Authors: Candace Gylgayton
THE PENTACLE WAR
Hearts in Cups
The Pentacle War –
Book One: Hearts in Cups
By Candace Gylgayton
All Rights Reserved.
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The Pentacle War –
Book One: Hearts in Cups
Copyright © 2012,
First Edition Print
Cover illustration by
Maps & Images by
For Richard, Ariana
sun had not yet risen above the surrounding mountains as the lone horseman began
climbing the last stretch of the road leading up from the silver of the Tarn
River to the gray battlements of Castle Lir. The road rose in long, serpentine
loops up the shoulder of the mountain before breaking free of the forest and
running straight towards the massive gates in the castle's outer wall. As he
drew nearer, the rider looked up to see the towers, high above the great
battlements, turn golden in the dawning light. Lir, older than remembrance,
stood vast and quiet in the early morning; with the great peak known as Cloud's
Rest brooding over it. Glad to have his goal in sight, the rider spurred his
sweating horse forward.
The thick, outer wall
of the castle was built in a semi-circle between two spurs of the mountain, and
was pierced by three entrance tunnels with imposing gates and a portcullis at
either end. The road from the river led to the largest of the entrances in the
center of the great wall. Here the rider was halted by guards opening the gates
for the daily activity that passed in and out of the castle. The silver and
blue livery of the rider and his royal seal of passage forbade close
interrogation; he was cursorily checked and passed through. The other end of
the tunnel opened upon an immense field used as a military training ground or
market place, depending on the day and the season. The castle stables were
located at the western end of the field and a few stable boys, buckets in hand,
regarded the unexpected rider with blatant interest. Crossing this field, the
rider came to another wall and gateway, through which he could see the castle's
central courtyard with its keep and the auxiliary buildings that made up the
interior castle complex. Dismounting before this gate, he was approached by a
man in green and gold livery who demanded his office.
"I am sent from
Pentarin with a message to be delivered from my hand to Her Grace, the Duchess
of Langstraad." Extending his badge of office, he stretched his cramped
legs and stamped the ground several times to restore his circulation.
The courtier, a man of
medium height with a dark, clever face, examined the badge carefully before
returning it. He motioned for a stable boy to take the messenger’s horse.
"Do you carry a weapon?"
"I have my sword
them and follow me." The messenger handed his weapons to yet another man
and followed the green and gold back of his examiner across the width of the
courtyard and up a flight of stone steps.
Once inside, the
messenger took note of the swept floors and polished wood of the hallway,
impressed that age had not decayed the castle. Ascending progressively steeper
flights of stairs, the messenger was taken upwards into the heart of the
castle. At one point he chanced to look out one of the windows of a long
gallery he was passing through and saw the keep's main courtyard far below. The
journey ended at a flight of five stairs leading to a carved wooden door.
Bidding the messenger to wait at the foot of these stairs, the courtier
advanced and knocked softly, announcing the arrival of the unexpected visitor.
After listening to an all but inaudible reply, the messenger was ushered into
Glancing around, he saw
that the room was an L-shaped configuration, with mullioned windows all along
the inner side of the angle, which faced north and east. The interior walls
were faced with wooden panels, and several large rugs of intricate,
multicolored patterns were strewn on the inlaid wood floor. A voluminous desk
took up most of the far end of the room and books were abundant in the shelves
under the window sills. Two comfortable looking chairs and a low table were set
before the fireplace. The possessor of the room looked up serenely from the
desk at which she sat.
With a low and
practiced bow the messenger introduced himself. "I am Barth ap Evain,
personal messenger for the regent, Percamber ap Morna. I am charged with a
letter from my lord to deliver to the hand of Her Grace, the Duchess of
"You may give me
the letter then, for I am she," the woman replied, with a trace of
amusement in her low, clear voice.
A small multi-sealed
packet was produced from a leather pouch attached to his belt and proffered to
her with another deep bow. She received it with a nod and carefully examined
the seals. "When did you leave with this?"
"Six days ago,
"You have ridden
far and fast," she remarked. "Alaric, take him to the kitchens and
see that he is fed. Then request my cousin to attend me here." Both men
bowed and left the room.
In silence, Alaric led
the young messenger down to the cavernous kitchens that serviced the entire
castle. After informing one of the cooks to feed the man and find him a bed, he
bid him good-day and went in search of Lord Ian.
By now the population
of the castle had begun to fill the halls and yards, raising a din with their
voices and activity. Alaric made his way quickly across the smaller of the two
minor courtyards and into the eastern wing of the main castle, where Ian de
Medicat, cousin to the duchess, had his permanent suite of rooms. He had to
knock several times before the door was answered, not by his lordship's
man-servant as usual, but by his lordship.
Alaric sketched a brief
bow and delivered his message: "Her grace wishes your attendance
immediately, my lord."
"Is that so?"
was the drawled response. "All right, wait a moment and I'll be
along." He closed the door but not before a female voice reached Alaric's
ears. Alaric was not an overly inquisitive man, but his lordship did have
something of a reputation and Alaric found himself wondering idly who was
sharing his lordship's bed these days.
He did not have long to
dwell on this subject before the door was pulled ajar and Lord Ian, tossing a
fur-lined cloak over his shoulders to discourage the early morning chill,
joined him in the hallway. The sound of another door closing within his
lordship's rooms confirmed in Alaric's mind some of his suspicions, but he
remained silent as he led the way back to her grace's solarium.
The morning sun was
streaming through the windows when they arrived, giving play to a luminous
cloud of dust motes. Ian was announced and he entered the room to find the
duchess sitting in a chair before the fire, abstractedly fingering the broken
seals of the royal missive.
Ian," she said easily. "Have you breakfasted yet? Alaric, have the
kitchen send us something to eat."
Ian sauntered to the
empty chair and gracefully deposited himself in it. Young and possessed of a
singularly charming visage, his face had been schooled to exhibit a bland
disinterest to the world at large. There was a studied nonchalance in the dark
hair that tumbled over his pale forehead and a casual elegance to his dress.
His cousin, knowing him better, chose to ignore what was in fact merely a
that you called for me at this early hour, cousin. Not that I'm not thoroughly
charmed of course." He smiled engagingly and stretched his legs out in
front of him.