Authors: Anne Brooke
Tags: #fantasy, #sword and sorcery, #epic fantasy, #sword sorcery epic, #sword and magic, #battle against evil
By Anne Brooke
Table of Contents
Hallsfoot's Battle is the second in the
Gathandrian Trilogy fantasy novels. The first of the series is The
Gifting. The final book in the trilogy, The Executioner’s Cane,
will be published in Autumn 2013.
The battle for survival has merely begun and
the Mind Executioner's defeat is only temporary. Annyeke Hallsfoot,
Acting Elder of Gathandria, must join forces with Simon the Scribe
in a tenuous alliance to fight for their survival. However, Simon
is distracted by his own personal demons and only fears the
artefact, giving Annyeke no choice but to plot a desperate strategy
to defeat the enemy.
When the Mind Executioner kidnaps Simon and
raises an army from the dead, all hope appears to be lost. Both
Annyeke and Simon, with the help of the mysterious mind-cane and
the magical snow-raven, are determined to stay alive and, if
possible, to win.
By Anne Brooke
Published by Anne Brooke at Smashwords
Copyright 2013 by Anne Brooke
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places,
and incidents are either the product of the author’s imagination or
are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons living or
dead, business establishments, events, or locales is entirely
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, and where permitted by law. Reviewers may
quote brief passages in a review. To request permission and all
other inquiries, contact Anne Brooke at
With grateful thanks to Bluewood Publishing where
this story was first published.
Smashwords Edition, License Notes
This ebook is licensed for your personal enjoyment
only. This ebook may not be re-sold or given away to other people.
If you would like to share this book with another person, please
purchase an additional copy for each recipient. If you’re reading
this book and did not purchase it, or it was not purchased for your
use only, then please return to Smashwords.com and purchase your
own copy. Thank you for respecting the hard work of this
FORTITUDE AND LUST
Everywhere in the mountain cave is dark. Even
after the loss of the recent battle, Gelahn did not expect that he
would be tumbled out of the world he had been hoping to conquer
into this place of misery. In the end, his skills as
mind-executioner had not proven enough and that sense of failure
tastes like a greater darkness on his tongue. It is not a taste the
mind-executioner is accustomed to.
Now, his back is pressed solid against rock.
It is not, of course, a dead rock, but a living, breathing entity.
The mountain people are not so easily destroyed, although his
dealings with them have ravaged their great structure to almost
nothing. He has been prepared to sacrifice them for what he so much
desires and he would do it again and again. Willingly. This they
know. It is why they are waiting for him.
Here, in the heart of their kingdom, he, too,
waits. He leans against the curved rock. His feet are damp from the
slippery black surface and the air smells as if a thunderstorm has
just raged through. That may be true outside, but here in the
mountain he is protected from all the elements.
That has given him time to meditate. And how
he has needed the time. Mind-skills are so easily lost and he must
work hard to hold them. They are all he has but, still, the
meditation has not gone well. Each time he closes his eyes he sees
the face of Simon the Scribe standing framed by the glittering
jagged city of Gathandria, holding the mind-cane in his hands and
sending him to oblivion in the mountainside, in temporary exile far
from his rightful home. The battle had been lost and he had known,
in that instant, that his best hope was the dark embrace of the
earth. It is where the most mysterious of his skills dwell, and
where he can revive them again, because it is not in the
mind-executioner’s heart for failure to be an end of his story. It
is just a beginning. He has suffered too much for it to be anything
else. How the Gathandrians will live to regret the choices they
have made. This thought alone makes him smile, while around him the
remains of the mountain groan.
Behind that groan, a faint howling. Gelahn
opens his eyes but does not need to see what he knows is there; his
mind itself provides a necessary light. The mountain-dogs are
stirring, their sleek and undulating bodies shifting in and out of
the rock that forms this cave and is itself the life they cling to.
He can sense the occasional flash of their crimson eyes and the
faint aroma of raw flesh. Soon he will use them. All he needs is a
plan. And the mind-cane the scribe has stolen.
He rises and strolls towards the far end of
the cave. The air feels cold even so deep within the rock. One or
two of the dogs follow him like shadows and their presence gives
him strength. When he reaches those beings he is holding captive,
they do not flinch and he is glad to see it; the last of the
mountain people do not show emotion easily. This makes them easier
to manipulate. Even now, when their home has been all but destroyed
in the recent mind-wars, they are as still and eternal as the stone
from which they came.
“It is not over yet,” he whispers. “I have
you to do my will. The scribe only has the mind-cane and he is too
weak and limited to comprehend the fullness of its power, let alone
He cannot be sure, but did the stone he
speaks to quiver? Something in the atmosphere between
mind-executioner and rock has altered. He stretches forward, but
the first of the mountain people stands erect, still. Its tall,
thin figure smells of dust and snow. Winter will soon be upon them
all. Gelahn allows his hand to run over the smooth surface of stone
slowly. It feels cool to his touch. He knows the contact will cause
his prisoner pain. This is why he takes his time. The development
of fear in those he plans to use can only be a good thing. His long
year-cycles of life have taught him that. Because while failure is
the taste in the air for now, it will not always be so. This he
With or without the mind-cane, the next
battle between Simon the Scribe and himself will be a fiercer, more
physical one and he will be the victor.
The red-haired woman stared round her kitchen
area and sighed. The wild cornflour whitened her hands as she
formed the dough for bread on her one good work surface, and the
sharp scent of it filled her mind with images of summer days
picnicking in the great Gathandrian Park and the laughter of
children. All very pleasant, but this wasn’t how Annyeke Hallsfoot
had hoped the day would begin. After the high excitement of the
battle and Gelahn’s defeat two day-cycles ago, she’d thought the
menfolk would be eager to face the task of building a new
Gathandria. Their glorious, glittering city now lay in ruins, the
bright towers nearly all smashed into fragments of glass and stone,
the Great Library and the museums battered and open to the skies,
the theatres and galleries gone, and the trees in the parklands
stunted and fallen. Even the Place of Government was not how it had
been. Yesterday, when she’d sneaked like an interloper into her
former work area, she’d been sure there’d been a few more missing
stones from the outside wall and the gash in the roof stretched far
wider. Not only that, but the scribe, through compassion or
foolishness, had allowed the mind-executioner to escape. Where was
he now? In the desert lands? In the Kingdom of Air or hidden deep
in the mountains with his murderous dogs? She could not tell, but
one thing was certain; Gelahn would surely return to fight them
again for the power and land he coveted. They needed to prepare for
the battle they would have to face. This was what she thought the
menfolk would be planning for.
She’d thought wrong. The Elders had vanished,
leaving her without any further word and in sole charge of the
rebuilding programme and the war preparations. Her overseer in the
Sub-Council of Meditation, Johan Montfort, had not spoken more than
a few sentences to her since that particular announcement and,
worst of all, the Lost One, Simon the Scribe, was asleep and
useless in her living area. He’d been slumped there for the whole
of those two day-cycles, muttering darkly at her whenever she tried
to rouse him. To her mind, this wasn’t the action of a man
supposedly sent to help them change their world. This was the
action of a man in denial.
The worst of it was the presence of the
mind-cane. In her house. It seemed to be there simply because Simon
was, but she didn’t think the scribe had any control of it at all.
Gods and stars help them. If that was the case, no one else had
even a whisper of hope in understanding it. For the last two
mornings, its strange humming had woken her. When she’d drawn aside
the curtain giving the scribe some privacy in her home, she’d seen
its dark length with the silver carving on the top resting near
Simon’s makeshift bed. It had been vibrating like a wild animal
about to attack. Damn it, she wasn’t even sure what she meant by
that, but it definitely felt like a living thing, not an object. A
dangerous one, too. The thought of getting close to it made her
She turned, wiping her hands free of the
cornflour as best she could. Talus stood right next to her, his
hair peaked up from his head like the distant, and now destroyed,
mountains. He was seven summers old, and she’d all but adopted him
during the final stages of what the people were already naming the
Gathandrian Wars. She was even becoming used to being a mother.
Almost. Though perhaps elder—much elder—sister was more closely
akin to the truth of it.
“You’re early,” she said with a smile she
hoped might look sincere.
“The bread smells nice.”
“Ah, you’re hungry then.”
When he nodded, she gestured at him to sit at
the table and brought out the bread she’d made yesterday. He ate as
if he hadn’t eaten in a moon-cycle. She couldn’t remember ever
being that young.
“Annyeke?” he said again, between
“Why doesn’t the Lost One get up?”
Annyeke sat opposite him. Her body felt
weary, as if she’d been running for a long time and hadn’t stopped
yet. She ran her hands through her hair, not caring about the
remnants of the flour. She thought of all the things she could say
and then decided, as usual, to tell the truth to her young charge.
His courage deserved it.
“I don’t really know,” she said. “It could be
because he’s tired. And he has had a lot to go through to reach
Gathandria. Or it could be because he’s scared about what will
happen next and he doesn’t want to make the first step towards it,
whatever that is. Or he might be worried about the mind-cane. The
gods and stars know, we’re all worried about the mind-cane, or at
least I am. It’s like having a hungry river-wolf at home.”