Authors: Charles E Yallowitz
Legends of Windemere
Copyright 2014 © by Charles Yallowitz
All Rights Reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system without the written permission of the author, except where permitted by law. Reviewers may quote brief excerpts in connection with a review.
This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.
Cover Design & Illustration by Jason Pedersen
Legends of Windemere
Beginning of a Hero
Prodigy of Rainbow Tower
Allure of the Gypsies
Family of the Tri-Rune
The Compass Key
To everyone who has entered Windemere
And left their mark upon its soul
The screams of demons are grating to Baron Kernaghan’s ears as he stands on the cliff overlooking the rocky landscape. After all of these centuries, he has yet to get used to the sounds of the creatures that are at his command. He takes a deep breath of the stagnant air and closes his sapphire eyes, reveling in a cool breeze that wafts through the Chaos Void. His senses drift through the murky land, touching on the distant storms that can unleash anything from acidic rain to explosive lightning. An amusing roar causes him to break his trance and focus his attention on a distant Spurge. The stone-winged demon is flailing its four arms at a serpentine Eblem, whose talons scrape at the black stone ground. The Baron scoffs at the public quarrel, the two monsters debating on whose turn it is to watch the squirming brood that screeches inside a nearby cave. For evil creatures, demons always struck him as ridiculously domesticated ever since their adoption of the mortal traditions of marriage and raising children. The only benefit to this strange change in their society has been that he can use the spawn and spouses to manipulate the stronger creatures without resorting to magic. He smirks at the thought of using the Spurge, but decides against it when he watches the demons hug in apology.
Stroking his neatly trimmed beard, Baron Kernaghan walks to the edge of the cliff and peers down at the teeming swarm of minor demons gathered at the base. Scrabbling over each other in the smoky gloom, they sense his presence and hope that he has come to throw them a meal. An ambitious demon squirms up the stone, flakes and pebbles falling into the ravenous chaos below. The limbless creature snarls and bares its circular mouth of rotating teeth as it reaches the top of the cliff. It rears back and hisses at the Baron, who bends down to calmly extend his gloved hand to the beast. It curls around his arm, propping its head on his shoulder and gurgling when he rubs its slimy scalp. The demon hungrily eyes several morose figures dressed in rags, their forms cloaked in shadows that are temporarily driven away by blasts of silver fire streaking across the barren sky. All of the prisoners are weeping, which brings a harsh sneer to the nobleman’s face.
The ancient warlord silently points at a shivering woman and snaps his fingers, the sound echoing throughout the Chaos Void. The worm-like demon on his arm hisses and spits, causing the prisoner to shy away. Her legs give out and she falls to her knees, sharp stones cutting into her skin. With an exasperated sigh, the Baron uncurls the demon from his body and flicks it at the woman. She screams as the monster burrows into her chest, the small teeth having trouble with her breastbone. Emotionally numb and resigned to their doom, the other prisoners watch the demon devour her heart and burst from her back. The creature wraps around the corpse’s neck and slowly drags it to the edge of the cliff where it plummets into the swarm to share its meal.
“I suggest the rest of you follow my request without hesitation,” the Baron politely says, waving his hand over his slime-covered arm. The yellow ooze drifts off his ivory sleeve and dissipates into the air, leaving only a fine mist. “The demons will devour you quickly, so your suffering will be brief. If you are lucky, I may bless you with a numbing spell. After all, it is not entirely your fault that your ship stumbled into my realm.”
A curious spark in his eyes, the warlord examines the trembling group before him. His attention falls on a little girl and a look of distaste washes over his face. She is the only child within the group, but none of the adults are trying to protect her from what is about to happen. In fact, several of the men and women have opted to stand behind the girl in an unsubtle attempt to use her as a human shield. Approaching the dirty child, he waves his hand to the others and they mindlessly sprint for the cliff. The girl attempts to follow, but her arm is tenderly held by the Baron, who watches the crying prisoners leap into the swarm. Their dying screams echo throughout the area as a portal opens behind the nobleman and a short figure steps through.
“Nyder said that you wished to speak with me,” General Vile says, the halfling adjusting the studded eye-patch over his missing right eye. The soldier stands at attention, sweat rolling down his battle-worn face. “I know that I’ve been unreliable these last few months. I swear that my attempts to capture my son are a thing of the past. It seems he has disappeared within the islands of Cerascent and I would have to abandon my post to continue the hunt.”
“That is good to hear, General,” the Baron whispers, kneeling in front of the girl and wiping her tears away. She timidly reaches out to touch his ebony hair, which rolls down to his shoulders. “I am torn on what to do with this one. Raksha has eaten her previous caretakers and I feel that this young girl can fill the void. Unfortunately, I can already sense my pet hunting the little thing.”
Vile stiffens at the sound of a large beast moving behind him, his skin crawling at the feel of warm breath on his neck. Raksha steps around the halfling and whips at him with her three tails, their curved blades glinting in the light. He nimbly dodges the lazy attack, but the emaciated creature still glances at him with victory in her glossy, yellow eyes. Bored with the warrior, the orange and black monster turns to extend her neck and bring her hissing face within inches of the cowering girl. When the Baron swings his hand to strike the beast, she turns into a cloud of mist and darts back through the shimmering portal.
“I love my pet, but she is becoming a handful,” the nobleman claims with a tired sigh. He sits upon a boulder that changes into a silver throne and gently places the brown-haired girl on his lap. “The season has changed and the champions will soon be on the move. My son and Queen Trinity have requested your assistance in their plans. I promised I would send you once I confirmed you are fit for duty.”
“I apologize for taking you away from more important things,” Vile declares with a respectful bow. “It is disgraceful that I’ve let it come to this.”
The Baron strokes the girl’s filthy hair, smiling at his humble agent. “The truth is that I do not have more important things to concern myself with. Shayd and the Chaos Void are my prison. It has been so for centuries and I have become very bored. If my words can drive you to excellence and bring about my freedom then this meeting is of utmost importance. It is in my best interest to keep my loyal agents happy and confident.”
“Thank you for your concern, my lord. May I speak openly?” the curly-haired soldier asks, crossing his leather gloved hands behind his back. Vile patiently waits for his master to gesture for him to continue speaking, the seconds feeling like minutes. “I fear that my son’s betrayal has consumed my life. I’m proud that he has proven to be a better agent than I ever dreamed, but it hurts that he is using his skills against me. I believe this distraction has caused me to make mistakes, which has put my allies and your plans in danger.”
“You speak of Gaia.”
“Yes, my lord,” Vile replies as he shifts uncomfortably and peers at a storm on the distant horizon. The green, churning clouds calm him while he struggles with his thoughts. “It was my decision to retreat from Gaia and abandon Queen Trinity. If we remained in port then we could have held the docks against the griffins. Another choice I made was to let Timoran Wrath live after torturing him and receiving no information. Now he is free and remains a threat to us. I accept that our current situation is entirely my fault.”
The Baron stands and places the girl on the throne, patting her on the head as she gets comfortable on the ivory cushion. He walks to the cliff’s edge and stares into the abyss of minor demons. Their ear-ringing screeches rise from the depths, the creatures begging for food as if they have not eaten in in weeks. Their sounds and appetite disgust the Baron and he fights the temptation to unleash his power on the beasts.
“What do you believe our situation is?” the warlord finally asks, putting the demons out of his mind.
“We lost the Compass Key and five of the champions travel together,” Vile answers as he nears his master. “If I-”
The Baron turns on his heels, cutting off the halfling’s words. “The past cannot be changed, so you should not dwell on it. It is the future that one must always think of to continue living and moving toward what you desire. Take your allies for example. Queen Trinity fights for her people’s future, Yola Biggs follows me to have a future, and Nyder Fortune is always making new inventions to change the future. They live for what is to come while you are trapped in your past. I remember your ambition to lead the greatest army in the history of Windemere, General Vile. You can still reclaim your old self and avoid falling into a spiral of mistakes.”
“You mean like the Lich.”
“Tyler was an excellent minion until he got caught up in his own failures and grudges. If only I had his body, I would honor him by turning it into a nightstand or chandelier,” the Baron calmly says, his eyes narrowing at something behind Vile. He stomps his foot and shakes the ground, scaring Raksha away from the terrified slave girl. “Take solace in the fact that you are not in Tyler’s position. You have acknowledged your mistakes and wish to move beyond them. I have never known you to be grandstanding or egotistical, which were the undoing of all your fallen compatriots. I have faith in you, General Vile, but that is not enough. To be of use to me, I need you to have faith in yourself.”
“I will do my best, my lord,” the armored halfling swears. He scratches around his eye-patch, pausing as a pain pierces his heart. “It’s very hard to put my son out of my mind. I was successful at first, but the emotions have grown.”
Adjusting his sleeves, the warlord holds his hands over the pit of shrieking demons. A net of white aura flows from his manicured fingers, gradually lowering to the swarm and ensnaring them. The spell detaches from his body as he raises the creatures into the air, finally levitating the squirming mass over his head. He slaps away a few clawing hands and a jet of acid evaporates on a magic shield as the monsters fear for their lives. They calm down when he reaches up to crush the nearest demon in his hand, the black blood splattering across the ground at Vile’s feet.
“Did you know that minor demons are nothing more than larva?” the Baron casually asks, removing his gloves and throwing them over the cliff. He places the swarm on a rock where Raksha can investigate the chattering noises and experimentally stab the creatures with her tails. “Most of these are elemental demons, but some will turn into Spurges and others will become Eblems. There may even be one or two Hellfire Elves within this mass. Each one will grow into something that is physically similar to its parentage, but they will remain an individual. Amazing how this is true for both demons and mortals. Even those of us who are eternally suffering at the hands of unruly children.”