“Adventure is the lure of fools, and excitement glamour to the gullible. The siren song of the world is as music to the wanderer’s feet, but that dance leads only to the soul-less grave.”
So Jekaran’s uncle has warned him. But that doesn’t stop him from leaping at the exhilarating chance to single-handedly rescue a beautiful woman from a gang of lecherous thieves.
But the bored farm boy quickly finds that he is no match for the group of angry street thugs, and only escapes death by bonding a magical sword that grants him the strength and skill of a master swordsman. Unfortunately, a peasant wielding such magic is forbidden and punishable by death.
Thus Jekaran finds himself a fugitive with his fate tied to that of the exotic and mysterious, Kairah; a fey woman who must deliver a dire warning to the king that, if heeded, could prevent the very extinction of humanity.
“Well, I suppose this proves the gods have a sense of humor,” Gymal drawled.
Jekaran flexed his brain in order to think of a biting comeback witty enough to make the entire on looking camp laugh aloud, but nothing came. He was too exhausted, or maybe it was worse. Maybe Gymal had finally broken him.
“No clever cheek, Jekaran? Maybe you have begun to learn your place.” He smirked.
Again, no retort would come. That frightened him.
“What of the reward?” one of the men called out.
Gymal smiled, not taking his eyes off Jekaran. “I did promise something to the man who first found the well, didn’t I.”
Jekaran didn’t like the dangerous note in Gymal’s tone.
“Jekaran was the first to find it, and being a man of my word, he will get the reward!” Gymal’s announcement ignited angry murmuring, and one well finder went so far as to jeer.
“Quiet!” Hort shouted and the camp fell silent.
“Well, Jekaran?” Gymal asked. “What is it that you want?”
He’s baiting you, Jekaran warned himself. He’s going to turn whatever I ask for around on me. He tried to think of everything he could ask for and how it might be turned ill. If I ask for freedom, he could kill me, and if I ask for rest, he might have me knocked unconscious. I definitely don’t want to ask for my sword or extra water. Asking for food would also grant Gymal a wonderful array of options. Jekaran looked down at Irvis’ filthy, tattered robe.
“I would like some new clothes,” he said, confident there was no way Gymal could twist that into a punishment.
He was wrong.
The soldiers and some of the well finders laughed, hooted, and catcalled as Hort shoved him out of one of Gymal’s tents. He clenched his jaw, looking down at the humiliation Gymal exacted on his request. Velvet and green, Jekaran could only guess why Gymal would own the evening gown, much less have brought it on the expedition. The weaselly little lord was thoroughly enjoying this; even going so far as to tie red ribbons in Jekaran’s hair and fitting him with a black choker. He reached up and twisted the thin crimson material between two fingers and dropped his hands to the side. Gymal had his eager vengeance for the pranks the year before.
At least they had needed to remove his manacles in order to dress him for the spectacle.
Jekaran stumbled to the ground, quickly deciding it best to stay down and keep his eyes shut. If hard labor and half starvation hadn’t broken him before, this would almost certainly do the trick. He listened hard for Vestus’ laughter and was grateful when he didn’t hear it among the derisive chorus.
The laughing seemed to go on without end and Jekaran retreated inward to escape. He fixated on his psychic bond to the sword talis, instantly knowing where it was and how far away he was from it. That didn’t make him feel better, but the power of the distraction took the edge off the ridicule. It worked so well, that Jekaran didn’t even hear the voice whispering in his ear until it repeated itself a third time.
“Uska stupid human boy be ready,” Karak hissed into his ear.
Jekaran opened his eyes and glanced toward the sound. He had expected to see a slight wavy distortion to the air marking Karak’s presence in his veiled form, but there was no sign of the Vorakk shaman. He was about to chalk the voice up to intense wishful thinking when he caught movement on his right periphery. Jekaran looked to his right and found a small, marble-sized ball of light hovering just above his ear. It looked like a glow fly, but glow flies didn’t shine bright enough to be seen during the day. Jekaran squinted at the sight and then gasped. There was no mistaking it, it was one of Karak’s spirit orbs.
It zipped away and Jekaran half lifted a hand as if to catch it. Be ready for what?
A sound like rumbling thunder stilled all of the laughter and Jekaran snapped his head up in time to see Gymal, the soldiers, and all of the well finders glancing around in confused silence. The rumbling grew louder and then the ground began to shake. Jekaran sat back on his haunches and looked around stupidly.
What was—?A cracking sound accompanied an explosion of dust from the ground and Jekaran saw a fissure form, snaking its way across the camp and tearing open the earth. What followed was pure pandemonium as the soldiers and well finders scattered to find safety.