Authors: Stacy Von Haegert
Forged of Fire
Stacy Von Haegert
Forged of Fire
Stacy Von Haegert
© Stacy Von Haegert 2015
Published by Entertwine Publishing
Cover by Claudia Bost
All rights reserved
All rights reserved
No part of this book may be reproduced, scanned, or distributed in any printed or electronic form without authorization of the Author or Entertwine Publishing. Any distribution without express consent is illegal and punishable in court of law.
This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are either the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.
Graphic Content Warning: This is a book intended for adult readers. Due to the graphic violence and sexual details readers should be 18 years of age or older to read.
Zander watched as the crowd parted. The quiet, ominous air began to dance with energy carried forth on the tongues of monks. The chanting was joined by the royals, as one delicate ivory toe stepped onto the cobblestones ahead of them. Elaborate coats of arm and livery moved back as she progressed forward, each vying for a glimpse but respectful in their carriage. Zander pushed forward, trying to see around the large knight blocking his view. He was roughly shoved down so he knelt at the man’s feet and tried to peer around his legs. The moon danced off her auburn hair and a delicate wind played with the dancing curls that framed her face. She was wearing only a red silk robe as she walked by, head held high. When she stepped past Zander she paused. His body turned to stone, his eyes lifting dangerously under his lashes. She met his gaze and he immediately retreated and fixated his stare back on the ground where it belonged. As she moved on he noticed with each deliberate step she took the moss on the stones seemed to singe and crawl away from her feet. He scrambled to the right and clambered up a wooden beam to get a head higher than the thickening crowd. The pool of lava had been drawn. Angry crackling pops of fire snapped and hissing steam rolled off of the oil, carrying a finality in its feathery tendrils of death…Or life. This was the question on the minds of everyone, none more so than his father, the King, who watched from his velvet covered throne.
The priest nodded and she slid off the thin robe. The crowd grew quiet. She was stunning as she stood naked before the Gods, resolved in spirit for what she must do. A boy cried out, his pain piercing the night like a blade. Her regal head turned and a single tear shown in her blue eyes. Zander followed the trajectory of her sight and found the boy, only a few years younger than he, olive complicated, black hair and the same haunting blue eyes as hers. The child was standing beside an older boy, similar features, but completely emotionless.
Zander felt a slow anger crawling up his spine, a bitter taste formed on his tongue as he narrowed his eyes on the boys. In less than a few moments that sobbing brat’s lineage would either lower him or elevate him, aligning him with Zander’s own predestined fate.
Zander cut his eyes back to the woman. The priest began the ritual chant and she stepped to the edge of the burning pool and extended her arms to the side. Two knights wearing special fire retardant gloves stood on each side of the raging oil and took her wrists. Another knight knelt down and held her feet together in place. The boy’s screams grew when his mother was tipped forward by the two knights holding her wrists, her long hair rolled forward towards the flames that fought like greedy banshees to grab hold of the ends. Zander watched with fascination as the smaller boy ripped and clawed at the knight that held him facing the pool. He fought so hard
to free himself in his innocent need to save her while the other son seemed resigned to her fate.
An eerie, unearthly growl reverberated from the liquid as the woman’s body was laid face down in the burning death. Never a shudder did she make, never a sound of agony escaped her lungs. The only noise was that of the lava hungrily consuming her pretty white flesh. “No!” The younger son broke free and raced to the pool’s edge, but before he could reach for her a low vibration began to ripple beneath the ground. A thin moan seemed to rise up from the earth’s core before giving way to a bone chilling roar. The world shook violently, tossing people about like rolling bottles on a ship caught in the grips of a storm. The crowd scrambled and flailed about trying to right their footing.
Zander held tight to the pole as lightning exploded across the sky and struck the burning pool. The priest fell back and clutched his book as he recited various prayers in Latin. The black water began to churn, the lava forced back and forth in its undulating and rhythmic vortex. Women were shrieking, children crying, men muttering curses and prayers. Some knelt, their heads bowed. Most ran.
The King stepped forward from where he had been lounging atop his throne. His eyes grew into thin slits and the hint of a grin formed on his lips as the lava lifted and grew in size and shape. Zander’s eyes darted back to the smaller boy who was still crawling towards the unfolding scene, his hand reaching out to the blackness. And then it happened…The blackness reached back…
Ash absentmindedly twisted the silver band on his pinky with his thumb. The morning sun rising across the Tuscan earth gave birth to a new day, just as a pair of swans that had chosen Ash’s estate to call home, landed in the garden’s pond. Ash smiled, he would never tire of Italy and its land’s seeming exuberance, he mused. He looked out further, past the glittering silver of the pool, to the rolling patchwork-quilted lay of the land that made up his property. The lush greens and poignant purples played brilliantly together as they rolled over the hills and valleys and yet, at the same time, seemed to challenge the fiery oranges and robust burgundies that stole in from the lowlands. Despite nature’s best efforts to compete with itself in one field, a dominant and illuminated center patch of soft grass shone brightest. Kissed gently by the invading sun, that small plot of land took center stage for a fleeting moment. Ash watched as the lavender waved and danced to the singsong voice of the wind. It was as if the blooms and reeds themselves were paying homage to the heavens for choosing it above all the others, on this day, to be touched by Angels.
“Lord Bane is here Your Grace.” Marsala’s familiar voice called out from the study’s door, effectively breaking his thoughts. “His car just pulled up the drive.” Ash smiled and turned towards his beautiful blonde assistant who remained in the protective shadow of the doorway. She narrowed her eyes as he faced her and rolled her wrist dismissively. “Mister Bane is here asshole.” She lifted an amused brow. “Better?”
Ash chuckled. “I always preferred you best before the twentieth century.”
“Yes, well, after eleven centuries spent as your…Assistant, I am allowed some pleasures of my own.” Marsala grinned. “Modern times do allow for my enchanting female voice to say whatever the fuck I want.”
Ash shook his head. “I knew the women’s right bill was a bad idea.” He dodged a hurling pillow as it sailed past his head. “One would think that after eleven hundred years together your aim would be better,” he teased as she hoisted a crystal vase into the air. He laughed and held up his hands in surrender. “That one is yours, remember?”
Her eyes fixed on the expensive Italian cut glass. “So it is.” She gingerly sat it back down. “You bought it for me just outside of Paris in 1812.” A smile donned her delicate features in remembrance. “I miss Paris. Let’s go back soon.”
Ash walked to his desk. “After I finish closing the deal with Mister Bane we shall.” He took a seat.
“Then by all means let me get the man in here ASAP.”
She hurried to the door and just as fast as she had entered, she was gone. Ash smiled and opened the ledger book that housed the development plans
. Eleven hundred years. Had it really been that long?
Ash’s mind traveled back in time. He had met the young Air-bender the day after his one hundredth and thirty-ninth birthday. He had found her just outside of Bulgaria hiding in the forest. She was only nineteen at the time and running from Dante’s soldiers. She never left Ash’s side after that day. Marsala was like a sister to him and considering their kind was a dying breed, they only had each other. The two of them were the only family they had left.
Ash was pulled from his thoughts by the sound of voices heard down the hall. He had never met Mister Bane, the man who was about to invest a small fortune into Ash’s company. Not that he needed the money, the one thing he had crafted perfectly over the centuries was his business acumen and with that came wealth. What Ash did need was investors and eventually partners to sell the companies too. Before his human colleagues would start to question his unique inability to age.
Ash would create or buy into a company, raise it up to a level of great success, then sell it off. The longest he had ever stayed with one company was ten years. Having been made immortal at the age of twenty-five, Ash could get away with the excuse of just having good genetics up until thirty-five. He was coming up on his current company’s ninth year so it was imperative that he find its new owner quickly.
Ash began to rise to his feet when Marsala’s voice reached the study’s door.
Something was off
. She had an edge to her well-schooled soprano as she entered the room. Her eyes confirmed it. Mister Bane, or rather, who was posing as him, stepped through the doorway behind her.
“Marsala, why is a blood slave standing in my presence?” Ash ground out, his palms instinctively flexing.
“He has a rather interesting master,” she replied evenly. “Seems Mister Bane is one of us.”
The pale man before Ash piped up. “If I could have a moment of your time I can explain why he sent me.”
“I know why he sent you.” Ash narrowed his eyes. “Your master can’t walk in the light so he needs his servant to carry out his messages.”
“Please, Your Grace…” Ash’s hand was around the man’s throat before the Gilcolm could utter another word. “What did you call me?”
“I… meant… no…” The man tried to explain through his restricted airways.
“You meant no disrespect.” Ash tightened his grip on the man’s jugular and hoisted the slave into the air. “But you see, the mere mention of my past title is disrespectful as it proves my ignorance as to who in the hell you are.” The man kicked and clutched at Ash’s hand as his face began to change to an unsightly blue. “You and your master know me, which gives you the upper hand.” Ash dropped him like a weighted sack and walked back to his desk, leaving the Gilcolm to cough and wheeze on the floor. “I don’t approve of those odds and I fucking hate surprises.”
“Please…” The man tried to rise but collapsed back on his haunches. “Will you just hear me out?”
“By all means.” Ash folded his arms and flipped the fingers of his left hand. “I am now interested to see how much pain you can withstand.”
The man paused before slowly climbing to his feet. “My master needs your help. He has…”
“I don’t help others.”
“Master Bane wishes…”
“I am already bored.” Ash rolled his eyes.
Marsala chuckled. “We could gut him and send him back to his master wearing his intestines on his expensive suit.” She began to circle the apprehensive Gilcolm. “And, I have always wanted to taste a blood slave. Find out what all the hype is about.” She licked her lips.
Ash leaned back against his desk. “That is definitely more interesting, the gutting part.” He amended. “But, I have no desire to drink from the blood of a slave. I can only imagine it would be the equivalent to that of cheap Boone’s Farm Zinfandel.” Ash felt his face scrunch up at the thought of the piss poor sugar sap they called wine.
The man attempted to straighten his tie while ignoring the taunting.
Finally! Something Ash could
“You can, gut me, drain me and insult me all you like but please allow me to deliver this important message.”
“Only if you can voice it without using the word master.” Ash pushed off the desk and walked up to the much smaller man. “To think you had a choice and you chose to be a slave.” The insult was almost tangible in the still room. “State your case and then get out of my house.”
The Gilcolm took a visibly calming breath before proceeding. “Dante is forming a new, larger army and it is rumored he is coming after all benders that were turned and managed to escaped.”
“Dante has been threatening this for centuries. He will never muster the…”
“One has been born.” The man cut him off. “A bender with the blood of both a water and fire house.”
Marsala was at Ash’s side in a flash. “How do you know? Where is the baby?”
“It’s a fable Marsala,” Ash reminded her. “There is no chosen one with the power to bend both Heaven’s and Hell’s elements, water and fire. It’s a child’s tale.” Ash pushed roughly past the servant. “Please see yourself out and tell Bane that I am not interested in fairy tales.”
“Her name is Kielyndrian.” The Gilcolm said.
Ash paused, his blood drawing to a quick simmer in his veins. He cut his eyes sharply back to the little man. “How dare you use my mother’s name against me!” He sneered.