Moon Summoned - Hero - Kobe
A gong signaled the first call for breakfast.
He stood near the door and thought about the reasons for his journey. Like the other sons of the princes, the wealthy merchants and the landowners, he had been sent here for military training. The champions of the Gladius were supreme warriors.
What he had to do would be difficult. As soon as he reached his father’s stronghold, he would demand an audience and declare his intention to give up his position as heir and enter the priesthood. His father had to agree. There were other sons in the inner court. Since he was her only son, his mother would weep. She would lose her place as first woman. Still, becoming a champion was a greater challenge than being a satellite of a father who would live for many years.
A knock startled him. “Enter,” he said.
A serving woman dressed in a gauzy chiton bowed her head. Her gown resembled flames, revealing yet concealing her lush body. “
, son of Genrai, the Gladius summons you to attend him in the mustering hall.” Kobe
As he followed her swaying body down the hall, he repeated the vows he’d taken after he’d drawn his sword from the elements. “I will take no woman to my bed until I am sworn to the Lord of Shadows. I will eat no rich food or imbibe fermenti until I can control my talent. I will wear no fine clothes until I don the silks of the champions.”
None of his peers had taken these vows. He had, and he would keep them.
Until recently, he’d not been tempted to transgress, but during the past few months, the scantily dressed servants and their musky perfumes had stirred desire. Too often he’d prayed to move quickly through the ranks and be allowed a woman.
The servant continued past the door to the hall.
entered. Sargon sat on the dais at the end of the room. Kobe knelt before the chair and touched his forehead to the stone. Kobe
“Rise and join me.”
The Gladius smiled. “You leave this morning for your father’s stronghold. Is that not so?”
“What have you decided?”
“There is no other choice. My father will have to name another as heir. To deny the gifts given by the Lord of Shadows would be wrong. To use my talent without proper training would bring disaster.”
The Gladius saluted
. “Your decision pleases me. When you return your training will begin. As I was when you drew your sword, I’ll be your mentor.” Kobe
“Your potential is great, my boy. I’m concerned about this visit you make to your home. Can you resist the temptations your father will place in your path?”
Sargon smiled. “Well said. I believe you can resist rich food and strong drink, but I fear you will be sorely tempted. The women of your father’s inner court are comely and you’re of an age when the juices flow hot. I’ve watched your gaze follow the serving women. Heed this warning. To fill a woman’s empty vessel before you’re trained will sap your talent.”
Sargon clapped his hands. “This morn you will eat with me. There’s a task I would have you do.”
Two women arrived. One bore a tray with boiled ovas and bread. The other carried mugs of steaming bitter kafla.
“Your father discovered a nest of women who would be soldiers and took one as a prisoner. He sent no word to me of the captive. I would know why.”
Sargon nodded. “If this tale is true and he holds one of those sworn to the Abomination, bring her to me. The time approaches when I will have need of such a one.”
“I hear and obey.”
drained his mug. Kobe
“May the Lord of Shadows strengthen your resolve.”
Moon Summoned - Heroine Dian
Shadows gathered in the corners of the room. Dian rolled to her side and tried to sit.
“Good. You are awake. I must prepare you for the Prince’s visit, but first you can eat.” The woman’s pale eyes shone with sympathy and concern.
“Who are you?”
“Binet, once of a house of healing. Now I am but a slave. ‘Twas an evil day when the gray priests followed the invaders to this nome.”
Her words touched a flood of memories. Dian recalled the day the enemy had swept into the village where she lived with her mother, a skilled weaver. The soldiers had taken the cloth and one of the under-officers had moved into her mother’s house and claimed her as his woman.
A year ago, he’d refused to pay Dian’s tax for she had no skills at the loom. She’d been slated for the pens, but her mother had sent her into the forest. For weeks, she’d wandered until she encountered a band of those who honored the Mistress as warriors.
Tears trickled from her eyes. “Why did this happen?” she cried.
Binet walked to the door. “’Tis bad to remember what was. You must learn to endure.”
How, Dian wondered. I must escape.
Seek the Place of Choosing.
She looked around to see who had spoken. Binet had left and there was no other in the room. What and where was this choosing place?
A short time later Binet returned with a tray. Dian ate the stew, bread and fruit. The food filled the hollow in her stomach, but added nothing to her confused thoughts.
As she drank a cup of tea, Quanta arrived. She motioned to Binet. “Remove the tray. Genrai comes.”
Sammi entered and crossed to the cot. “Did you eat?”
Before Dian could answer, a tall man with the broad shoulders of a swordsman strode into the room. Russet hair framed his face and touched his shoulders. He pulled the sheet away.
Dian tried to grab the covering. Quanta grasped Dian’s arm. “Do not fight. He is your owner.”
Dian closed her eyes to hide her anger. She wasn’t a slave. She was a warrior in training. If she had a sword, she would challenge this man. She flinched away from his touch.
“He won’t hurt you,” Sammi said. “Father, are you pleased?”
“Very much so. You’ve accomplished what your uncle, the great physician, deemed impossible.
You’ll be rewarded. I’ve plans for this one.”
Dian opened her eyes. “I can’t stay here.”
He laughed. “A slave does as she’s bid.”
“Can I have her as my attendant?” Sammi asked.
Quanta glared. “Will you take her to your bed?”
He chuckled. “She’s for
Quanta bowed her head. “You are wise, my prince.”
Sammi clapped her hands. “Dian, how wonderful is your lot. You will be my brother’s first woman. Though you can never be first woman in his inner court, you’ll have a special place with him.”
Dian shook her head. “You cannot keep me here.”
Prince Genrai snorted. “Do you expect that ragtag band of women to invade and extract you from my stronghold. Very unlikely. You will do as I order and be thankful.”
Once they left, Dian pulled the sheet around her. “I must escape.”
Binet bowed her head. “There is no way.”
“I need to be away from here. There is a place I must reach.”
“Did the blow to your head and the wound fever destroy your memories of what has happened? The Three are dead. The Mistress was defeated.”
“As long as we believe in Her, the Mistress lives.”
Binet stared at the floor. “I am shamed. Blessed be.”
Dian lay back. “What do you know about this
The older woman frowned. “Since I was brought from the pens, he hasn’t been home. He’s been with the priests studying their ways of war.”
“I pray he refuses me.”
Binet shuddered. “If he won’t take you, the prince will give you to his soldiers or send you to the pens of the Gladius. ‘Tis not a good place to be.”
Dian slid to the edge of the cot. “Hear me. I must escape.” She traced the symbol and watched
Binet’s eyes widen at the red glow. “Where is the Place of Choosing?”
“North and west in the
“Then help me exercise.”
Binet helped Dian from the cot. For a moment, she felt dizzy. The furniture seemed to tilt. She sucked in a breath and waited for her vision to clear. Then holding Binet’s arm, she took a step. “Tell me how I can leave this place.”
“There is no way. ‘Tis a prison,” Binet said. “The door into the hall leads past the bathing room and into the common room of the inner court. The only way to escape is to be summoned to a man’s bed.”
There must be a way, Dian thought. I won’t remain a prisoner. I won’t fail the Mistress.
For the rest of the day and at regular intervals during the night, she walked about the room and performed exercises to strengthen the muscles grown flaccid from inactivity. Soon after sunrise she wrapped a sheet around herself and ventured from the room. The dimly lit corridor led in but one direction. She passed the arched doorway into the bathing room. As she strode across the stone floor, she heard children’s laughter. The aromas of food made her stomach rumble.
She entered the large room at the end of the hall. Low tables were scattered around the area. Heaps of pillows in many colors brightened the dull brown walls. The stones of the floor were warm and she wondered how they were heated. Children pelted each other with pillows. Their laughter made her smile. Quanta appeared from behind a beaded curtain and clapped her hands. The children dropped to the pillows and bowed their heads. Other women arrived with platters of food and pitchers of fragrant liquid.
The early morning sunlight streamed through narrow windows on one of the side walls. On the other, glass blocks formed a wall and a door opened into a small garden. Though she wore no shoes and the hand of winter chilled the air, Dian stepped outside.
High stone walls enclosed the area. She ran her fingers over the rough surface. If she found no other way, she could climb the wall and creep across the room. First, she’d have to find clothes and boots.
Moon Summoned - Villain - Sargon
Sargon, Gladius for the Lord of Shadows, held the sword he’d created during his initiation as one of the champions. He’d drawn the elements from the earth and forged the sword with the power of his mind. The body of a slave had been used to quench the glowing metal.
As his concentration deepened, the blade glowed with a bloody hue. The muscles of his massive arms and shoulders tensed. Flames rose from the sword and crimson images formed.
“I would see what happens in the nome,” he said.
The first scene showed Lugal and his serpent rod. As he watched his co-ruler’s frustration, Sargon laughed. What had the Cabal so stirred? He acted as though he’d lost something of value. When Sargon tried to mind read Lugal, a barrier slammed shut. No matter, Sargon thought. In time, he would learn. Does the fool think I know nothing of his schemes?
He sent the flames searching for Gamish and watched the Thamaturg destroy another fetch in a frantic search for someone. He also thinks to defeat me, Sargon thought. He will fail for who can stand against fire?
Just as he started to quench the flames, another image appeared. A young woman danced in the fire. Her many braids of silver-blonde hair moved to music he couldn’t hear. She turned to face him and in her eyes, he read a challenge.
Who? Where? Behind her, he caught a glimpse of a winter-touched garden and a brown stone wall. How dare she challenge him?
His hands clenched the sword. His rage grew. Taut muscles spasmed. The flames on the sword lengthened. Fire scorched the walls and set the bedding afire.
Sargon fought his blazing anger. Slowly the flames died. Prince Genrai’s prisoner was indeed the one he sought, the one he needed at his side when he faced his co-rulers. Though she seemed young, she had to be one of the warriors from the Hall of Defense. With this one subject to his command, the others of the Triad would be defeated.
He frowned. Should he warn
the danger the young woman posed? Too late. Kobe was on his way home. The young man faced
a greater trial than Sargon had envisioned. But Kobe wasn’t alone. He bore the sword he’d
drawn from the elements. In the making, as a way to keep the young man
obedient, Sargon had keyed the weapon to himself. Kobe