Authors: Gary Alan Wassner
Tags: #Literature & Fiction, #Genre Fiction, #Horror, #Dark Fantasy, #Science Fiction & Fantasy, #Fantasy, #Sword & Sorcery
GemQuest Book Three
Gary Alan Wassner
In this third volume of the GemQuest series, captured and imprisoned by Colton, the wizard Premoran rails against his fate. Without Premoran, the essences of the ancient Lalas trees will be lost forever.
While the Twins prepare to embark on their separate quests for the Gem of Eternity, another rises to aid the Lalas. Her name is Tamara, a Sister of Parth. Trained in the mustical mysteries, though unaware of the true extent of her power, she alone can traverse the Hollows – those empty spaces between life and death – to retrieve the eleventh shard , without which the Twins’ quest if doomed to fail.
“For the first time in a long time, I lost myself in someone else’s creation. We all remember fondly the words we grew up reading, be they Narnia, Middle Earth or Lankhmar. Mythical places that shaped our imaginations and our creative minds, became a part of who we are. In these book we were unfettered, free to dream, to strive, to escape the mundane world that would hold us prisoner. That is the storytelller’s greatest gift. Gary Alan Wassner has that gift.”
--Steve Savile, author of the Ogmios Short Novels series, the Jack Stone Thrillers and the Salley Reardon Supernatural Mysteries
“Many authors fall short with their sequels, but Wassner keeps the story going, bringing new elements into the mix.”
--Dag Rambraut, owner of ssfworld.com
This is a work of fiction. All the characters and events portrayed in this book are fictional, and any resemblance to real people or incidents is purely coincidental.
Copyright © 2001 by Gary Wassner
Published by E-Reads. All rights reserved.
I want to thank the many poets and lyricists who tell their stories so well and create such clear and distinct characters in just a few lines, particularly Joni Mitchell and Leonard Cohen. I cannot imagine my world without them, and I am so very grateful that they chose to share their most intimate emotions with us all.
To my grandmother.
She graced this world with her presence
for ninety-nine years.
Her light will never go out in my mind
nor in my heart.
Teetoo pivoted ever so subtly to the left and the air rushed in under his right wing. As soon as he felt the gust lift him, he tensed the fine tendons that inundated the delicate filament and caused it to bend slightly. His wing caught the wind exactly as he hoped, and he smiled as he lunged forward and upward with an incredible burst of speed. He navigated the floes that propelled him with the precision of a master. While arching his back, he brought his knees to his chest and tucked his feet securely into his body. At the same time, he elongated his arms, stretching them out as far as they would go, and he pointed his slender fingers to his rear while holding them tightly together and cupping them. Finally, he bent his head down just a tiny bit and allowed the translucent inner lids of his eyes to descend protectively over his pupils.
Teetoo soared high into the afternoon sky. A wave of exhilaration swept over him as he masterfully manipulated even the slightest of variations in the wind, dipping and diving, ascending and rocketing as he chose with only the gentlest flex or bend to the tip of the wing. He willed the blood in his veins to withdraw from his extremities, lightening the points of friction, and he rushed ahead at even greater speeds. His wings glistened in the sun as they absorbed its warmth and became even more buoyant and additionally flexible. For a few minutes, the Weloh allowed himself the luxury of free flight.
It had been so long since he had ventured into the heavens and his restraint had taken its toll upon him. He was born to fly, and when he was unable to do so due to injury or circumstance, he felt stranded, much as a human would feel if he was afloat at sea for an extended period of time. Teetoo had never wanted to develop his ‘land legs’ too thoroughly. The sky was his home and he reveled in the opportunity to abide there once again. He suppressed the fears and the concerns that plagued him these difficult days and he coursed through the air temporarily unburdened.
He curved the back edges of his wings fractionally and thinned the filament by elongating it at the point where they joined his hips, and abruptly slowed his momentum. He banked to the left and came up and around to an almost vertical position, as if he were standing upon an invisible platform in the sky itself. Slowly, he swiveled until he was staring downward at the city below.
As soon as the spires of Seramour came into view, his concerns rose like bile in his throat; bitter and unwelcome. His wings were full with air, and he hovered over the city, dropping only slightly as he gazed below. He opened his eyes wide, exposing them once again to the elements, and with his incredibly acute vision he scanned the Heights from one end to the next.
You did a good job, Premoran, my friend. The damage is minimal considering what the city faced only weeks ago
, he thought proudly as he scrutinized the expanse of Seramour. With the memory of his companion fresh upon his mind, a wave of anguish rushed over him, and he fought back the trembling that ensued.
These days of doubt seem interminably long. Yet, time is ever the thief. It steals our tomorrows and turns them into yesterdays regardless of our perception of the pace. And still no news! How long can I live with this uncertainty? Must I fly to Sedahar myself for the answer I seek?
These contemplations stripped Teetoo of the last vestiges of joy that had been spurred on by his flight. He tucked his wings into his sides, bent his head downward and fell. This precipitous descent was always so exhilarating for him, but today he barely noticed the sensations. His mind was preoccupied with other thoughts as he plunged toward the surface.
Alemar emerged from the doorway and stretched her arms wide. She was not yet accustomed to the warmth of the air, and her first sensations were ones of concern. The memory of Eleutheria on the verge of collapsing upon itself and disappearing into a river of melted ice was still vivid. She could not yet feel comforted by the sun’s warmth without consciously reminding herself that the threat to her beloved city was no longer imminent.
She looked into the sky and envisioned the towers of her homeland glistening like crystals under the bright mid-day light, and she smiled. Out of the comer of her eye, she saw what at first seemed no larger than a speck in the sky. Her eyes locked themselves upon it, and she watched closely as it grew in size and approached the city at a tremendous speed. Carefully, she scrutinized the object as it came nearer and nearer.
Alemar stepped out from the shelter of the building and walked to the middle of the square without ever taking her eyes off of the plummeting body. No alarms sounded and no effort was made to defend against this seeming invader by any of the guards nearby. Rather, they too watched closely as it approached the surface of Seramour.
“A spectacular sight, is it not?” Queen Elsinestra said, as she emerged from the doorway to stand next to the Princess.
“It must be the most amazing feeling to be able to soar like that,” she replied.
“To him, it is probably no different than walking is to us, though I know he enjoys it so.”
“I suppose I enjoy a stroll through the hills of my own country as well, though I could not imagine ever being quite so exhilarated by it as he must be.”
“Perhaps a brisk gallop through the countryside upon your favorite horse would be a more appropriate comparison.”
“I suppose so,” Alemar answered distracted, while keeping her eyes glued to Teetoo’s plunging silhouette.
Elsinestra walked up to Alemar and placed her arm fondly in hers. Together, they stood and waited for their friend to reach the surface.
“I fear that today there will be no joy in the Weloh’s eyes when he finally joins us. His heart is aching ever more as each day passes.”
“Has no news of Premoran of any sort reached the city?”
“No. None. And it is not for lack of an effort to attain it. Teetoo has been deep in contemplation all evening. When I last left him after supper, he was ascending the tower steps, and he did not come back down until early in the morning hours, the guards informed me.”
“Have you spoken with him yet today?” Alemar asked.
“No, my dear. But I hope to shortly,” the Queen answered as Teetoo neared the surface about twenty yards to their left. “Come. Let us at least show him some warm and friendly smiles. Perhaps we can ease his suffering if only just a little.”
They walked arm in arm over to the Weloh who had just landed nearby as delicately as a dove upon a pennant’s mast. He settled himself quickly upon the ground, and his body seemed to alter in shape slightly. His skin reddened and took on a less brittle appearance. His fingers stretched and flexed, and they lost their elongated mien as did his legs and feet. Carefully, he pulled the clasp from his hair and let it fall once more upon his slim neck. His facial features softened, losing their sharp, bird-like qualities, and resumed a more human appearance. Finally, he blinked his eyes slowly and deliberately until they were clear and blue once again.
They watched as his translucent wings virtually disappeared beneath his arms as if they had never been there at all. Although he now looked almost completely human, both Alemar and Elsinestra could not stop staring at him. The Princess had never seen the transformation before, and even though it was subtle, it was complete. Teetoo had virtually shifted in shape before her very eyes, and she scrutinized him closely in wonder. Elsinestra had witnessed this many times before, though even she was still mystified by how smoothly he slipped from one form to another in such a perfectly calm and unpretentious way.
“Have I frightened you?” Teetoo asked Alemar, concerned, as they approached him. She had not been able to pull her eyes away from him, so awed was she by the change.
“Oh, I am so sorry,” she exclaimed, red-faced. “I cannot help it, but I am fascinated by you, Teetoo. How glorious it must feel to be able to fly that way. And though you really look the same as you did when you first alighted, you have changed completely! I watched as closely as I could, and even though everything about you has altered, you are who you are still!”
“I am who I am, Princess. That is true!”
“You know what I mean,” she replied, blushing more deeply. “You joke with me, but you have no idea how incredible it was for me to watch you. Do you will the changes in your body?”
He thought for a minute as if the question was an unusual one.
“No. I do not,” he finally said. “My body recognizes the change in the environment naturally, and I am not even aware of the ‘transformation’, as you so characterize it. Much occurs internally as well. My vision modifies too, as does my breathing and even the way I think. But, none of these changes are governed by will.”
“Did you have to learn to fly as a child? Even birds, when they are first hatched from their eggs, must practice. Often, they fall from the nest and die because they do not know how to stay aloft.”
“Learn?” he asked. “I honestly cannot remember. This ability is so much a part of what and who I am that I do not separate it in my mind as you do. I do not think of myself as having two personalities or two natures. I am a Weloh,” he replied as if that was enough to explain everything. “And you my Queen?” he addressed Elsinestra. “Do you find me fascinating too?”
“Utterly! You could only imagine the extent, my darling Teetoo!” she replied, but her eyes were elsewhere.
The Queen of Seramour stared intently at her husband, Treestar, King of the Southern Elves, as he directed the reconstruction of their beloved city from his station upon the platform in the center of the massive square. In only four short weeks, the buildings undermined by the wood-eating insects from Sedahar had all been torn down, and new ones were designed, the frames of which had already been constructed. The great avenues that crisscrossed the city were paved anew with enormous planks of Noban, hewn from the trees below, then sanded and polished as only the elves of Lormarion could do. The Chamber of the Stars which had suffered immeasurable damage during the attack, was in the process of being rebuilt exactly as it had been previous to the siege. One entire side had been burnt to a cinder, leaving not a trace of the remains of the errant elf, Ruffin, whose traitorous conduct aided Colton and his minions so greatly during the horrible battle. The tower would continue to remain the highest point in the city, and soon they would be able to ascend it once again in safety and gaze across the expanse of Seramour from its vantage point.
The fields and farmlands that sustained the people were plowed under and replanted. Though it was already fall, the Heights benefited from a far longer growing season than the lands below due to both the proximity to the sun, as well as the lack of much of the cloud cover that kept the surface cooler. The tunnels and shelters that were targeted by Colton during his attack were repaired and reinforced, and Treestar and his engineers sought better ways to penetrate the foundation trees without undermining their strength, thus providing even greater security for the youth, elderly and infirm of Seramour in the event of future aggression.
Elsinestra gazed proudly and lovingly upon her husband as he carried out his duties, and she knew how he had ached with each and every blow that the city suffered, as if it had been his own body and limbs that were being maimed and broken. She dabbed her brow with a silk handkerchief she pulled from her braided belt, and smiled to herself.
“I must return to the castle. There are still so many wounded that I cannot afford to stand here and chat much longer, though I do so enjoy the opportunity. Will you accompany me, Alemar? Your ability to heal has come so far in so short a time that your presence has become invaluable to our people,” the Queen said with a proud smile.
“Certainly, Aunt. I appreciate the chance to help. I know that you would do the same for my people if the circumstances were reversed,” Alemar said.
“Henceforth, we must all recognize our commonality, though not just in the face of adversity. There is so much we can learn from one another.”
“What you have taught me about healing I will humbly bring back to Eleutheria. I never knew that I had the ability before,” the Princess said.
“Many discoveries in life are simply lessons we have not learned yet. The talent abides and awaits the right teacher,” Elsinestra said.
Alemar contemplated Elsinestra’s words for a moment, deep in thought, while her finger inadvertently traced the birthmark behind her ear as one might casually curl one’s hair.
“After Uncle Bristar left to return to the mountains, I realized how much it meant to have us all together again. I must confess that I have been having premonitions though, and they grow more troublesome to me with each day that he is gone,” Alemar said.
“Premonitions? Why have you not spoken of this before, Alemar? You should feel comfortable in confiding in me. Perhaps I can help you to decipher them,” Elsinestra offered kindly.
“Oh, I am more than comfortable in telling you anything!” she professed immediately, not wishing to convey the impression of mistrust in any way. “I merely did not want to trouble you with some silly worries of mine when you had so many problems of your own to cope with. But now I fear that they are not merely unwarranted concerns.”
“Tell me, my dear. What is it that torments you? What have you ‘seen’?” the Queen asked.
“I have never been subject to visions before, and I was unsure as to whether my thoughts were projections of my distress or something more tangible and ominous. But the same visions have reoccurred repeatedly, and I cannot ignore them any longer,” Alemar replied.
Elsinestra raised her delicate chin and looked at Alemar, deep worry lines etched upon her face. She did not speak, but rather she allowed the younger maiden to find the words herself that she required in order to express the visions. Alemar closed her eyes and focused her thoughts upon them.
Teetoo stood a short distance from them, and the expressions upon the faces of the two women drew his attention away from his own concerns. He walked over to them, stood beside Alemar and turned his gaze upon her as well.