This is the last section of Chapter 14, and the last of the serial posts. The book’s in first pass editing at the moment and I don’t want to put any more up until it’s in its final form. When editing is done I’ll be looking at the corrections/suggestions and start the rewrite. There are four more chapters and a short epilogue (about 100 more pages) beyond this, and right now the plan is to list the ebook version for as low as they’ll let me for a period of about two weeks before it goes up to its normal price, in case anyone here wants to finish the story. There will be a print edition, but that takes longer to put together.
Power’s Shadow: Chapter 14, Part 4 Conclusion
“I will break up the stone tomorrow,” Dena said. “After we give them enough time to get out of earshot. They may suspect that we’re here but there’s no point in emphasizing it.”
“I heartily agree,” Kel said. “But I wonder if the gentleman sitting on top of the rock watching us feels the same way?”
The figure was hooded and wearing a black robe, so Dena considered Kel’s assessment of the person as male to be somewhat uncertain. What wasn’t uncertain was the person’s face—what little Dena could see of it—was turned toward them. Dena considered shattering the rock beneath the figure, but thought perhaps such an action might be premature. Yet she kept her concentration on the First Law even as she spoke up.
“Who are you?” she asked.
“Isn’t it customary for the one asking the questions to introduce themselves first?”
The voice was definitely male, if not especially deep. Yet it carried easily down to them. “My name is Dena. This is Kel. Who are you?” she repeated.
“You may call me Domar. I seem to remember having a friend with that name once, long ago…I think. The memory does play tricks as one gets older. Regardless, I’ve always like that name.”
Dena frowned. “What name do you call yourself?”
She still couldn’t see his face, but Dena had the distinct impression that he was smiling at her.
“You wouldn’t believe me if I told you. ‘Domar’ will do, for the time being. So. What do you plan to do now?”
Dena frowned. “Excuse me?”
“I was asking about your plan. Surely you have one, or else why follow Marta around the entirety of the Twelve Kingdoms?”
Dena’s frown deepened. “Twelve?”
“More of them now? Or fewer? There once was twelve. I do remember that.”
“Eleven, with the joining of Borasur and Morushe half a millennium ago,” Kel added, but Dena glared at him and he fell silent.
“Of course, how silly of me. I should have remembered that one. Especially that one.”
“Domar, or whoever you are, you’re starting to try my patience, and frankly I don’t have a great deal.”
“I can attest,” Kel said, but this time Dena didn’t bother to glare. She simply shattered the stone on which the stranger was sitting.
Dena didn’t finish. The man who called himself Domar hadn’t moved. At all. He still sat, cross-legged, in the place where he had been, only now the stone where had been sitting wasn’t there. He sat in empty space over where the stone had been.
“You started to say something,” Domar said helpfully. “Pray continue.”
For a few moments all Dena could do was stare. It was Kel who broke the silence first. “Are you a ghost?”
“No, which is something of a miracle in itself. In case you were wondering why your companion’s rather impressive stone shattering trick neither moved nor harmed me, I must confess that, in a sense, I’m not really here. I mean, part of me is. My body, so to speak, is not.”
“Sounds like a ghost to me,” Kel muttered.
“Perhaps a distinction without a difference, where you are concerned. And rather beside the point. I asked what your plans are, Lady Dena.”
“Domar, or whoever you really are, I admit that your floating up there like a phantom is a clever trick and I admit that I don’t know how it’s done, but why would I share my intentions with you? What business is it of yours?”
“I merely thought that our interests might align. You want to know why Marta is seeking out certain blades by the master smith, Solthyr, yes?”
“How did you—“
Dena stopped herself, but she had the feeling that the stranger was smiling at her again. “Oh, please, it wasn’t difficult. You’re looking for the same thing Marta is looking for. You and I both know that she’s looking for those swords. Why would any witch of the Arrow Path give a fig for a sword? She doesn’t use—or need–them any more than you do. As swords, that is. So what is she really after? What any witch of the Arrow Path is after–the next so-called Law of Power. That’s what you want, and you believe Marta is on the path to the same place. That’s why you’re following her. That’s why she knows that you’re following her, and why she wants to meet you. She’s taken no action yet, but she will, sooner or later. I think it would be wiser of you not to delay too long.”
Dena scowled. “’So-called’ Law of Power? What does that mean?”
“Honestly, you’re focusing on the wrong thing, but I meant only that the Arrow Path isn’t the only path there is. There were avenues to magic before, and I dare say there may be after. Not that this matters to either of us at the moment, so I will repeat—what is your plan?”
“I don’t have one,” Dena said. “Any more than I think Marta does. We’re figuring this out as we go.”
The words sounded strange to her. She hadn’t meant to say anything, but there it was. For a moment she wasn’t even sure what had just happened.
Kel looked at her. “Mistress? Are you all right?”
“No.” Dena glared at the stranger. “What did you do to me?”
“Absolutely nothing,” he said. “but doesn’t it feel better to admit the truth, especially to yourself? Marta did that a long time ago, which may be why she’s ahead of you. Though I will say, to your credit, that you’re following the right person.”
“I answered your question,” Dena said grimly. “Now answer mine—what business is any of this of yours? What do you mean, that our interests may align?”
“Just that. You want to find the Laws of Power. So do I.”
“You’re after the Fifth Law, too,” Dena said.
She didn’t have to intuit if the stranger was smiling at her this time, because he laughed out loud. “No, Lady Dena, and I should have expressed that better. I don’t want the Laws of Power, any of them. What I want is for you and Marta to find them.”
“Why? Why do you care?”
“That’s a separate question. I may answer it, but right now I don’t have another question to trade, and taking this form is exhausting, truth be told. Perhaps I will see you again, if you stay alive. I really hope you do.”
The image calling himself Domar then vanished, cleaner than snuffing a candle.
Kel stared at the place where he had been. “What did he mean, ‘if you stay alive’?”
Dena just shrugged. “Just what he said. “This country is dangerous. Marta is dangerous,” she said, and then went on. “I am dangerous. Yet I don’t know what my chances against her would be if Marta does find the Fifth Law before I do. I don’t even know what my chances are now.”
Kel wasn’t used to Dena’s frankness. He wondered if it would last. “Is this thing you’re looking for really worth your life?”
“Yours and mine both,” Dena said.
“I was afraid you’d say that.”
“There’s a simple way to avoid getting answers you don’t like,” Dena said.
“Stop asking questions?”
Dena nodded. “So you’re not beyond learning something new. I wondered.”
((Chapter 14 – Conclusion))
©2015 Richard Parks