never blessed with a daughter and views you as his. The words were meant to say if he could spare you the heartache he would.” The king looked to his left. “I hear your mother calling to me. My time grows short. Listen closely for not only is the future of your kingdom at stake but the lives all those who occupy this place of the living.”
Tears burned Taraly cheeks. She swiped them with embarrassment. The king mere seconds before praised her strength and now she wept like baby seeking its mother for comfort.
“Never be ashamed of tears spent.” Her father’s ghost drew closer. A wide grin formed a deep dimple in his right cheek, she’d never noticed before. “Only a person of compassion is capable of shedding them. It does my heart proud to know I leave this kingdom in such a person’s hands.” The king sighed. “Kevath will give you my sword, and sadly, you’ll find a greater need for it than I. My greatest enemy up until my final battle were merely men of opposite thought and the Vertivile. You, my daughter, will need to slay a vile creatures older than these stone walls. Ones of no heart or soul. You have been chosen to block the path of evil.”
She shuddered at the evil he mentioned. The castle rumbled with gossip of beasts from the darkest of times once again roaming the land. Hunters reported finding large pits filled with bones and half eaten animals. Many disregarded the tales as nothing more than fireside stories to scare children or those of a weak mind. Yet, her father died from injuries inflicted by a beast of legend.
Doubt whispered lightly in her ear, asking who she was to carry a king’s sword? A mere woman? One of mixed breeding. “I will wear your sword with honor.” Taraly lifted her chin defying the imaginary voice. “To the best of my ability, I will seek to make your spirit proud.”
“You already have, daughter. Listen now. Heed Kevath’s words for they will be ones of wisdom. He has had many winters to your eighteen. I have instructed him to take you to seek Grandmother June. Sadly, I lack the knowledge on how to fight these beasts. As the Keeper of the Lore, she will know what needs to be done. Do as she commands.”
“Good bye father,” Taraly whispered as the king’s spirit shimmered. A broad smile pulled her father’s lips wide. She knew her mother’s spirit approached. His eyes twinkled and again he looked happy for the first time since Evelyn’s illness.
The fire popped, showering the room with the flickering shadows of dancing flames.
Her mother’s spirit appeared. “Daughter, you are beautiful.”
“She has your looks.” Hichel pulled his wife close. Long black hair free of braids hung to Evelyn’s waist. Full lips as red as holly berries smiled up at her father.
“Good thing,” her mother chuckled. She turned to Taraly, eyes a bright green. “My time is short, daughter. Your destiny is one of hardship. Trust your shree. It will lead you in love.”
“Love isn’t what I need.” Taraly choked out the words. Her mother cradled a small baby, her brother. Her family sat before and yet she was alone. “An ancient evil stalks our land.”
Tears broke their restraining walls and freely ran down her cheeks.
“It is through love you will conquer the ancient beasts of hatred.”
From The Hollow King – Book 1 of The Night of the Gryphon
The Warrior Queen – Book 2 Available now also
The Prince of Light – Book 3 Available September 2012