Here’s is the prologue of my novel The Eighth Son: Awakening. Forgive the grammar. I’m a pretty good storyteller, but have no sense of punctuation. Well, anyhow, enjoy.
THE EIGHTH SON: AWAKENING: PROLOGUE
The figure crept out of the trees, moving along the tree line of the mountain clearing. From where Margarette crouched—on the other side of the clearing, camouflaged by the shadows of the tall pine trees—she could see it was a man. He had a dark leather satchel swung over his shoulder, with its strap across his chest, dressed in dark jeans, and a hunter green jacket zipped to the top.
He was tall and broad. Vigilant in his manner, from the way he walked, to the way he held himself. He was ready to attack, but simultaneously at ease and calm. He was hard to be mistaken as anything other than one of Lady Gray’s Norj knights.
She’d waited in the shadows for the past hour, waiting for the Ambassador’s arrival. She’d waited through the intrusive gusts of cold wind. Waited through the heavy, prickly, cold rain that had come and left her kneeling in freezing mud. She’d waited, silently, diligently, patiently. In a few minutes the Ambassador would have arrived, they would of had their meeting, and then she could have gone back to her warm, dry bed. No such luck. Now the hunter was there—inconveniently so.
The Hunter was now walking across the clearing, headed somewhere in the opposite direction away from were Margarette hid. He’d almost reached the other end, almost become nothing more than a temporary annoyance. Then he stopped. She froze.
He raised his head, looked around, sniffing the air like a hound, searching. The forest around her had gone eerily quiet. Nothing moved, nothing made a noise. It seemed as if even the creatures that made the mountain their home had stopped moving. Even the leaves had stopped rustling. There was nothing, nothing but the sound of the man’s steady, almost inaudible breathing.
It was a moment, a few seconds that seemed to have stretched out before he made his choice. The moment was gone, and suddenly he’d turned, facing her area of the woods. He took a tentative step forward and stopped, his eyebrows furrowing slightly, his look intense as he stared into the trees.
Margarette burrowed deeper into the darkness, her hand moving up to reveal a dark, wood, and metal bow. The hunter’s mouth was moving as if he were trying to decide something. Again, another eternal second and then a slight smile had appeared on his lips and he was walking forward. In the dark, her other hand had reached back to retrieve a silver arrow from the quiver on her back
He couldn’t see her, she knew that. Like a shadow, she blended into darkness, slithered silently among other shadows. Even with all that; even though she knew she was virtually invisible to him, it didn’t matter. Margarette was sure that somehow he knew she was there. So without hesitation, she loaded the arrow, pulled back, and took aim at the predator before her.
“I know you’re there,” the hunter called out as he came to a stop. His words made her take pause just as her fingers twitched on the bowstring, ready to release the deadly shot. “I can sense you,” he added, stopping about thirty feet from where she hid.
Holding onto the arrow, Margarette looked at him; really looked at him. She watched him adjust the strap of his satchel, and then push a strand of shaggy, straw-colored hair away from his face.
Everything inside of her told her she needed to shoot. Get it over with, just kill him. She knew better. Experience told her the Hunter could not be reasoned with, that it was kill or be killed.
She took a deep breath and released it with a slow sigh. She loosened the bowstring letting the arrow tip drop, and lifted herself from her kneeling position.
She crossed the tree line, leaving behind the protective shadows cast by the trees. Stepping into the clearing, she allowed the bright moonlight to bring her in full view of the hunter.
She took steady breaths relaxing her shoulders, tightening the grip on her bow as she stopped a few feet from were he stood.
Now up-close she could see he was quite young, and had what someone might call, boyish good-looks. His face was smooth, and sunkissed. His eyes, bright and clear. There was an overall easy, charming look to him. He was unlike most hunters who were either: rigid and serious, or wild and insane.
“Well hello there, and who might you be?” he asked casually, an easy look on his face.
“I rather keep that to myself,” she answered, expertly keeping her expression ambiguous. “I’m sure you understand, I don’t know you after all,” she answered.
He nodded, feigning understanding. “Very true,” he said.
“Alright, well…” she’d started, but stopped. He was looking at her, eyes narrowing, eyebrows furrowing.
“Not a hunter,” he said raising an eyebrow, “not Gewone either,” he added with a slight shake of his head.
He blinked slowly, tilting his head slightly as he looked at her, really looked at her. A moment passed in mutual silence, and then a full smile broke on his face. It was a bright, triumphant smile. “Ah, noble birth,” he said softly. She stiffened. He bent over, crossing one leg over the other, his arms spread out in an exaggerated curtsy.
“My Lady,” he said ever so politely as he came back up. She knew—she knew in the moment it took him to come back up straight, their eyes meeting—she’d been found.
Like her, he had a job. A job which all hunters had. His Queen, Lady Gray, wanted all the possible heirs to the throne dead—most of which had been children when they’d been forced to go into hiding by crossing over into this magicless world—The Queen would not allow anyone who had a claim to the throne she’d stolen to live.
Margarette however, was no longer a defenseless child, but now she realized she had made a childish mistake in not killing the Hunter when she’d had the chance.
She reacted as fast as he did, pulling up her bow in the blink of an eye. With inhuman speed the hunter had reached into his bag, pulling out two small, plumb-sized, glass spheres, filled with colored smoke. Glomachts.
He was fast, but Margarette’s reflexes were unmatched. Her father had trained her well. The arrow was loaded and the string pulled back as the glomachts flew towards her, one after the other. The first glinting sphere, full of blue smoke, made impact with a tree behind her. The tree trunk exploded, and a rain of wood chips showered her as she released the arrow.
In the time it took her silver arrow to cross the distance between her and the Hunter, the second sphere had broken at her feet with a powerful explosion.
She was knocked off her feet, her pant leg catching fire, her bow flying out of her grasp as she crashed full force onto the ground, the force of the impact causing her quiver to lose all its arrows.
Her leg burst in pain as the flames spread, and grew wild. She didn’t panic or bother fighting the flames. Stop, drop, and roll would be no use in this case.
She reached down with an open hand, her fingers spread out, her palm facing the flames. Her irises glowed silver as her hand met the fire. In a moment the fire had leapt from her leg to her hand, the flames being pulled into it, sucked up into her palm like a vacuum. Her hand and arm glowed the same color as the flames; orange and white. Margarette stiffened up, sucking in her breath and then, the glow inside of her faded.
It was a moment—just a fraction of a moment—and the fire was gone. Just a moment and she was wondering why she wasn’t dead, why the Hunter hadn’t taken that moment to kill her. Her eyes still glowing, her senses rattled by what ever fluke, what ever kismet had allowed her to somehow remain alive; she turned her hand to the hunter. He laid on the ground were moments before he’d stood. He was quiet, unmoving, and noticeably dead. She exhaled, and allowed herself fall back to the ground with a grunt, bringing her hands to her face, pressing them down over her eyes, steadying her breathing.
Margarette allowed herself a moment, that was all she could afford. When she was done with the respite she’d given herself, she sat back up, propped herself up with her hands, and looked down at her leg. She took in the damage caused by the attack. Where the fire had burned through the material of her pants, her skin was charred and raw. If the flames had been made out of your average everyday flames, her injuries would have healed in hours, and nothing but the memory of the pain would remain. This was not the case. She knew she had days of pain ahead of her. Pain and most likely a scar to accompany her for the rest of her life.
Slowly, grimacing, she stood up and limped forward until she was only a few feet away from where the dead hunter laid. She stopped, brought one hand to her hip and the other to rub the back of her neck as she looked down at him. She sighed, and dropped both hands to her sides, shaking her head. He’d used a glomach with Gebrener fire. Risky move considering they were in a forest, surrounded by highly flammable trees.
Tricky bastard, she thought. He’d known that she would have been forced to use a great deal of her energy, that to fight something as powerful as Gebrener fire she would have exhausted herself. By doing so, he would have gained the upper hand in the upcoming fight. Or he would have, If he had not died. He’d been smart, but to her benefit, he’d also been unlucky.
His shoulder-length hair had fallen over his face, his lips were slightly parted showing a row of straight white teeth. One of his arms was bent underneath him, twisted at a strange angle.
Her arrow had sunk itself deep into his left leg. The shot was never meant to have been deadly. He would have lived, and she would have had time to run if a glomach hadn’t broken in his hand when he fell. His right arm and the right side of his ribcage were nothing but raw flesh, charred black.
She leaned down and pushed the hair away from his face. His eyes were green, his face young, strangely unblemished. Even in death, his face held that carefree way that she’d noticed in the short moment she’d known him.
She closed his eyes and took a deep breath. Who ever he’d been, she had to remind herself that he hadn’t been that person in a long time. Anything he was, anything he might have been; had been stolen, corrupted, twisted until he’d become nothing more than the monster she’d killed. A monster who’d blindly follow a master. A monster that would hunt and kill innocent children without a conscious, without regret, without question.
She would not feel guilt for this—not for him, who ever he’d been. Setting her mouth into a tight line she reached down and retrieved the blood covered arrow from his leg.
Like the magic she’d used to get rid of the Gebrener fire, the magic used for her arrows was both energy and time consuming. So, as morbid as it might have seemed, she needed them back—when ever possible.
She wiped the blood from the arrow with the edge of her hoodie. She turned back collecting the others one by one and returned them to their quiver.
Done with the arrows, she limped back to the destroyed tree to collect her bow. Stiffly, with a little hiss of pain, she leaned down to reach for it. Then, as she straighten back up, the wind in the clearing suddenly picked up.
Fallen leaves started to rustle around her feet, as the wind, growing stronger, started to make a deep, thundering sound—like a roaring lion.
She slung the bow on her back and stepped back, grimacing as a sharp pain shot up her injured leg. Slowly she took another step back, moving towards the edge of the clearing as a bright light engulfed everything around her, momentarily blinding her.
Looking straight into the burning light, she was soon able to make out a tall, human figure standing in the womb of it. The brightness faded away and the shape of a robed man, standing next to the fallen hunter, came into focus.
She pushed her shoulders back, and raised her chin, took a deep breath and started to walk forward.
“Ormilio Onus,” the Priest said, putting his right hand to his heart, bowing slightly as she came to stand a few feet before him.
“Ormilio Onus,” Margarette answered, mirroring the gesture.
“I feel as if I have arrived late,” he said, switching to the language she knew best, looking down at the body at his feet.
“We had a disagreement,” she said matter-of-factly.
“I see. Was that enough to take a life, my Lady?” he asked.
“Somethings are more important than one life,” Margarette answered with an air of unbending conviction.
“I wonder if you truly believe that, or if you have convinced yourself of this to do what you believe you must do?” he asked.
She shifted her weight, her mouth twitching slightly. Maybe she had convinced herself even when she never truly believed it. Just like the young hunter had convinced himself she had to die because it was his duty to rid the world of anyone who dared stand against his so-called queen.
She sighed. Sometimes her choices, whether evil or good, were all she had. It had never been that she believed her life to be more important than any other. But unlike her life, the mission she had undertaken was more important.
It didn’t matter if they were Hunters or the magicless Gewones, or even other Magi like her. Margarette’s mission—her promise to set things right—would save countless, and that was more important than any single life.
“Sometimes, a few must suffer. They must give up certain natural freedoms so that countless others may be privy to the privilege of life,” she quoted, as she had done so many times before when coming face to face with the choice of another’s life.
“A wise man, your father,” the Priest acknowledged.
“One who gave up his life to uphold what he believed in,” she answered, looking straight into the Ambassador’s silver eyes.
Had the Priest ever given up anything for the well-being of a human life? Or had everything always been about the gods and nothing more?
They had only met a handful of times before this, the first being when he had introduced himself a Priest of Carrydoh. That had been a month into Margarette’s exile in Risz.
He’d found her one night, as she slept in an alleyway between a supermarket and cash checking store in Richmond, Virginia. There, in that dank, empty alleyway the Priest—who called himself the Ambassador—told Margarette that he would come back to her when her need was great. Her father had seen to it. He’d won the Priest’s favor, asked that the favor be used on his beloved child, her. Of course, to the Priest, that meant when ever he perceived her need to be great. Which as it turned out, did not include: Being attacked by hunters and subsequently almost bleeding to death from her injuries. Being taken in by Child Protective Services and put in foster care. Or almost starving to death in a forest at the age of sixteen, while trying to hide from a group of hunters.
He was tall and young, seemingly not much older than her. How long he had been that young? She didn’t know. Maybe since the gods themselves had arrived in Ghaliah, her homeland, generations before. He had a strong jaw and smooth, golden hair that framed his face. His eyes were silver, shinning bright, brimming with power.
In comparison to him, she guessed anyone would appear homely—herself included. Of course it didn’t help that at that moment she was covered in muck, standing there in her old, dark hoodie, blood streaks smeared across the front of it. Or that her jeans were muddy with a gaping, burnt hole, that showed her injured leg.
It was a little unfair, she thought, he had an advantage. The gods had made the priests this way, to awe the masses, herself included. Of course she would never admit that even when she was annoyed, she couldn’t help but admire him.
“Its not like you would have done anything,” she said after a moment. “I have to defend myself somehow, don’t I?” She’d left out the part were even though she had shot the hunter to defend herself, him dying had been an accident.
“You have never truly been in danger, my Lady. If he had known who you were—”
“—being here,” she interrupted in a quavering, raising voice, “everything I’ve done up until this moment makes me a traitor.” She stopped for a second, taking a small step back, racking her fingers through her hair. He would never understand what it would mean to return home.
Her punishment would be severe, of that she was sure. But would she be killed? Of that she wasn’t certain, but what was certain, was that dead or not, returning would still be the death of her. The death of the only thing left of her father’s; his mission through her.
“My sins,” she said, calmer this time, “they amount to more than my parentage can protect me from.” The Ambassador said nothing, so she continued.
“So tell me—tell me, what should I do? It’s up to me, because I sure as hell can’t leave it to you. So should I give up, should I let Lady Gray burn the world to ashes?”
“We priests do not choose,” the Ambassador said, ignore her outburst, “we do not interfere in mortal affairs, for it is the will of the gods, and we are but their servants.”
“You don’t interfere?” She raised her hand, showing him a plain silver ring on her left index finger. Her hand trembled, her mouth tightened, her eyes burned with everything she wished she could say to him.
“What about this?” she said, shaking her hand in front of his face, her eyes turning bright silver for a moment. The ring on her hand shining blue as the wind around them whipped his white robes about.
“We do not question the ways of the gods, my Lady,” he answered calmly.
Always the politician, the Ambassador never had a straight answer for her. She’d wondered before if he did it on purpose just to antagonize her.
She lowered her arm, tightening both hands into fists so that her palms were open as she exhaled.
“Right.” She opened her eyes, which were once again their natural color, “well, may I ask the reason for this audience, Brother?” She would not argue anymore, she would not argue anymore. She would hold her tongue, be polite and be done with him as soon as possible.
“It is growing late,” the Priest said, instead of answering her question, as he looked up at the dark sky. Following his cue she turned up to the sky. The purples of the morning sky were starting to show and she understood his words. He would not be able to stay pass sunrise.
She wasn’t exactly sure why, but as powerful as they were—unlike other magi, herself included—the priests could not truly cross the portals into other realms. As solid as he seemed there in the clearing with her, part of him was stuck back in their lands, and the part of him that had crossed over, would go back as soon as the sun came out.
“I owed your father a debt,” he continued as he turned away from the coming morning to look back at her. “To him I promised your protection. A priest does not easily give his favors to a mortal.”
“Yes I know,” she said, rolling her eyes. Once again he decided to ignore her rudeness.
“Your Lord father asked that I help you along the way, when your need was great,” he said. “So here I am, paying the last of my debt. I am here to inform you—as your lord father asked of me—that the Boy’s Awakening will begin within this moon.”
“What? No, it can’t be. It’s too soon,” she said, trying to convince herself more than him.
“It is the right time,” he said serenly, clearly undisturbed by her rising anxiety. “The morn is coming,” the Priest uttered, turning back up at the sky, and then back down at her. “Do not fear, young one, all shall be well,” he said, “what must happen, will happen. All has been predestined by our lords, the gods of Carrydoh,” he echoed, fading away, as the morning light hit the clearing, taking with him the Hunter’s body.
“No, wait, wait. I need to know more!” she called, running to the spot were he had stood. “Please,” she whispered, looking up at the sky, but he was gone and nothing could be done.
Steadying her breathing, her eyes turning silver, she closed them and concentrated. She followed her mind until she found the mind she was looking for. The Boy was far away from were she was, he was sleeping and at peace. At that moment he was dreaming of one of his movies, one with a cheesy looking water creature. It wasn’t a nightmare, he didn’t have many of those, and when he did they tended to be about forgetting to wear pants to school or making a fool of himself in front of a girl. He had no reason to worry about anything more than school embarrassment. Not yet.
She opened her eyes, as the silver in them dissipated. Now she knew. The Awakening would start, and soon the Boy would come here. He would be driven by that indescribable force that drove all of them together. His awakening would start, and the war would spill into their little town. More hunters would come for them, and she would have to start fighting once more and the Boy’s dreams would take a turn for the darker.